After weeks and weeks of swiping right on every dating app, you finally land a date. The first date turns out perfect and you are on cloud nine. But don’t get too excited because your new beau is doing things that aren’t up to your standards. Even so, you are letting it slide: Perhaps you simply don't know if your doubts are valid. I get it. I spent the majority of my early 20s accepting dating behavior that made my gut instinct say “run as fast as you can,” but I stayed. I kept mistaking red flags for romantic gestures and justifying their behaviors. Now, looking back, I can spot a bad omen from a mile away.
The thing is, so often, initial signs of bad behavior can sneakily disguise themselves as sweet and thoughtful or simply validation of your partner's devotion to you. Controlling tendencies, deception, trust issues can all be masked under the guise of flattering interest in your life, desire for quality time, just plain old love and consideration. This covert facade can reveal true colors as you spend more time together and become more vulnerable to each other. By the time you are awakened to the unhealthy reality of your relationship, your emotions are involved and your lives are intertwined to some extent. Oof.
It took time for me to realize there were specific, key things to look for in the initial phases of a relationship — things that could signal problems in the future. So if you ever run into these red flags that may seem like romantic gestures, you may want to re-think your relationship.
Dating Red Flag: You Only Hang Out At Your Place
It may seem that your new beau just loves spending time with you at your place and can't get enough of you, but there could be something more to it — perhaps they're hiding something. Greta Tufvesson Stack and Nikki Lewis founders of matchmaking service, The Bevy, say relationships are all about give and take: “Depending on your situation (ie – roommates, space, location, etc.) it’s natural that you may end up spending more time at one person’s home. It doesn’t mean, however, that you shouldn’t ever see the home of the person you’re with.”
If you’re worried that your significant other never suggests his/her place, Stack says to just flat out ask, and suggest going to their place next time. If they push back, be upfront with your fears and reservations, and ask point-blank if there’s something they’re hiding or ashamed of. Go with your gut on this — it won’t lead you astray.
Dating Red Flag: They Are Constantly Showing You Off
Your new lover is constantly telling his/her friends and colleagues about you and they want you to know they are doing so. Do they only call or FaceTime you when they are around a bunch of their friends? Are you feeling they only bring you around to things as a trophy rather than their partner in crime? It may seem like they are showing you off because they are head over heels for you, but it's really a reflection of them fulfilling a quest to their ego.
“If it’s been a few months and they still aren’t digging past the exterior of who you are, it may warrant a conversation. “'I love that you’re so proud to show me off to your friends — it makes me feel great… but I feel like you’re not invested in learning about what’s inside,'” suggests Lewis. “'Do you like me, or just the idea of me?' It’s a fair question, and if they care about the real you, you’ll receive the answer you’re looking for. If they don’t, they may get defensive and refuse to talk about it further. That silence will speak volumes.”
Dating Red Flag: Your Future Together Is Planned Out
Okay, this isn't a bad thing if you are actually in a relationship, know each other well, and have made a conscious decision to take things to the next level. I am sure there are exceptions, but when your date is telling you how many kids you are going to have, where you are going to live, and what your wedding is going to look like after two or three dates, you may want to pump the breaks. “It takes time to progress together in a relationship," says relationship and dating coach, Carla Romo. "Living in a fantasy land of the future is a slippery slope. It's important to stay in reality and build the life you want together. When you begin future tripping it can create a lot of expectations that may never be met." The relationship expert says an easy rule of thumb would be to avoid making serious decisions until you've spent four seasons with someone. "It's important when building long-term goals that you're not going off of emotions but including logistics and what you both want for your future,” says Romo.
“While it’s perfectly fine to be upfront about your ideal future with someone on a second or third date, it’s not appropriate to build that future with this person who you really don’t know yet," shares Lewis. "You’re putting way too much pressure on someone who you barely know, and you’re fantasizing about a life with someone who is still an acquaintance. Dating is for making sure you can envision a future with that person. Don’t rush it and take the time to see if you’re truly compatible with this person. You may gently suggest this to your date if he/she gets a bit ahead of themselves on date one or two."
Dating Red Flag: They Keep Tabs On You
It's nice to feel like someone cares to know where and what you are doing, but there is a fine line where checking in on someone becomes an obsessive compulsion. It can be a major sign of jealousy and insecurity issues. “You cannot build on a relationship in which you’re constantly walking on eggshells," says Stack. "You should feel that you’re able to be honest about your whereabouts, but by no means are you required to tell anyone who you’re with, where you are, or what you’re eating at all hours of the day."
You might just want to end this relationship because Stack and Lewis suggest jealousy and dominance are oftentimes a trait of someone who is distrustful and insecure. Romo seconds this notion. "This is where boundaries really come in." she says. "You don't need to answer their texts or calls because they want to keep tabs on you. Instead, go about your day and when you're ready, on your own time, you can reach out."
Dating Red Flag: Everything Is Spontaneous
The thrill of spontaneity in new relationships can be exciting. But too many last-minute plans can suggest you are just a convenience to them. If they can't plan a date a couple of days in advance, they probably don’t want to (or know how to) date you. Romo unpacks an interesting insight on why spontaneity could be a way to avoid feelings, saying, “Spontaneity can be fun, but if it's a pattern you need to be careful. A lot of times spontaneous people are constantly chasing that high or thrill feeling. While they chase that, they are typically running from sitting with themselves or their feelings. It's important to have adventures but it's equally important to have consistency.”
Lewis also shares the harsh reality of spontaneity. “Spontaneity can be the sign of someone who is picking you as their second or third choice, which is obviously not okay," explain Lewis and Stack. "Has their first choice canceled? Also, a 'U up?' text is by no means romantic or spontaneous. Block them! If someone you’re casually dating texts you during the day seeing what you’re up to, it’s totally fine to accept a couple of times, but don’t let them make a habit of it. This isn't okay if someone wishes to court you."