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Beware of these 19 dating red flags in 2024

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“It should have been a red flag that … ”

I hear that so many times from both women and men who are heartbroken, abused or otherwise disappointed that a relationship or marriage didn't work out. In hindsight, the information was there all along — they just ignored it because there were other qualities that were green flags. Plus, they were lonely, vulnerable, horny, bored, or otherwise really wanted a partner.

“When there is suspicion and things don’t feel quite right, red flags should be waiving and alarms should be deafening We generally have a gut feeling about people and situations,” says Deborah Krevalin, LPC, LMHC, a relationship expert in West Hartford, Conn., So, why do we purposefully choose to ignore those feelings, suspicions and warnings? “The fantasy is just too good to let go of — the promise of love and all that comes with that is overpowering and completely seductive,” Krevalin says.

News alert: Those feelings always rear their head later.

“As a psychotherapist I have worked with countless couples struggling with a myriad of relationship issues. Undoubtedly, there were always red flags that presented themselves, surprisingly soon, after the first date,” Krevalin says. The question becomes: Was the partner blind to them or did they choose not to see it?

In this post, therapists and other experts weigh in on what red flags to ignore, what negative behavior is or should be forgiven, and how to navigate dating in a healthy way:

Dating red flags: What is a red flag in dating?

First, let's define a red flag.

Tina B. Tessina, PhD, LMFT, of Long Beach, Calif., considers a red flag to be indications of serious mental and emotional well-being.

“Most relationships, at the beginning, have possible issues, but not red flags: says Tessina, author of How to be Happy Partners: Working it out Together, and Dr. Romance's Guide to Finding Love Today.

Seeing red flags? You can run your partner's name through a site like TruthFinder, which will pull all online public records on the person and compile them into an easy-to-read report.

“To me, red flags are indications of serious problems, indications that a date might have emotional problems, addiction problems, anger issues, tendencies toward violence, severe money problems or other non-workable issues that will emerge as the relationship develops, and won't go away.”

Others consider a red flag general dishonesty, signs of narcissism, or bad habits that are a no-go for you personally.

“Anything that you don't feel neutral or better hearing about is a potential red flag!” says Laurel Steinberg, Ph.D., a clinical sexologist and relationship expert in New York City, and Adjunct Professor of Psychology Teachers College, Columbia University.

Common dating red flags to watch for

Whether your initial interactions are online, at a party, the office or some meet-cute, here are some general themes to keep an eye out for:

  • Signs he or she is still in a relationship, or barely out of one 
  • Addictive behaviors, like drinking too much or prioritizing getting high
  • Love bombing you — way too much affection and devotion way too early in the relationship 
  • Secrets. It should take time to get to know someone, but if they are sketchy about where they live, their employment history, you find out they have a kid but said they did not, or other signs they are not being transparent about who they are, they are not ready for emotional intimacy

Interested in dating a single dad? What you should know first

Dating red flags: Watch for red flags in dating apps

  • No profile photo? Skip.
  • No or few details? Red flag.
  • Super-sexy pics, next.
  • First, get a real phone number, or first and last name, and Google him or her. Check out any stories or facts with what you find on LinkedIn, Facebook or news articles.
  • You searched locally but the other person is always in another time zone — but it's not an international dating site? They may live in another country and are catfishing you.
  • If the other person won't share any of details that would help you understand who they are, red flag.
  • Do you see a person on a hookup app? That may be a red flag. But then again, YOU were on the hookup site, so ….
  • More tips for safe online dating

Lakeesha shared this cautionary warning to trust your gut:

“I met a guy on Match several years ago. Good looking. Lots of flashy pics of travel and a very high-end education. We texted a bit. He was very bright and engaged but his answers about his business accomplishments were grandiose and made me uneasy. That made me suspicious and I started looking closer and his pictures in his dating profile closer. A few little things stuck out there.

We had a date planned to meet for drinks and I was so uneasy. I didn’t have his full name but his username was AJ. So I dropped his picture into Google images and found his full name on Linked In. The. I was able to search him using his full name and location and found recent news articles on his financial fraud. He was facing 20 years. That was the biggest lesson for me about really listening to the other person AND paying attention to how I felt. I trust myself implicitly and if anything seems off I allow myself the time to dig in until I’m satisfied.”

No, you are not crazy if you do a quick background check before a date! Use TruthFinder to do a reverse phone lookup in minutes. TruthFinder is a leader in background checks:

  • Hundreds of millions of criminal records searched
  • Searches include checks of sex offender databases
  • Recently merged with Intelius
  • A+ BBB rating
  • 2.1 rating on Trustpilot

Check out our full TruthFinder review.

Also, these books are good primers for training your picker:

The Little Black Book of Big Red Flags: Relationship Warning Signs You Totally Spotted . . . But Chose to Ignore

Stay or Go: Dr. Ruth's Rules for Real Relationship

3 dating red flags on social media

Pro tip: Search for a prospective date on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or other social media before you meet IRL. According to a survey by Elite Singles Australia, 75% of women and 59% of men say they have done it. No shame at all.

Red flags to look for on social:

  • Non-existent digital footprint. If you can find no or very little about this person, that can be a sign that either they’ve lied about their identity, are running from the law, or otherwise are bad news. 
  • They’re not single. Recent pics of the person snuggling with a romantic partner, or their status marked as ‘married’ or ‘in a relationship. Not rocket science. 
  • Political stances that are deal-breakers for you — or other ways you don’t connect. 

Finding people online: 9 sites to use and 4 experts’ tips

Dating red flags: What to watch for on a first date

Here are some typical behaviors that can certainly set the tone for a bad start of a dating relationship even before you meet — if not be a total deal-breaker:

  • Being late for the date without good reason or an apology
  • Rudeness to waiters
  • Being disrespectful of your boundaries — for example, not taking “no” for an answer in any way
  • Showing no interest in you, and only speaking about themselves
  • “I fall in love too easily.”
  • Drinking too much
  • Gives co-parent or ex too much control over their lives
  • Extreme mixed signals

Says Tessina: “Understand that your date is on their best behavior early in the relationship, and the behavior will not get better, it will get worse. Don't make excuses for the person just because they’re attractive, or saying what you long to hear.”

Here are some first date red flags identified by women in the Millionaire Single Moms Facebook group:

  • Bringing up sex before you’ve even met in person, or early in the date.
  • Talking very negatively about an ex and/or ex in-laws.
  • Mentioning right away that an ex cheated.
  • “I’ve never met anyone like you. You’re so amazing,” in the first hour of chatting. Classic love bomb.
  • Persistent victim mentality.
  • Has children but clearly isn’t very involved by his choice.
  • Can't hold his drink.
  • Bad co-parenting relationship
  • Lack of passion for something in life.
  • Someone who doesn't ask questions in a conversation or share anything about themselves.

You can always run a quick background check to see if their story pans out …

Dating a single mom? Tips for dating and things NOT to say

What is a red flag in dating?

Tina B. Tessina, PhD, LMFT, of Long Beach, Calif., considers a red flag to be indications of serious mental and emotional well-being.

One Comment

I find it weird that a non-existent digital footprint is a red flag. Some people just don’t want to be online where anyone can find them.

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