The stats are in—and they’re not great. Pew Research Center found that 67% of daters say their dating life is going “not too/not at all well.”
In this guide, we’re going to dive into the dating red flags you should spot to avoid going down a long, embarrassing road in the future.
What Is a Dating Red Flag?
A dating red flag is a warning sign that appears during a date that could indicate a problem, miscommunication, or challenge in the future. Examples of dating red flags are: Talking only about themselves, avoiding difficult conversations, gossiping about their ex, and withholding affection.. Dating red flags can reveal themselves through a negative sign or action, a verbal or physical cue, or the hint of a personality flaw, and they can be dangerous if not spotted early.
General Dating Red Flags
Red flags in the early stages of dating can be subtle or obvious. If a red flag appears more thanRed flags in the early stages of dating can be subtle or obvious. If a red flag appears more than once, it’s important to take note before the relationship goes too far.
- Isolation: They only want to be with you, and while that might sound flattering, they also encourage you to cut ties with friends and family.
- Smothering: They constantly put you or others down, even if they mistakenly believe they’re just kidding.
- All work all the time: Their job takes precedence over your time together, and they don’t hesitate to cancel dates or leave you early to attend to what’s more important to them.
- Affection-Taking: They withhold affection or punish you by withholding affection.
- Selfish: The plans you make with them only involve what they want to do, and they always get their way.
- Avoiding: There are important subjects that they refuse to discuss.
- All-consuming: They say they love you right away, and even if you’re not there yet, it only matters that you satisfy their needs.
- Ever-changing: You’re never good enough, and they’re always trying to change you.
- Rudeness: They are dismissive or mean to your closest friends and family.
- Snooping: They check your private texts or emails or demand to do so.
- Unimportant: They aren’t proud of your accomplishments and don’t share in your successes.
- Next-level: They don’t know how to fight fair—they’re physically or emotionally dominating you.
- Subservience: You stay silent and shoulder their lousy behavior because dealing with their outbursts is too exhausting—you may even feel afraid to leave.
- Controlling Behavior: It can be painfully difficult to break up with someone you like (or may even think you love), but controlling behavior that’s left unchecked can escalate into verbal or physical abuse. Need real help or feel like you’re a victim? Don’t be afraid to reach out! Visit The National Domestic Violence Hotline to get the help you deserve.
Online Dating Red Flags
Online dating can be tough—the laggy video calls, lack of physical touch, and awkward random internet outages can all make dating awkward. But it can go deeper than that. Can you really trust the person on the other end of the line? Spot these online dating red flags to help you stay safe:
- The money-grabber: No matter how sincere they seem to be, don’t ever give money to a person you’ve met on a dating app when they compliment you on being nice and say they need your help. They may have conned other people out of money like this before, and it can happen to anyone—both men and women alike.
- The self-hater: Some people will admit they’re trouble before they do anything wrong to you. If they joke about their terrible temper, they may be warning you about a personality flaw. Proceed with caution.
- The “I love you” too quickly: Online dating can create a false sense of intimacy, and some people mistake the newness and excitement for a real relationship. If someone expresses love before they know you, it’s not a solid emotional response.
- The lacking profile: Is their profile too vague, or are there very few pictures of them? Not everyone enjoys getting their photo taken or talking about themselves, but that’s necessary on a dating app. Make sure you are able to dig deeper in chats or do a video call to learn more.
Are you getting back on the dating merry-go-round later in life? Dating as a mature person can be exciting and intimidating. Here are tips to separate the red flags from the keepers.
Red Flags When Dating in Your 50s (and 60s, 70s, and 80s)
A great relationship is possible at this stage in life when you know yourself and what you want—but be aware, there are red flags when dating in your 50s.
- The disappearing act: You meet someone and see them multiple times. You’re getting comfortable and hope it becomes exclusive. Then they disappear for weeks or months. If they reconnect, there’s no explanation. Your time is valuable. Don’t waste it on someone flaky.
- The constant texting: Texting is quick, but it’s also impersonal, and you deserve genuine conversation and connection. Whether it’s laziness or a fear of rejection, someone who always texts and never calls isn’t sending you the right message.
- The see-saw effect: Dating in midlife requires balance, with work commitments, kids, and grandkids all pulling at someone’s time. If this is a serious relationship, you should respect their schedule, but you shouldn’t feel like you’re in last place.
- The Peter Pan: Emotional maturity doesn’t always correspond with a person’s physical age, and some people remain stuck in bad habits from their youth. Someone might say they need you, but you’re not their mother, nurse, or housekeeper.
Next up: dating after divorce. A divorced person might feel free, happy, and like the best version of themselves. Unfortunately, you may meet someone newly single who’s the exact opposite.
Dating a Divorced Man Red Flags
The process of divorce can determine what baggage a person carries into a new relationship. So if you’re dating a divorced man and these red flags appear, think twice.
- The bad mouth: If someone is constantly trashing their ex, it’s doubtful that they’re emotionally ready for a new relationship. Unresolved hurt and anger block the heart. It will be hard for them to love again until they face their issues and heal.
- The blameless: Are they adamant that they have no blame for the failure of their marriage? Taking responsibility is one of life’s toughest choices to make, but it’s necessary to move forward. If they don’t, they may start blaming you too.
- The biting: Is their sarcasm growing? Some people have a dry sense of humor that takes getting used to… but if they’re getting critical (or contemptuous) of you and life in general, that negativity can paralyze a relationship and harm your mental health.
- The disbelieving: They may still be hurting, and that’s understandable, but if their fear of being hurt or left again is damaging their ability to trust, that insecurity acts like an impenetrable wall against intimacy with you.
What are some red flags for dating widowers? Let’s take a closer look.
Dating a Widower Red Flags
Grief and mourning are heavy stages to go through when dating a widower. Red flags can include shouldering some of their overwhelming grief. You can be compassionate, but make sure your relationship can sustain it and thrive.
- The reluctance to heal: Are they martyring themselves for the sake of a deceased love? While walking through grief is a necessary pain for healing, some people get stuck and won’t move on.
- The remembering: It may be a paradise island or a greasy spoon. If it reminds them of their past, they may not want to tarnish their memories by including you. When it feels like you’re sidestepping your way through a minefield, they can’t move forward with you.
- The retiring type: It’s okay to be a homebody, but if they never leave the house, you may feel like they’re trying to hide something. It’s acceptable to need time, but they can’t keep being afraid to be seen with you.
- The unwilling: This is a situation where three simple words really do mean everything. If they can’t get to the point of admitting their love for you, it’s not going to help either of you to try and force it out of them.
Finally, the most glaring collection of red flags in dating is when you realize that the smoldering bad boy type is nothing but a first-class jerk. These red flags reveal if your “special someone” is a self-obsessed narcissist.
Dating a Narcissist Red Flags
The unfortunate truth is we’re all capable of narcissism as a form of self-preservation, but when you’re dating a genuine narcissist, red flags get particularly intolerable.
- The superiority: They may say they’re happy with you, as long as you constantly remind them that they’re perfect and that you love them, and you must live with the fact that they’re likely never going to change.
- The story is about them: Every relationship has a story, and the stories with the happiest endings are between two equal partners. You’ll never be the equal of a narcissist because their story selfishly revolves around them.
- The secret: Many narcissists share a deep secret—their insecurity and sense of envy are so crippling, they overcompensate by creating a wildly inaccurate fantasy about themselves. They aren’t real, and they aren’t worthy of you.
- The contempt smirk: Psychologists call it the contempt smirk, a facial expression that narcissists display when they’re assuming power and control over someone they feel is inferior. Don’t let that sly grin fool you—it could be a big indicator that they are trouble.
Succeed with People
Master the laws of human behavior and get along with anyone, increasing your influence, impact, and income as a result.
Unlock the Secrets of Charisma
Control and leverage the tiny signals you’re sending—from your stance and facial expressions to your word choice and vocal tone—to improve your personal and professional relationships.
Truth be told, a lot of these red flags can be spotted if you pick up on the silent nonverbal cues that reveal a person’s inner emotions. Learn to read people just by analyzing their subtle cues—a subtle hardening of the eyelids, pursing of the lips, or touch of the neck can indicate revealing emotions if you know how to spot them. Check out my latest book, Cues: Master the Secret Language of Charismatic Communication, for everything body language!
A Checklist of Red Flags in Dating
Dating red flags often predetermine a relationship that will turn out to be miserable—it’s better to protect yourself and free your heart for a person who is a great match for you.
In summary, here’s a checklist of red flags to be aware of and, most of all, avoid.
Online Dating Red Flags:
- Money-hungry. Don’t give money to anyone online, even if they say they’re desperate.
- Self-hater. If someone tells you they’re trouble, they’re probably right.
- In love too fast. If you don’t know them, what does “I love you” really mean?
- Too mysterious. If they’re too vague, their lack of honesty is a warning sign.
Red Flags When Dating in Your 50s:
- Not dependable. You’re dating for a bit, and then they disappear on a whim.
- Too many texts. Texting is fine and fast, but if that’s all they do, it’s not genuine.
- No balance. If they don’t make enough time to see you, you’ll always be last.
- Peter Pan. You want a partner. You don’t need another kid.
Dating a Divorced Man Red Flags:
- Trash-talking. They’re not healed if they’re always bad-mouthing their ex.
- Blameless. If they can’t take any responsibility for a failed marriage, they won’t move on.
- Biting. Sarcastic humor is one thing, but negativity paralyzes a relationship.
- Disbelieving. If they fear being hurt again and they don’t trust, it’s a losing game for you.
Dating a Widower Red Flags:
- Stuck in grief. Some people feel guilty about moving on, so they don’t.
- Lost to memories. They won’t tarnish old memories to make new ones with you.
- Retiring. If they’re afraid to be seen with you, you’ll never leave the house.
- Unwilling. If they can’t say they love you, trying to force it means nothing.
Dating a Narcissist Red Flags:
- Superiority. They truly believe they’re better than anyone, especially their partner.
- Story of one. Their lives selfishly revolve around them.
- Secrets. They create fantasies of who they are to hide big insecurities. They’re fakes.
- The smirk. Beware of this facial expression—the physical trademark of a narcissist.
Bad Celebrity Dates
Reading about red flags is one thing. But when celebs reveal their red-flag dates, it’s like a lousy rom-com that’s never worth watching again.
- Harry Potter cast member Emma Watson said her worst date was with a guy who admitted he’d never be friends with someone overweight or unattractive.
- Singer and talk show host Kelly Clarkson had one date with a man shorter than her. He couldn’t stop talking about his height insecurity, so she excused herself and left.
- Actress and comedienne Awkwafina went to dinner with a date who ordered his meal without asking what she wanted. Even worse: he ordered one well-done steak and cut it up himself, and she had to share it with him.
- Actress and comedienne Tiffany Haddish had a dinner date too—followed by a trip to a laundromat to help the guy wash his clothes. Haddish called it “horrible” and said she wasn’t a “damn maid.”
- Talk show host and social media influencer Lilly Singh described a man who never asked her a single question, spending the entire date talking about his gym routine.
Those are embarrassing examples shared by celebrities, but they clearly show that red flags happen to everyone, and it’s not selfish or wrong to know yourself and put your needs first.
If you’re wondering whether there are any green flags or positive tips when it comes to dating, there are plenty. So when you meet someone and there’s a spark, here are some fun, science-based dating tips for hitting your first date out of the park: 11 Science-Backed First Date Tips To Make Your Date Great.
Bonus: What NOT To Say on a Date
Now you know what to look for—but what should you NEVER say during a date? Check out these expert tips: