“So, do you always wear high heels?”
“Um, sometimes,” my friend replied. Clearly off-put by hearing this, I asked my friend: “OK, so did he have a problem with you wearing heels? Was he shorter than you? Was he not a fan of your style?” She couldn’t really give me a straight answer, but to me it sounded like a self-esteem issue or an unnecessary judgment—a red flag.
Perhaps I was being hyper-vigilant, or maybe I associated it with an ex-boyfriend who flat-out told me: “I don’t like when you wear those fringed boots. They’re ugly on you.” (Really nice. The relationship didn’t last long.) But it got me thinking: What are some things a guy might say on a first date that should set off warning signs? So I reached out to psychologists to get some answers. Each one was careful to say that the following aren’t necessarily deal breakers (and that you are your own best judge), but to maybe give it some thought before going on a second date.
Red Flag #1: He takes you to his favorite sports bar but spends more time with his eyes on the game than on you.
"If you don’t warrant his full attention on the first date, chances are that he’s made his priorities clear. His ability to focus on the potential relationship that the two of you are trying to establish on the first date can be a good indication of his future willingness to be emotionally present later on," says Suzanne Degges-White, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Counseling at Northern Illinois University. Granted, if you both are into the game, that can be a good thing and show your shared interests. But, if you didn't meet up with to watch the solely watch the game, trust yourself that he may not be present in the future.
Red Flag #2: It’s all about him.
If you keep hearing “I, I, I,” that's probably what he is concerned about. "Someone who is very charming but is not curious about you might be a narcissist," says Susanne Babbel, Ph.D. Another hint he may be one? He gets irritated quickly with your waiter or people around you. "Narcissists have no tolerance for letting anyone treat them other than a celebrity. Until [they are treated less-than], they are the friendliest person in the room." Take notice if he freaks out over having to wait for his refill.
Red Flag #3: He’s so solicitous of your feelings that it’s oddly uncomfortable.
It's sweet if he is wanting to charm or impress you—to a point. If he keeps asking if you’re having fun; if you’re too cold; if the restaurant is OK; if your drink is just right; if you’d rather go to a different place; ad nauseum, it can start to get old. "Everyone wants to be 'liked,' but when someone is a little overzealous in their efforts to please someone else, it may be due to low self-esteem," Degges-White says. "If you don’t want to spend a lifetime trying to assure him that he’s great, the relationship is fine, and yes, you adore him, you may want to reconsider agreeing to a second date."
Red Flag #4: He makes a jealous comment and then apologizes.
He may have let down his guard a little too much, and you just caught a glimpse of who he actually is outside of first-date etiquette. For example, if he let's slip something like: "Are you always so friendly to the waiter? Who are you on a date with, me or him?" This could be a warning sign. Four months down the road, this person may turn out to be jealous or possessive when you aren't available 24/7. Things to expect may be behaviors like, "'Why didn't you return my text at 11:30 p.m.? What were you doing?'" says Grant Brenner, MD, psychoanalyst and psychiatrist.
Red Flag #5: You get the feeling that there are some basic fundamental differences in your belief systems.
So you get comfortable enough to have some real conversation and he shares his views on politics, religion, human nature, diversity, money—and you disagree strongly. Don't expect him to change; it could be a deal breaker. "Not every difference of opinion is, or should be, a deal breaker, but when the differences bring up warning signs in your own mind, heed them," Degges-White says. Especially when it comes to your core beliefs. "Remember that wanting to change someone is a lot different than being with someone who wants to change." This also brings your own self-preservation to head and staying true to you.
Red Flag #6: At the end of the date, he gushes to the point of claiming you are his soul mate.
He is totally smitten: your intelligence, personality, heart, and looks are exactly what he has been wanting to find in a woman—and he tells you so. As nice as this may sound, it may be a sign that he is jumping the gun a little. "Although it may be flattering to be so adored, he doesn’t really know you enough to arrive at such conclusions," says Mary Lamia, Ph.D. "This behavior speaks more to idealization than reality. You want someone who has an interest in finding out who you really are, rather than making you into his ideal that doesn’t exist." Flattery is, well, flattering. But if he's coming on a little too strong, he may have perceptions about you that aren't true.
Red Flag #7: He spends a lot of time on the first date talking about his ‘horrible’ ex, and you can sense his anger at her.
Basically, he's not over her. "Anger and hate are not the opposite of love. Indifference is the opposite of attachment," Lamia says. "If he is still angry, he is negatively attached." The key word is that he's bringing up his ex at all. If he didn't care, he wouldn't bring her up.
Maybe I was being a little overly suspicious of my friend's date (she did go out with him again, in case you were curious). But you don't have to go on wondering if a date's actions are a red flag or just a first-date flub. If you are unsure or feel unsettled about something a guy said or the way he acted with you after a first date, don't hesitate to bring up concerns with your date, too. Being honest with your date right off the bat about things he says or does will help you get to know him better and help you determine if he’s someone worth sticking with.
Photo Credit: Manchik Photography