Sick of wasting time on relationships that end up absolutely nowhere? What if I told you, you can spot a loser on the first few dates?
In most cases, the warning signs are there right from the very start. In fact, it’s entirely possible you can predict exactly what’s going to break you up, by watching and listening carefully on the first three dates.
Everyone’s on their absolute best behaviour at the beginning: if you’re seeing cracks that early, it generally means the person has deeply-ingrained issues and is best avoided.
Stop wasting time on people who won’t work for you.
Watch out for any (God forbid all) of these earning warning signs that suggest your seemingly perfect date has all the hallmarks of a future disaster.
Too many dramas mean incompatibility
We tend to equate stormy, tempestuous relationships with grand, passionate love.
Cathy and Heathcliff. Romeo and Juliet. Most of us are suckers for up-and-down relationships when we’re younger (we’ve got the time and energy).
When we’re older and have work commitments and other pressures, they’re usually not worth the effort.
Have you already had a row and you’re only a few dates in? Are you seeing signs of jealousy or possessiveness after just a few dates or feeling abnormally jealous yourself and don’t know why?
Do there seem to be work problems or family issues or money dramas appearing already?
If it’s up and down right from the start, pay attention.
Relationships of this type usually mean you’ve got pots of chemistry and passion but are hopelessly incompatible in every other area: you’re in for constant arguments and miscommunication.
The first five dates should be fun – preferably you’d hit ten before having a bad time or a major argument.
If you’re saying things like ‘No, I didn’t mean that at all’ every second sentence or they’re moody, defensive and over-react to situations, there’s a problem.
Some people like arguing and will deliberately pick fights.
There’s an ex problem
I went on a very promising first date once with a guy who seemed just perfect. We went out to dinner and then back to his place for a night cap. That was when he started acting weirdly.
I plonked myself down next to an open window because it was hot, he looked nervous and suggested we move somewhere else and pulled the blind down.
His eyes kept darting towards the window and the door and he kept the music ridiculously low.
About an hour later, I found out why – there was a knock at the door and his ex was standing outside.
Troublesome exes – who won’t go away or are kept hanging by ‘I don’t want you but I don’t want anyone else to have you either’ behaviour by the person you’re seeing – tend to make their presence felt quite early on.
If they don’t physically turn up, you’ll notice texts or calls being hidden, as they continue to make contact.
Sometimes, the ex will disappear once it becomes clear the person is moving on and on the verge of a new relationship.
Other times, it means the person you’re dating has broken the relationship off abruptly with no warning, leaving them lost and wanting closure (and could do the same to you).
Or that they’re still hung up on them, sleeping with them, like the attention or dating you to make their ex jealous.
Bad mouthing exes means they’re the one with issues
‘They were all nutters – I seem to attract them.’
How many men make comments like this on a first date, when asked about their previous relationships?
At the time, you laugh and feel secretly smug: you know you’re not a nutter, so all will be fine.
Until you realise – too late – that they’re the ones who are bonkers and shifting responsibility is how they justify why their relationships don’t last.
The less judgemental and balanced they are, when telling you why past relationships didn’t work, the more reasonable and kind they’re going to be as a partner
Not turning up on time, forgetting where you were supposed to meet, missed trains, double booking – if any of this happens on the first three dates, you’re hooking up with someone who is happy living in chaos.
If you’re a bit dippy yourself, this won’t be an issue but if you are a busy person who honours commitments, does what you say you’ll do and are where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there, they’ll annoy the hell out of you.
They have Mummy issues
It’s a very good idea to ask about family relationships early on in your relationship.
It’s an innocent question to ask (‘Tell me about your family. Are you close to your Mum and Dad? Do you have any siblings?’) and their reaction will tell you everything you need to know.
If they immediately launch into warm, affectionate descriptions of their family, relax; if the question provokes a sneer and an angry, venomous response, not so good.
True, some parents and families are toxic and don’t deserve respect but, either way, it still means there are going to be issues ahead.
Do they talk a little too much about their parents? They might not have cut the apron strings.
Do they mention a member of their family a lot? This is the person they either spend a lot of time with or whose opinion they trust most.
If you’re a This is Us fan, you’ll be aware that sometimes siblings are so close, you’ll feel like an intruder on their relationship.
They’re a workaholic
Did they cancel, rearrange or cut short any of the dates because of work?
If the answer’s yes, prepare to take second place to their job.
If you’re equally as ambitious or busy, this might not seem like an issue. But if you’re both juggling jobs that take up most of your time and energy, there’s very little left for a relationship.
Relationships are like plants: they need attention to thrive and grow – especially at the start.
It’s also worth talking about their future work plans: they might well involve moving countries or cities.
Are you up for that?
Who is the one planning where you’ll meet and what you’ll do?
How do they react when things don’t go to plan? What if the meal or service isn’t right in the restaurant?
If they’re a controlling person, you will see evidence of this quite early on: they’ll literally take control.
Sometimes, this isn’t an issue – I’m controlling (surprise, susprise – not) and my partner quite likes it because I get things done and balance his procrastinating side.
But lots of people don’t like being controlled and two controlling people in a relationship can end up with both constantly battling to be the boss.
They’ve got drinking problems
Listen, plenty of first dates that lead to marriage, end up with one or both of you completely hammered and waking up together the next day with happy smiles and big hangovers.
But beware the person who arrives clearly tipsy, continues to drink when it’s obvious you aren’t impressed, gets belligerent if you won’t match them drink for drink or who never seems to know when to stop.
If you’re worried this might be an issue, suggest a non-drinking date and see how they react.
Do they push for meeting in a pub or start to get antsy when it’s clear you won’t be stopping off at a pub anytime soon on that walk around the park?
Too many stops and starts means they’re bad news
This can start to happen anywhere from four or five weeks in.
One week everything seems great, the next it’s looking dodgy or you call it quits, only for it all to be kickstarted afresh the following week.
You’re long-suffering; they’re unreliable.
They’re awful; then they’re nice.
Just when you think you’ve had enough, they turn up with flowers, apologies and a smile that melts your heart.
Why do you stick around?
Because of the poker machine effect, officially known as ‘variable-ratio reinforcement’.
Just as addictive as gambling, you’re hooked on the if-only principle.
If, every time you put your hands on a hot stove to warm them, they burn, you’ll leave. But if it’s intermittent – sometimes they burn, sometimes they feel deliciously toasty – you’ll keep going back for more.
It’s the same with relationships.
If occasionally, they come through just when you’re at the point of giving up, all that effort was worth it after all. The ‘if only’ has been realized – until the next time.
The longer you stay in a relationship like this, the more trapped you are.
If you’ve worked hard to fix unsolvable problems, you’re even more vulnerable to the poker machine effect.
You’ve put all the hard work in, why should their next partner reap all the benefits?
Seriously, if this is you, who cares if they do!
Get out now and cut your losses.
If friends seem to be warning you, they probably are!
If you’re starting to like someone, it’s not a bad idea to let any friends you’ve bonded with know how you feel.
If you’ve chosen someone with a problem or who is bad news, it’s not unusual for friends to warn you off if they like you.
‘John’s great – he does like a drink though…’ is their way of saying he’s borderline alcoholic (or all the way there!).
‘All women fall for Richard’, means he could be a womaniser.
‘Have you met his mother yet?’ hints strongly at Mummy issues.’I hope this means he’ll relax a bit more. He works so hard!’ suggests you’re hooking up with a workaholic.