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Too Good to Be True? First Date Red Flags & Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship

“Do I listen to my head or my heart?” is a question you’ve probably asked yourself at least once as a single woman dating and seeking a partner. It’s the ultimate internal struggle, because the answer isn’t always clear. 

When the flood of new relationship excitement engulfs you, dating red flags and warning signs can be easily missed. You might also be feeling the pressure to settle down and say goodbye to your single days. Or, maybe the person you’re dating is “perfect on paper,” but just doesn’t feel like the right fit. Add on the pressure to have it all, including a relationship, and there’s a lot of reasons why you might second-guess yourself. Whatever it may be, your gut instinct is not something you should ignore. So many of us don’t listen to that “voice of reason” in the back of our head that tells us something isn’t right. Know that your intuition is often completely accurate. Learning to listen to your instincts and honor them is an important lesson many women must go through in order to build their best lives.

Honoring Your Instincts: How Trauma Gets in the Way

As women, most of us have experienced trauma in some way in our childhoods or adult lives. Trauma often conditions our brains to shut out our intuition. During a traumatic event, our body is telling us something terrible is happening, and it keeps happening anyway. We have no control over it. We blame ourselves for it. So we learn that when our body tells us something terrible is happening, we are wrong—we caused it, or deserved it, or it’s not actually wrong.

The impacts of trauma are closely linked with dysfunction in relationships. Recognizing and fully accepting that you are not at fault for the trauma you have experienced in the past is a key step in the healing process and paving the way for happy and healthy relationships. As you heal, your relationship fears will fade, you will be able to advocate for your needs and wants, and you will recognize what you do and don’t deserve from others. If you think that trauma is holding you back in life or in relationships, a therapist can support you in working through your pain and healing. In the meantime, I have compiled a list of major dating red flags to watch for while looking for a partner. 

Dating Red Flags: Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship Ahead

If you’re a woman in your 30s or 40s, you don’t want to waste time dating people who put up red flags, and who don’t respect your feelings and needs. Although not every person you date will become your life partner, you don’t want to spend time dating people who are toxic or just not right for you. While every person and every couple’s dynamic is complex and unique, there are general patterns of behavior that likely mean trouble is ahead. Try not to let these signs of an unhealthy relationship make you hypervigilant or anxious. Ultimately, you need to honor your intuition, the boundaries you’ve set for yourself, and the standards you desire in a partnership.

  1. They call you pet names or a nickname very quickly. 

This is one of the clearest dating red flags that appear early on. You may feel flattered if you’re called ‘beautiful,’ ‘baby,’ or ‘sweetheart’ 10 minutes into the date. But if someone is calling you pet names immediately, it might only be a habit for them… meaning you’re not the only one. Also, pet names are used between people who have an established and intimate relationship, and using them too early can be insincere.

  1. You are made to feel responsible for their emotions.

Stay away if they blame you for making them upset when you aren’t able to meet their needs every time. This could look like them getting angry when you can’t get together on a moment’s notice, or if they become depressed when you have a girl’s night out without them.

A healthy person knows how and is able to meet their own needs without having to depend on you to meet their needs every time. In any healthy relationship, a partner can’t be expected to meet your needs 100% of the time. 

  1. They aren’t able to talk it out. 

One sign of an unhealthy relationship is that they aren’t able to talk through misunderstandings and disagreements. After an argument, they can’t seem to re-connect and understand where you’re coming from—your thoughts, feelings, and perspectives. 

There will always be misunderstandings and disagreements in relationships. The goal isn’t to never have a misunderstanding or disagreement. The goal is to be able to reconnect after a misunderstanding or disagreement. If your partner is unable to talk through what was going on, and strive to understand your perspective, then resentments will pile up, and you’ll drift further and further apart. 

  1. They can’t see your side.

This is one of the clearest dating red flags to decipher. If your partner can’t understand your perspective if you don’t agree with them, it might be time to say goodbye.

Understanding doesn’t equal agreement. If they insist that you agree with them in order to understand you, this is a red flag. A healthy partner will be able to see they don’t need to agree with you to be able to understand where you’re coming from. 

Does your partner walk away? Shut down? Place all the blame on you? Throw a tantrum? These are signs of an unhealthy relationship. In a healthy relationship, you and your partner can talk through issues, listening to the other person’s point of view and expressing your own without fear. No one needs to win or lose. It’s about expressing how something makes you feel, and being heard. Communication is key. 

  1. They push your boundaries.

Listening to your instincts and honoring your boundaries are vital in the beginning stages of a relationship. Letting someone push your boundaries can land you in an unsafe situation or a toxic relationship. 

How do you know your date isn’t respecting your boundaries? If you ask to meet at a public place for a date, and they keep trying to convince you to come to their place or meet late at night at a bar instead, watch out. Crossing boundaries can also look like invasive questions, demands to access your social media or phone, or ignoring your discomfort or concern about something. Ultimately, if a date or partner can’t respect you now, it will persist as a pattern later in the relationship. 

  1. They try to rush the relationship. 

A partner rushing you physically or otherwise is a sign of an unhealthy relationship. If they try to rush the relationship without giving you enough time to get to know them, listen to your need to slow it down. If they aren’t patient with you, they are not the right person for you. If you haven’t even met them in person yet, and they say they want to come over and hold you in your bed when you tell him you’ve had a hard day, it’s too much too soon. Additionally, if a partner pushes you to be exclusive, get engaged, or otherwise move the relationship along and you don’t feel ready, they aren’t the one for you.

Red Flags on the First Date

Going into the first date, it can be difficult to judge a potential partner’s real character. First date red flags are the first glimpses of an unhealthy relationship ahead. Here are some common signs that a relationship will not last – and that your date doesn’t truly care about or respect you.

  • They hit you with last-minute or late-night plans.
  • They treat wait staff or others disrespectfully.
  • Instead of being present or looking you in the eye, they are on their phone or not paying attention.
  • They bring up their past relationships or speak badly about their ex’es.
  • No matter what you say, the conversation goes back to getting physical or discussing their interests only. 
  • They are pushy in asking you to “come over” to their place for the first date.
  • If you suggest a coffee date, they demand dinner or late-night drinks instead.
  • They send love emojis or overly flirtatious messages when you first start texting.
  • Their comments or jokes feel inappropriate or make you feel uncomfortable.
  • They are immediately physical or touchy.

Support for Finding a Healthy Relationship

If you’ve had enough with being single or falling into one toxic relationship after the other, it’s time to look within. You have the power to heal your hurts and trauma, begin to truly love yourself just as you are, and get a clearer vision on exactly what you need in life and in a partner. Working through each of these steps will finally bring you relief and transformation. 

It’s time to put the past behind you and finally begin working towards your healing and life goals. If you’re ready to work through your frustrations, trauma or self-doubt, therapist Kirstin Carl is ready to guide your journey and walk with you. To get started, contact Kirstin today to set up a consultation so that she can begin getting to know you and your needs.

Serving women throughout California and specializing in therapy for low self-esteem, relationships, and trauma, Encino therapist Kirstin Carl is here to help you improve your mental health and find the fulfilling love life you’ve been looking for. Whether you are working through anxiety or depression, healing from childhood trauma or toxic relationships, or trying to figure out how to boost your self-confidence, reach out to take the next step with you for dating coaching.

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Hi, I am Kirstin!

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A courageous explorer of the heart’s depths, passionate about partnering with successful single women who long to uncover why they get stuck when they try to get close.