Love and Relationships

Warning! Watch out for these first date red flags

Steph Arnaldo
Warning! Watch out for these first date red flags
What if your date is rude to the waiters, or doesn't pay for dinner? We deduce which first date behaviors are potential red flags, with the help of a relationship therapist!

MANILA, Philippines – If you’re reading this, you probably might be single and ready to mingle, or are flexing your dating muscles after a loooong time. Maybe you’re ready to meet up with your Bumble match, or are confident enough to finally say yes to a blind date, and are priming yourself for The One.

Congratulations, you’re finally ready to get back into the dating saddle! First dates are definitely daunting, but you’ll know when it’s time – relationship therapist and psychologist Lissy Puno is all for taking the first date bull by its horns, especially if you “have an intense physical attraction, are curious of their dating profile, trust a friend’s reto, or have met through a shared interest, like the gym.”

“First dates aren’t future-bound yet. The purpose is really to discover more of these feelings that may not last or whether you would like to go on another and another until you truly get to know each other,” Lissy told Rappler. In short, there’s no pressure.

However, serial dating can get tiresome and tedious. At a certain age, nobody wants to waste any more time at futile attempts at “love” or settling with a less-than-ideal partner. Life is short, time’s a-ticking, and many singles don’t want to dilly-dally with mind games, zero compatibility, and matches that just aren’t good for them.

This is why spotting “red flags” has become a necessity for many in the recent dating scene. Red flags are seemingly “harmless” but usually early telltale danger signs that the person may be toxic, abusive, a narcissist, or a plain a**hole. But why are we so hell-bent on spotting these red flags ASAP? Lissy said that it’s because of the “instant gratification” dating scene nowadays.

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“The dating apps scene is filled with instant, intense, impulsive emotions, that ‘love bombing’ can suddenly bring a shift to let downs, disappointments, frustration, and low self-esteem,” she said. Basically, because of the unpredictability of today’s dating scene and all these new terms – ghosting, benching, bread-crumbing, or cookie-jarring – singles are more hypervigilant in spotting these behaviors right away to prevent themselves from getting hurt.

Red flags may differ per person, which is why Lissy said it is important to know your own self first before deciding to date again. “You need to know what you are looking for in a relationship. What do you value? What are your negotiables and non-negotiables? Your red flags will be your own non-negotiables. If you see a lot of them, then that’s your decision,” Lissy said.

Seeing red: Should you right away?

Some red flags may be out of personal preference, but there are a few standard signs that should start ringing warning bells, and are worth remembering on first dates. Lissy said that you may or may not see them right away, especially during the honeymoon stage of dating.

“Remember that this initial period of romance and passion allows you to put your best self forward. You are trying to attract someone so you are intentionally only revealing what is most attractive. That is human nature,” she said. However, cracks in the facade may still show. These could come in the form of personality traits that you don’t want in a relationship, or can’t see yourself compromising for.

“It is important to spot them so you are not wasting your time if this will not be the right partner for you.  If you are thinking of a long-term relationship or even a life-long one, know that these red flags will not change and may even get worse. Imagine how it will be to constantly be surrounded with this behavior that you consider a red flag,” Lissy said.

Another simple but powerful thing to consider after a first date is how you feel after. Did you feel good after spending time with this person? What about this person or the time spent together allowed you to feel good and feel the connection? “This will make you look forward to the next date,” Lissy said. If you left the date feeling bad about yourself and not really enjoying yourself, then don’t waste your time on a second date.

It’s good to keep your eyes open sans any rose-colored glasses, but it’s also important not to go out on dates already looking for what’s wrong, rather than being open to seeing what’s right.

“There must be a reason why you considered a date with this person anyway. Let the good things shine, but be mindful of the red flags too, as no one is perfect anyway. You are looking for a balance. Don’t be too hypervigilant to what is wrong,” Lissy reminded. After all, there could be what are called “yellow flags” that can turn into green flags or red flags. 

Red flag check-list

You’re preparing to go out with the guy you’ve been chatting with for a few weeks now, and he starts telling you what to wear, how to speak, and even how to act. Maybe he even chose your date location and agenda without consulting you first. This already can be a red flag, because this already shows that your needs and preferences are not considered – a sign of a possibly controlling person.

Does he always have friends around after a quick date, or does he prioritize meeting with his friends over spending private time with you? Does he randomly bring along a friend later on during a date? Watch out for this too, Lissy said, as well as someone who talks only about themselves and does not express curiosity for you and your own life. 

Is it a red flag if your date doesn’t offer to pay for the dinner, even if he/she invited you out? Lissy said this isn’t really an automatic red flag at this day and age. “In reality, some may still want this and enjoy it, while others see this as a doubt on their own independence. Know yourself and know what you are looking for,” she said.

How about not pulling out your chair, opening the door for you, or offering the conventional “chivalrous acts?” Lissy said to just ask yourself: is this important to you? “I know that women still enjoy and want this, but there might be confusing messages about this out there that again may make it unclear,” she said. Some women may not mind at all. What’s important is that you talk about it and express your needs around these acts. 

It goes without saying that if your date is being rude and arrogant to service staff and waiters, that is a bright red flag. “The manner in which they treat other people is how they may treat you at some point,” Lissy said. If your date is always on his phone during your date – whether he’s texting friends or just scrolling through social media – this is also a red flag. To Lissy, this means a lack of curiosity about you and no investment in the date.

If your date doesn’t ask you any questions, doesn’t really listen, always talks about himself, and isn’t working on the conversation, that is also a red flag. If you catch him in a few white lies during your conversation, consider that a possible sign of future dishonesty, too.

What about a date who openly shows emotions from the get-go and already discusses the future with you? This might be a sign of love bombing, which is characterized by “excessive attention, admiration, and affection, with the goal to make the recipient feel dependent and obligated to that person,” explained licensed therapist Sasha Jackson in a Cosmopolitan article.

How about a first date who constantly talks about their exes? This could show a lack of emotional maturity, lack of sensitivity, and someone who is self-absorbed, Lissy said.

Other red flags include a date who is a bit too touchy and sexual right away, especially if you’ve made your physical and sexual boundaries clear in the beginning; someone who complains all the time during the date and is overly critical (especially of you); and someone who shows up late, doesn’t inform you ahead of time, and changes plans all of a sudden.

It pays to be wary of these signs, but one must also remember that not everything is set in stone. Some people can change, some people won’t – and it’s up to you if you want to stick around for that responsibility. But at least you already know what you can and can’t compromise on, and this will already make your dating game much easier for you in the long run. –

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Steph Arnaldo

If she’s not writing about food, she’s probably thinking about it. From advertising copywriter to freelance feature writer, Steph Arnaldo finally turned her part-time passion into a full-time career. She’s written about food, lifestyle, and wellness for Rappler since 2018.