5 Tips for Spotting Red Flags During the First Few Dates

In The Love Fix, I talk a lot about expectations. Timing is everything. Before you even start dating, think about who you want as your life partner. Sit with yourself. What are your deal-breakers? Then, how do you envision a relationship? Are you looking out for the red flags?

A psychiatrist wrote a book for therapists called the “5 Minute Session,” and he says that in a therapeutic session, he can see in 5 minutes how the relationship will go, and even how it might end.

This might sound a bit extreme, but you definitely don’t need to be a psychiatrist or psychologist to see the red flags right from the get-go, even the first date. What are some of those items you can look out for?

  1. Listening and Observing: Sometimes just by listening and observing, you can see the type of person he is. How does he treat the wait staff? Rude and disrespectful or kind and patient?
  2. Ask the long-term questions in a way that provides you with answers: After you’ve been dating for a while, ask the more long-term questions such as, “where do you see yourself in three years?” If he says “traveling and my career is the most important thing in my life,” and you’re a 30-something year-old, marriage-minded woman, with the biological clock ticking in the back of your mind, then maybe this is a time to say, “okay, our life goals don’t match up.”
  3. Is it like pulling teeth to make plans with him? But then he jumps every time a family member wants to do something with him? This is a huge red flag that he hasn’t individuated or separated from the family, and is therefore unable to eventually become a family with you.
  4. What does he say in regards to exes? The subject of past relationships and why they ended eventually comes up. Does he constantly bad-mouth his exes and play the blame game? Or, does he look back and have the ability to say “In retrospect, I’m able to really look at my choices and my part in the conflict?” These answers will show if he takes responsibility for his part in a two-person relationship.
  5. They say to never discuss politics, but… especially in a political season like this one, more than ever, it’s not as much as who you’re voting for or the economy, but a great look into the shared values of a potential mate. You should absolutely discuss politics with the mindset of watching for shared values, because having shared values is the foundation for a solid relationship.

When in my office, and couples look back, they see that a lot of these red flags were there from the beginning. Keep some of these tips in mind to help ensure you’ll have a long-lasting and healthy relationship.

Article by Dr. Tara Fields Two Faces of Anger

The Two Faces of Anger: How to Turn Anger into Love

Back in the eighties, the personal growth movement and certain schools of therapy said that if you’re feeling angry, you should share it with the other person, just dump it on him or her, leaving the other person a mere puddle on the ground. This was supposed to help you release your anger. Maybe it even worked. Maybe it gave you a momentary rush of power and feeling of being in control. However, it was a quick fix that helped you feel better in the moment but that did nothing to address the wreckage you left behind.

If you are the recipient of the anger in your relationship, maybe you think that you’re being a loving partner by letting your partner “get it all out” while you stand there, keep your mouth shut, and take it. But in this situation the loving action, one that will also ultimately help to strengthen your relationship, is being honest and having the emotional courage to say, “Listen, when you get angry like this, my heart shuts down, I want to distance myself, and I even start questioning the relationship.”

Intention is everything.  Are you open to refraining from dumping your anger on your partner or, conversely, to help your partner release his or her anger, and you’ll master the art of letting your anger go so you can remove the barrier that the anger is creating? Underneath anger is almost always fear, pain, and/or terror over being vulnerable. Anger is a mask for these emotions, emotions you or your partner would otherwise have to feel. A question to ask which I have probably said more times than I can count to individuals in treatment is “if you weren’t feeling angry, what would you feel?”

You might say, “Can’t I just get angry and get this off my chest so I can get to figuring out what is really going on?” Once you have a history together and confidence in your and your partner’s intentions and ability to learn, grow, and take ownership, then in certain situations, such as in a therapist’s office, and with your partner’s permission and only with the intention of getting at what the anger is masking, you might allow yourself to get angry. But too often anger is employed to intimidate your partner into doing what you want. In other words, it’s not a form of protection, a mask for fear or pain, but rather a tool for manipulation and control. When you angrily blame or shame your partner, you are trying to take power. Expressing anger is also a good way to ensure that you stay trapped in a conflict loop, rather than work toward a circle of love, and you miss out on the opportunity to access and heal the pain that lies beneath as well as creating the intimacy and the loving connection we all long for.