'I'm a relationship coach. Here are the 12 red flags I tell clients to look for on a first date.'

Despite being a relationship coach, I didn’t have a list of red flags in mind when I started dating following the end of my first marriage.

This was categorically stupid on my part. I should have known better, but I was hurting and vulnerable, which meant I was primed to make a lot of dumb mistakes. 

I have no shame today in telling you that I cried because mediocre, boring people didn’t text me back. That I went above and beyond for people who showed up in day-old sweatpants, and that I went on more than one date with people who catfished and hatfished me.

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All of us need some kind of 'beware' list when dating. If we don’t, we’ll tell ourselves, 'Oh, that’s not so bad,' or 'I bet that was just a one-time thing.' We’ll make excuses for them. We’ll waste our precious time and then get irritable and resentful.

Here is a list of the 12 most common red flags I followed when I was dating and that I tell my clients to look for when meeting someone new:

1. Poor listening skills.

Long-term relationships are built on intimacy. We share. We listen. We grow. It’s beautiful and awesome.

But that can’t happen if you aren’t heard.


If someone:

  • Asks you a question but doesn’t wait for you to respond;
  • Routinely interrupts you;
  • Continually turns the conversation back to themselves;
  • Nods excessively;
  • Hurries you along;
  • Avoids eye contact;
  • Fills in words for you that may not even be right; and/or
  • Doesn’t seem to give you any opportunity to speak at all;

...then you shouldn’t pursue a relationship with them.

2. Doesn’t ask questions or only asks you questions.

These may seem contradictory, but they actually both indicate the same thing: a one-sided relationship.

Either the person isn’t asking you any questions, so they are dominating the conversation and clearly not interested in learning about your experiences, interests, family, history, etc.

OR the person keeps making the conversation all about you by continually asking YOU questions. While it’s easy to mistake this one for genuine interest, it’s still one-sided and you’re not getting the opportunity to learn about them.

Conversations have to be a two-way street. If they’re not, it and your relationship potential are a dead-end.

3. No long-term goals.

If you have long-term goals for yourself, whether it be in your personal or professional life, then you shouldn’t date people with only short-term ones.

When someone only has short-term goals, it likely means they aren’t thinking too far ahead. If that’s the case, it’s also likely they don’t want a serious relationship or to make any big life changes.

4. Poor hygiene.

The majority of us aren’t going to want to go on a second date with someone who smells, but you’d be surprised how many clients have said something to me along the lines of, "It might have just been an off day for them."

I get that things can happen.

Deodorant fails. Your hot water heater broke. You’re nervous, so you sweat through your dress or suit jacket. If there’s a hygiene snafu, then you a) postpone/reschedule the date and/or b) apologise PROFUSELY.


If someone neither delays the date nor apologises, they either don’t know or don’t care. Neither is a quality I suggest you excuse.

5. Nothing in common.

Yes, opposites can attract, but ideally you have to have the important things in common. This may be a similar upbringing, cultural background, values, beliefs and goals. 

If not... what are you going to talk about?

If you’re looking for something substantial, you’ll need some similarities to build on. Without it, you’ll struggle to understand and relate to one another.

6. Overly negative.

Life was tough even before the likes of 2020. Your close relationships, particularly your romantic ones, should bring the light instead of the dark into your life. Your partner should be the one person in your life you can count on to lift you up.

If your date tends to do a lot of gossiping, criticising, or complaining, this is likely a pattern of behaviour that won’t improve with time. Plus, if they’re gossiping, criticising, or complaining to you, that likely means they’ll do it about you too, and who would want that?

7. Poor manners.

How someone treats others in front of you is often a great indicator of how they’ll treat you behind close doors.

If someone’s rude to the wait staff or has a road rage incident, don’t see that as a 'they only do it to other people' or 'that was a one-time thing.'

People show you who they are if you pay attention, so if someone shows you they’re unkind, have anger problems, or can’t control their emotions - pay attention and get out early.


8. Selfish behaviour.

One-sided relationships are like trying to paddle a boat with only one oar. Instead of you both getting to your destination, you’ll just end up paddling in circles.

A healthy relationship is one where there are equal parts giving and receiving. There is no hope for a healthy relationship if it’s always one person doing all the work and the other simply reaping the benefits.

9. No restraint.

Some people may mistakenly assume intimacy is created through mouth-vomiting their personal histories.

Their inner narrative is, "If I share my deepest awfuls with you and you share your deepest awfuls with me, that’s intimacy!"

Intimacy has to be earned by creating trust first. Trust can’t be forced.

If someone has no filter, aka overshares, they’re someone who doesn’t have or doesn't honour appropriate boundaries. Boundaries are necessary for any healthy relationship, so don’t pursue anything further with them.

10. Doesn’t follow through with plans.

You deserve to have people in your life you can depend on. Secure attachment is built on having people in your life who are consistent and predictable.

Never settle for someone who stands you up or shows up late without letting you know beforehand, or cancels on you last minute, unless they have a really reasonable excuse and it never happens again.

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11. Passive-aggressive behaviour.

Passive-aggression is suppressed anger that ends up spilling out in small interactions. It often shows up in sighing, dirty looks, extended periods of silence, sarcasm, or being patronising or condescending.


Someone has to be willing and able to confront situations directly in order for you to be able to work things out. If someone is refusing to address something from the very beginning, that’s not someone you should want to get any more involved with.

12. Distracted.

You might be super excited to be out and about with them, but they can’t bother to meet your eye. Instead, they’re staring at their phone, down at their food, or scanning the room.

Notice that I’m dubbing this 'distracted' and not 'neurodivergent.' There is a distinct difference between someone choosing to do these behaviours vs unable to.

You shouldn’t have to beg for someone’s undivided attention, and if you aren’t having it on date number one, what makes you think you’ll get it later on?

Having a list of behaviours you absolutely won’t put up with can save you the irritation and wasted time of continuing a relationship with someone who isn’t investing in you as much as you are with them.

You deserve a healthy relationship. Any sign you can’t have one with this person is a sign to let go and look elsewhere.

This post originally appeared on Medium and has been republished with full permission. 

Tara Blair Ball is a Relationship Coach and Writer. Check out her other work at, and sign up to get her FREE "Be a Match for Your Dream Relationship" worksheet here.

Feature Image: Getty.

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