'I was on a first date when he said the words: “I don’t have…feelings”. My stomach lurched.'

His profile picture showcased him leaning in to hug a large dog. In appearance, he was tall and lanky, with thick, healthy black hair covering his head. He had a wide smile that reminded me of the mask V wore in V For Vendetta.

He and I had only exchanged a few messages back and forth on an online dating site before deciding to meet in person. He seemed clever enough, as we exchanged witty remarks.

Still, I realised that the only way to truly meet a human being was in person. That way, I could get an idea of how the person carried himself and the nuances of his personality, among other things.

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We decided to meet at a hipster bar in San Francisco’s downtown. I arrived there early to grab a quick pre-date drink with my close friend and coworker.

Eventually, my friend departed.

Even though I had been on numerous dates up to that point, each new one seemed like an impending wildcard. I hadn’t been able to figure out how to be comfortable in that first date setting.

I saw him first through the glass doors. He had a towering frame, and he wore what appeared to be a trench coat. You don’t often need those in San Francisco weather, so they’re rarely spotted.

He began walking toward me. My stomach lurched. I knew this anxiety. I was going to meet someone for the first time, and our goal was to determine if we might be a good romantic fit.

That is quite a lot of pressure.

I was sitting at the bar, still nursing a drink from earlier. He ordered a glass of water. We exchanged formal greetings and launched into our conversation.

Our discussions were flowing smoothly. I was starting to overlook the dramatic trench coat and the fact that he had only ordered water at a higher-end restaurant. It was totally fine if he abstained from drinking. There were other things on the menu.

Less than an hour into the date, he said something that entirely changed the tone of the experience.


“I don’t have…feelings,” he claimed.


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My mind immediately jumped to this interpretation of what he’d said: maybe he was in a refractory period. Sometimes, emotionally overwhelming situations can cause a person to shut down until they feel ready to open up again without risking an assault on their mental health.

I could empathise with that.

Regardless, this seemed like such an outlandish statement that I asked him to elaborate.

He decided to explain his statement by sharing a story.

Once, when he and his mother were at the movie theatre, her phone had buzzed. The movie was about to start. Upon reading the message, she seemed disturbed. She told him that someone she knew had passed away.

He told me that he felt annoyed and expressed that to her. After all, what could he do? They were about to start the movie, and he didn’t want to deal with this interruption.

My expression must have visibly changed because he noticed that I was exponentially more uncomfortable.

He smiled. “You want to leave don’t you.”

“Yes,” I heard my voice say, and I quickly stepped off of the barstool.


Thankfully, I had already paid for my drink, so I was able to leave that horror show of a date as quickly as possible.

I have met plenty of guys with sociopathic tendencies during my time actively online dating. This guy, however, was so coldly comfortable expressing his selfishness that the memory still sends chills along my back.

There’s always the chance that he said something that strange to get out of spending more time with me. That would actually be a less creepy scenario, but it wasn’t the feeling I got. The story he used seemed too personal. I wondered why he’d even brought it up. Maybe others had told him that this personality “quirk” of his was something he should reveal right at the beginning.

Whatever the reason, I’m glad I found this out about him in a public place while surrounded by many eyewitnesses.

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I’ve often read articles and blog posts advising the reader to list out their priorities when it comes to finding a romantic partner. Does the guy really need to be 6 foot 2 inches? Is it a requirement that the woman look like the chiselled models on glossy magazine covers?

Defining our priorities is a great exercise, and the real-world experience of dating can help us evaluate if our list is just theoretically true or if it also stands in actual life.

Through my own dating experiences, I concluded that deep empathy was the first and foremost trait I look for. There are others, of course. This one, though, is a must-have. If it’s not there, that is an immediate deal breaker.

Life throws many obstacles our way, no matter who we are. For women, that’s usually compounded by our gender-related struggles.

I walked out on that date, and I’d do it again. In fact, this time around, I wouldn’t even shake his hand and I certainly wouldn’t tell him the big fat lie that “it was nice to meet him.”

It was actually an awful experience.

I need a partner who cares about my feelings, no matter how inconvenient they might be. If he doesn’t demonstrate this trait in his other close relationships, I’m not going to blindfold myself with the hope that maybe he’ll do it for me.

What’s your biggest dating deal breaker?

This story originally appeared on Medium and has been republished with full permission. For more from Rebeca Ansar, you can visit her website

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