How My Dating Life Changed When I Started To Pay Attention To Red Flags Sooner

Natalia Lusinski

When you meet somebody and get excited about them, it’s easy to get wrapped up in them and ignore any red flags. Perhaps they’re a nice person, but you soon learn they have problems with following through on plans. Of course, “actions speak louder than words,” so if someone is a talker more than a doer, it can be a red flag if you want to date someone with more integrity, and one who follows through on plans. However, the more dates you go on, the more you trick yourself into thinking, “OK, they rescheduled our first date three times, then our second date four times, but they did have legit reasons for doing so, so they’ll change…” Wrong. In essence, you realize you need to pay attention to red flags sooner.

“It can be easy to get so swept up in the idea of someone that you ignore the red flags, especially in the beginning,” Antonia Hall, psychologist, relationship expert, and author of the Sexy Little Guide books, tells Bustle. “If the initial connection goes well, you might be more apt to overlook little details on those first few dates. Save yourself the heartache and headaches by paying attention to what your date says and how they behave.” She says some examples of this are: Are they rude to service people? Do they flippantly criticize their ex? Or do they seem overly into you too quickly? “If something sounds or feels off, then pay attention to that,” Hall says. “Every exchange is energetic, so if your gut tells you something isn’t right, trust it.”

I couldn’t agree more with Hall. After dating one too many people in a row who exhibited red flags that I ignored, I decided to change up my dating game. Before I knew it, my dating life improved when I started paying more attention to red flags much earlier on.

1I Swiped Smarter

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Since so many dating apps are swiping-based these days, it’s easy to get on a roll and swipe right and left without completely paying attention to the details in someone’s profile. However, when I started to swipe smarter, carefully analyzing each dating profile before swiping right, it improved my dating life since I was able to eliminate red flags I saw in people’s profiles. I learned that the more you pay attention, the more you’ll weed out people with qualities you don’t want.

For instance, I went through a phase of dating guys with drinking problems, and had I paid more attention to their online dating profiles, I probably could have prevented this. One ex had mentioned alcohol three times in his profile, and in many of his photos, he was drinking, his face flushed. The more we dated, the more I realized he *had* to drink almost every time we went out. A few months into dating, his alcohol-induced temper came out, and that was that — I was done. Ever since, I’ve paid much more attention to online dating profiles and try to spot preliminary red flags. So when it comes time to go on dates with matches IRL, I feel I have better first dates than I did in the past, when red flags I spotted in a profile were also true in-person.

2I Started Dating People Who Treated Me — And Others — With More Respect

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It’s a given that good eye contact is important when you’re speaking to somebody — when they’re looking at *you*, not every other person walking by, especially if you’re on a date. The old me would have dismissed if a date looked at a woman here and there; however, the red-flag-sensitive-me knows it’s disrespectful if a guy I’m out with keeps staring at other women. So now, if a guy does this on the first date, I don’t assume he’ll do it less on the second and third dates — past experience has shown me his wandering eyes don’t get better.

Similarly, I started paying closer attention to how my dates treat others when we’re out: Are they friendly and appreciative toward the waitstaff? Do they speak highly of their parents? In essence, do they treat others with respect? If so, chances are, they’ll treat me with respect, too. Otherwise, goodbye.

3I Attracted People With More Qualities I Wanted

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The law of attraction states that “like attracts like,” and this is true with dating, too. When you put what you want out into the Universe — for instance, you want a partner who is nice (to everyone from their friends to waitstaff), spontaneous (up for a spur-of-the-moment road trip), and spiritual (believes in God, even though they may not go to church) — you can actually get it. However, you really have to know what you want, then not settle for less, i.e., people who exhibit red flags that are dealbreakers. For example, as someone who believes in God, I find it difficult to date atheists; at first, I think it will be no big deal, but then it usually causes a rift in the relationship down the line, so for me, I find it’s better to stick to dating someone with similar spiritual beliefs.

4I Listened To My Inner Voice More

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It’s easy to think someone’s initial behavior will change the more you get to know them. Perhaps you think you can talk them out of smoking, or at least get them to smoke less. However, usually, your instincts are correct and stronger than you may realize, like Hall says above. So, once I started to pay attention to red flags sooner, it became easier to listen to my inner voice when I felt something — or someone’s characteristics and behavior — was off.

5I Became More Positive About Dating

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When you go on a lot of dates that are just OK, but not amazing, it’s easy to become jaded about dating. However, once you start paying attention to red flags sooner, constantly reminding yourself of your dealbreakers, and saying things to yourself like, “Why would I want to date someone who lied to me?” and “Why would I want to date someone who was rude to the waiter?” it gets easier and easier to focus on what you do want in somebody. And, the more positive you are, the more your positive energy will be apparent to others, and the more you’ll attract dates without red flags — or at least ones that may be smaller in scope.

All in all, when it comes to dating, only you know what you will and will not tolerate in a prospective partner. But, the sooner you start to pay attention — serious attention — to red flags someone exhibits, the sooner you can move on and date someone with more qualities you want versus don’t want.