Stop complaining about the food, my dude.
At this point in my life, I’d call myself a dating extraordinaire. (Hi, I’m single.) Basically, I have a sixth sense for sniffing out red flags from miles away. Oh, you don’t say “thank you” to the waiter? You’re chewing broccoli with your mouth open? You text me at 3 a.m. to come over to “hang”? Next.
Okay, fine. These aren’t exactly breaking news. So what about the not-so-obvious things we’re probs all missing? Like, following you on IG right away or meeting you at a bar with all their coworkers?! Here’s what 17 dating, relationship, and sex experts have to say about some red flags you may not want to ignore.
1. Insists on ordering your food or drinks.
“This is a red flag even if you state that you can order for yourself or you find it endearing, cute, or maybe even romantic. In reality, it could definitely be a sign of a controlling person.” —LaVonya Reeves, CEO and founder of ReboundLovers.com
2. Has zero opinion.
“It’s one thing to be easygoing, but it’s quite another to be without an opinion on everything or unwilling to share opinions you do hold. If your date insists you decide everything about your first get-together, they may be battling with a low confidence level.” —Trish McDermott, dating-industry expert
3. Isn’t aware of your need for safety.
“Do they have a hard time wondering why you won’t meet them at a sketchy bar on the wrong side of town? Do they just let you put up with the creepy person at the club without recognizing the situation and helping you out of it? If they don’t realize you have a need to feel physically safe, they haven’t matured enough to realize that your other needs will be different than theirs. Better let them learn on someone else.” —Sky Stack, dating and relationship coach
4. If you’re out with a man, he clearly distances himself from other men.
“Does he say things like ‘I’m not like other guys’? If he does, he has totally cut off his masculine side. Men should be in touch with their femininity, but if your date has disowned his masculinity, prepare to make every decision in the relationship. Good luck also trying to get him to get along with your male friends and family members—he’ll either be intimidated by them or think they’re jerks.” —Stack
5. Looks to the right…a lot.
“Some studies show that when a person looks up and to the right, they could be creating a memory instead of recalling a memory. Which could mean they are not telling the truth!” —Melanie Ross Mills, PhD, relationship and friendship expert
6. Makes multiple comments like “I should have…” or “I feel guilty…” or “I need someone who…” instead of “I want someone who….”
“These could be red flags that they wrestle with low self-worth or a victim mentality. You want someone who knows how to assume responsibility and is their own independent self.” —Mills
7. Is supposedly super into the environment but uses straws.
“A huge red flag is when someone’s actions and words don’t match. For example, if you meet someone who tells you the environment is a top issue in their life and they support environmental issues, but they use straws and plastic cup covers for their coffee, the actions and words do not match.” —Elisa Robyn, PhD, host of
8. Suggests a wine bar for the first date but doesn’t drink.
“Someone asked me out on a first date and suggested a wine bar. When we met, I ordered a glass of wine and he ordered water. He told me that he rarely drank and that he loved water. But he was the one who suggested this high-end wine bar. I suggested tea or something nonalcoholic, but he stuck with water. I insisted on paying, in part because I wanted to leave a big tip.” —Robyn
9. Wants to itemize everything.
“Someone who brings up consistently who contacted who first, who said what first, etc. When you suggest splitting the bill, they want to itemize it. When you ask a question, you are told that they already shared that information. Ick!” —Robyn
10. Criticizes their exes.
“If your new date spends your first date being excessively critical of an ex, including calling them ‘Satan’ or other derogatory nicknames, run! You may be dating a narcissist!” —Christine Scott-Hudson, licensed psychotherapist
11. Criticizes anyone.
“Especially for first dates, if your date spends your time together ripping others to shreds, making fun of others with extreme criticisms—whether it’s parents, siblings, friends, neighbors, bosses, or coworkers, you may be on a date with a narcissist.” —Scott-Hudson
12. Criticizes the food.
“If they are extremely critical of the way the food is prepared, the service in the restaurant, or other restaurant-goers but come across as sweet and highly flattering of you, make a beeline for the exit. They are showing you a peek into your future with them—a critical, controlling, condescending, narcissistic partner.” —Scott-Hudson
13. Overdoes the romance without any solid foundation.
“When you meet for the very first time and they just seem to be too good to be true, they probably are. It might seem romantic, but better watch out if they start giving you gifts, complimenting you to the extreme, becoming way too affectionate too early. This tactic is called love bombing. When you haven’t built any foundation yet to your relationship but they are already treating you as if you are the love of their life, they are, in fact, lulling you into a false sense of security.” —Chris Pleines, dating expert and founder of DatingScout.com
14. Is late without a valid explanation.
“There will be times when the traffic is bad or an emergency happened, but unless your date has no specific reason why they are late, you should start thinking if they are really interested. If they don’t give you a heads up after the five-minute mark, then you are probably just wasting your time. If you are looking for someone who is serious about finding a good relationship, better start with someone who values your time.” —Pleines
15. Complains all the time.
“It’s one thing to be comfortable and open up about your private sentiments, but it’s another to complain relentlessly. You may not see through it at first, but a person who does this on a date, and the first date at that, will bring about a steady stream of personal problems and negativity. Monitor if the behavior persists and do not ignore this red flag.” —Pleines
16. Has too many things in common with you.
“If you find your date is leading the conversation and you’re in a constant state of ‘Me too!’ you might want to pause. Soul mate belief or not, if someone keeps bringing up things that you’re aligned with—favorite food, band, color, shop, author, place to grab lunch on Tuesdays—it could be a sign they social-media-stalked you and are attempting to ‘win’ your affection by stacking the deck. Anyone who wants to manipulate the situation to seem like you have so many similarities and therefore a connection could be a real sign of someone who is overly controlling and potentially harmful.” —Crystal Rice, owner of Insieme Consulting
17. Is too gross too soon.
“We should all be comfortable with our partners and accept that bodily stuff exists. But if you’ve ever seen how hot dogs get made, you know that sometimes it’s better to find out something is tasty before you see behind-the-scenes footage. Being super crass in that first get-together could mean their attitude toward self-care is not something you want to be in bed with.” —Rice
18. Checks their phone constantly but takes forever to text you back.
“If you are on a first date and the person you are meeting can’t give you their attention for a couple hours, this is a red flag and impolite. If they don’t value giving you attention now, this could definitely be a sign of things to come.” —Kelly Bos, individual, marriage, and family relationship expert
19. Tries to take a selfie the first time they see you.
“Confidence and friendliness is attractive, but if your date is acting too familiar with your roommate who answered the door, wants to talk to your mom when she calls through, or is immediately adding you to social networks and wanting to take a selfie, then you might be facing a glaring red flag around their ability to understand social norms and boundaries.” —Bos
20. Brings up emotional wounds from childhood on the first date.
“The first date should be about the chill, casual courting. If things move too personal and deep too fast, this could mean that trauma from childhood was not left in childhood but is still haunting the individual in their present. The inability to process emotions and deal with them in the past can lead to problems in their adult life.” —Belinda Ginter, mind-set expert
21. Is the only one asking questions.
22. Refuses to let you pay.
“If you want to split on a first date and your date insists on paying anyway, it could indicate a pattern of game-playing that might seep into many areas of the relationship. Someone who respects your wish to go 50/50 on a first date or another more equal option, such as agreeing to take turns paying, can both reflect and make way for autonomy.” —McLaughlin
23. Calls you “baby” or a nickname very quickly.
“It might feel really nice if they call you ‘gorgeous’ or ‘sweetheart’15 minutes into the date, but chances are, if they are cooing at you that quickly, they probably do it with every woman.” —Samantha Daniels, dating expert and founder of Samantha’s Table Matchmaking
24. Orders water.
“If your date orders water, he probably isn’t interested or willing to give you a chance. Ordering water says, ‘I am planning to get out of here quickly, so quickly that I won’t even need to pay a check.’ Move on from this person.” —Daniels
25. Offers to change plans with a friend to spend time with you.
“If someone is canceling plans with their friends to be with you after one date, there is a strong possibility they are needy—there is also a strong chance they will expect you to do the same. They’ll want you to change your plans and stop doing things you like for them. Yes, you want to date someone who makes you feel important and prioritizes you, but they should not be changing things for you after one date!” —Dara Bushman, PhD, clinical psychologist
26. Makes excuses for why they can’t do something.
“This might look something like, ‘I used to be in such good shape, but then this and this and this happened to me.’ It shows a lack of commitment.” —Colby West, owner of EVolution
27. Makes all your stories about themselves.
“The easiest way to tell if someone is doing exactly this is by how fast they respond and if it actually applies to your exact scenario or if they just want to start talking about themselves again.” —West
28. Can’t stop talking about themselves.
“You ask them a question to start off the date, and they go on and on and into their entire life story and how they got here. The energy is never reciprocated and they don’t ask about you and your experiences or maintain an actual interest while listening.” —West
29. Comments on the price of literally everything.
“If your date feels the need to comment on the price of everything—their entrée, their wine, their clothing, their watch, their vehicle, their home, their recent travels—huge red flag. First dates should be about getting to know the person, not about how much money they have or do not have! First dates are simply not the time nor the place to discuss personal finance!” —Michelle Fraley, owner of Spark Matchmaking and Relationship Coaching
30. Crosses their arms.
“If they’re exuding closed-off body language, keeping their hands to themselves, or facing away from you, this could be a bad sign.” —Laura Louis, PhD, psychologist