I’ve ignored plenty of red flags – the huge warning signs that arise early in a relationship and indicate imminent doom. But I have learnt from my mistakes, and will pass my wisdom on. If I can save just one heart from being smashed into a million pieces, then my own sorry history will be worth it.
This is a bizarrely common phenomenon. Men tell you they’re separated, and that they’re ready to date, and then it transpires that they’re still living with their wife. That is not actually separation. Being separated involves living apart from one’s spouse. Aside from the obvious issue of whether the separation is actually going to take place, there are huge red flags in this situation.
Do you want a boyfriend who goes home to his ex every night? Do you want to be waiting and hoping for the separation to come through? What if his ex is unwilling to end it?
Is the man even remotely ready for another relationship when he hasn’t yet dissolved the first? Are you prepared to go through the trauma and strain of his separation?
I once dated an “almost separated” man and it was incredibly distressing. His wife was angry, he was racked with guilt, he was in financial crisis, he was distraught about leaving his son … and I had to deal with it all. I am not going to tell you what to do if you meet an “almost separated” man. I will only tell you what I do now, having learnt my lesson the hard way. FLEE.
I re-entered the dating scene at 44, and one of the greatest surprises was the number of men my age who had never had a long-term relationship.
Of course, not having committed before 40 or even 50 doesn’t mean a man will never commit. But if he has never had a serious relationship by that age, alarm bells should be ringing.
Perhaps he has been too consumed by his career, but feels ready now to focus on love. That’s perfectly workable. Perhaps his heart was broken as a very young man and he has feared commitment ever since. That isn’t quite as workable, unless he’s been in some intense therapy
Or perhaps he openly admits that he is “too selfish” and “loves his lifestyle”. In that case: run. Run for the hills.
Some men are players. They enjoy sleeping with lots of women and have no intention of settling down. Most of these men are upfront from the start that they’re just seeking hook-ups and are not in the market for a relationship. If you want the same thing, go for it.
If, however, you’re looking for something more, then please don’t get involved with a player. Don’t confuse a sexual connection for the beginning of a relationship. Listen to what a man is saying and take a rejection at face value. When a man says, “I don’t want a relationship,” what he means is, “I don’t want a relationship.” Or, specifically, “I don’t want a relationship with you.” It does not mean, “I’m broken and you can fix me.” Or, “If the sex is really great I will commit to you.”
Or, “I could love you if you give me more time.” Don’t wait around for a player to realise he’s in love with you, or come to his senses. I guarantee that if they’ve told you they don’t want a relationship, they will never settle down with you.
I met Mark two years into my dating adventures. He was a 40-something small-business owner with two young daughters. We met a few days after we connected on Tinder, for a coffee. It was a good date, and we kissed a little bit, but the next day on the phone things got weird. Mark told me that we were perfect for each other and that he was really excited about our future.
“Um, don’t you think that’s going a bit fast?” I said.
“Why?” he asked. “How often do you meet the love of your life?”
The love of his life? We’d spent little more than an hour together! I saw him again, but it quickly fell apart. It turned out that Mark’s ex-wife had started seeing a new man, and he was desperate to even the stakes.
You can’t love someone after a date or two, or even three. You can be attracted to them, you can have chemistry with them, you can feel there’s potential for a future, but you can’t love someone you barely know.
Many men are loath to be alone, and rush onto the dating scene almost immediately after a breakup. They may be “properly” separated and seeking a relationship, but still have unresolved feelings about their ex.
A hot mess is easy to pick from the very first date. He will talk incessantly about his ex: what she did to him, and how she did it, how she hurt him and how he suffered, and how she’s a horrible human being
A hot mess has a long way to go before being ready for a relationship. He is emotionally unavailable, because he is still too stuck in his own pain. He thinks he wants a girlfriend, but what he really wants is counselling and validation. You want and deserve a man who is focused on you, not on his lying, cheating ex.
I’d been negged a few times before I knew what “negging” meant. To “neg” is to throw subtle, low-level insults at a woman to disarm her, reduce her confidence and make her question herself.
Neil and I had been messaging and planned to meet for a drink. He seemed pleasant and interesting enough in his messages, but had refused to give me his surname.
What’s your last name? I texted, the evening before our date. I don’t meet men unless I know their names!
Neil took ages to respond, and when he did, he didn’t answer my question. Bit paranoid, aren’t you? he wrote, in a classic example of negging.
No, it’s not paranoid to ask for a name. By calling me “paranoid”, Neil was putting me down, while deflecting from his own unwillingness to meet my simple request
Negging feels surprisingly awful, even when it’s coming from someone you don’t know. If you are being criticised, however subtly, then you are being intentionally undermined. And this is never okay
Ben contacted me via a dating site. He was a designer, five-foot-seven, 53 years old, and a father of two. He was very funny in his messages and quite charmingly persuasive. I agreed to meet him for a coffee.
When I saw Ben, I felt a twinge of annoyance. Ben was not five-foot-seven. I’m a tad over five-three and he was considerably shorter than me.
I’m not opposed to dating short men. I am, however, opposed to dating liars, and Ben had clearly told an untruth. Still, I sat down and we began chatting. When I warmed up a bit, I mentioned his height. “You’re not five-foot-seven at all!” I said. “Are you?” Ben grinned.
“No. You got me. I’m five-foot-four.”
I wasn’t going to argue further, so I left it there. “Is there anything else you want to tell me?” I asked jokingly.
There was a pause. My heart sank.
“What?” I asked. “I’m not actually 53,” he said. A wave of anger washed over me.
“How old are you?”
He grinned. “I’m 61.” I was 46 at the time. “Why did you lie to me?” I asked.
Because I knew you wouldn’t go out with me if I told the truth.” Ben was right. I rarely date men more than 10 years older than me.
It is a personal choice, one that I have the right to make. A man who lies to get a date with me is being utterly disrespectful about my own right to choose. He is tricking me into going out with him, and I really don’t enjoy being manipulated.
A surprising number of men lie on their dating profiles, particularly about age, height and the length of time they’ve been separated. A man who is prepared to lie – about age, height or anything else – is untrustworthy, and I cannot date an untrustworthy man.
People with narcissistic personality disorder are well represented on dating sites. Narcissists have a complete lack of empathy for others, cripplingly low self-esteem and an overwhelming need for admiration. They are the emotional vampires of the dating world; they suck people dry to boost themselves.
A narcissist will hook you in by making you feel adored and appreciated and admired, and then, once you are attached, begin to show his true self. And his true self is deeply self-serving and manipulative. Narcs are utterly incapable of altruistic love. Everything they do is for themselves.
A narcissist can be spotted as early as the first date. He will be:
• Extremely charming. A narc will shower you with attention and make you feel incredibly special.
• Grandiose, and obsessed with power and status. He will make it known just how important/smart/ popular/successful he is.
• Seductive. Narcs often have intense chemistry with the women they target. You might feel as though you’ve met your soulmate on the first date.
• Quick to blame. A narc never takes responsibility for things that go wrong. It is always somebody else’s fault.
• Self-obsessed. He will ask you what you find attractive about him, or whether you’ve fantasised about him, and relish your response.
If you suspect that you’re dating a narc, do some research. Keep your eyes open and listen carefully to your gut. If something feels off, then it generally is.