The flags you miss glow in the dark.
You can settle for fool’s love all day long. You can settle for a great kisser, or the perfect body — or bags of cash. But if they act with the emotional maturity of a third grader, they’ll never make you happy.
We ignore warning signs all the time. We’re scared to spend Friday night alone. We’ll date ANYONE, as if being single were a contagious disease. We date someone who’s not right for us, because we’ve heard that there’s no such thing as a soulmate — which is true.
Some of us grow out of this phase, not a minute too soon.
Just because you can’t take a build-a-bear approach to love, that doesn’t mean you have to marry a serial killer or a meth dealer. Better communication won’t solve the problems posed by a rotting heart.
So how do you know, before it’s too late?
Your friends can’t stand them
Hey, it’s one thing if a couple of friends can’t dig your sugar baby — another if it’s half of everyone you know. Hell, maybe they even stage an intervention. At least listen for a minute, before moving away to Paris together.
Here’s a quick test:
If your friends invite you to a party, and gently suggest they’d like to see just you this time, you might need to reflect on the possibility that you’re dating the living incarnation of Buzz Killington.
They pick fights over games
If you beat them at Settlers of Catan — and they won’t touch you for the rest of the night, it’s time to rethink the relationship. You don’twant to spend the next 20 years of your life watering a wilted ego.
The tell you Valentine’s Day is pointless
Look, it is. But… if you’re dating someone, make a freakin gesture. Cook dinner together. Spend a little more time on foreplay. Cuddle. You don’t have to cover the bed in rose petals.
And if you’ve been married or dating for a really long time, maybe neither of you care anymore— which is fine.
But if you’re under five years in, consider this: Why so much hate? Don’t keep someone around who makes you feel like crap, just so they can feel like a cool kid by boycotting a fake holiday.
They introduce you to their parents after the first date
It could mean lots of things, from rushing you down the aisle, to wanting their mom to inspect you for tramp stamps. There’s usually not a good reason for meeting the folks two weeks in.
Of course, there’s exceptions. And there’s one thing potentially worse than meeting their family too soon, which is…
They won’t introduce you to their parents at all
You need to have an actual sit-down dinner with their family at some point — if things are going anywhere.
Say you’ve dated for a year…
And they still won’t introduce you. You’re not exactly dying to meet the parents, but it’s weird that they keep putting it off, or going out of their way to keep you a secret.
Like maybe his parents show up unannounced, and he stuffs you in a hallway closet. Wow, so you’re a sex doll now.
Not exactly encouraging.
Again, it could mean a lot of things. They might be a clone, or a robot, or an alien. But they also might be (gasp) embarrassed by you for some reason. Like maybe their parents won’t think you’re good enough, and they’re afraid they won’t have the guts to stand up for you.
They actually live with their parents
Okay, it’s not a deal breaker. Maybe they lost a job, or they’re taking care of their parents — which is very cool. Just make sure you’re not stepping into a puddle of hot, sticky, prolonged adolescence. Oh, and it means you’ll definitely meet mom and dad after the first date.
Whether you’re ready to or not…
They make you do their hobbies
But they won’t do anything you like. That’s because you don’t matter to them. You’re the ornament they show everyone.
Being a trophy sounds fun at first.
The fun runs out quick.
They want you to like all the same things
In mature relationships, the lines of compatibility blur. They grow deeper. All that really matters is how you feel around each other.
That you enjoy doing things together.
And so on.
Immature relationships rely on superficial matches. Oh, she likes the Fast and Furious movies. She must be cool.
Not necessarily, dude.
They expect you to side with them
Someone in a real relationship deals only in honest opinions. Lying, that’s for bad bosses and fair weather friends.
Bringing your spouse in to solve an argument with your buds? And then getting pissed off when they don’t?
Sorry, that’s sports bar behavior.
Loving someone doesn’t mean agreeing with them all the time. It means disagreeing, and making each other better.
When you love someone, you depend on them to tell you — sometimes — when you’re acting like a shit. A real relationship is full of mistakes, arguments of varying degrees of intensity, apologies, and makeup sex (but not too much makeup sex).
They expect you to be their biggest fan
A mature person doesn’t care if their partner — or even their friends — fawns over their creative work or accomplishments.
Do you really want to date a fan girl?
A fan boy?
Supporting someone you love really isn’t that hard. It just means letting them put their time and energy where they want, and not actively trash talking their dreams. It doesn’t mean showing up to every single one of their concerts, buying their shit, or being their PR team.
You might be shocked to know that some of the “most successful” artists and writers out there never even show their work to their spouses. Except when talking about their day sometimes, they keep work separate.
They accuse you of cheating on them
Assuming you’re not, this one spells all kinds of trouble. They’ve turned you into a slideshow of their own insecurities. Also, it happens that smelt-it-dealt-it tends to happen a lot with infidelity.
This level of insecurity is something they need to deal with on their own. There’s nothing you can — or should — do about it.
Except maybe tell them to grow up. (And well, this is probably a prelude to the end. Don’t weep over it.)
They try to make you jealous
You can’t police their friendships. But you know, maybe they shouldn’t be going out to dinner with that one friend from college every. single. weekend. It’s not just you. It is a little weird. And if they’re not willing to talk about it, then stop worrying and set them free.
If this becomes a habit, it means they feel a need to spend time alone with someone else to get what they should be getting from a relationship with you. That’s not good. If nothing else, we can all agree on this point:
If you’re already in a relationship, you shouldn’t be hanging out solo with anyone who actively wants to hook up with you.
And yet, I’m always surprised at how many guys and girls try to justify this. They say spontaneous affairs just happen. But let’s face it, most cheating is premeditated on some level.
Let’s put it this way: If you think you might accidentally sex up your best friend while your girlfriend’s out of town, tamp that shit down. Or just start dating your best friend. Don’t victimize a third person because you don’t know what you want.
All of this is to say — even if someone’s not cheating on you, they’re making one thing all too clear when they keep flirting with the line: time with you isn’t enough. Attention from you, it’s not enough.
And it never will be. End it.
They try to shrink you down
It’s funny, in a way. You’d think most people wouldn’t want to date someone they don’t take seriously — or even respect.
And yet, that’s exactly why an immature person wants a relationship, to shine up their ego. When your accomplishments and ambitions make them feel insecure, they turn passive-aggressive.
They start comparing your success to theirs. They’ll mock your dreams, and then gaslight you for the slightest frown.
What they’re really afraid of is that you’ll outgrow them and leave. Instead of trying harder, or talking about their feelings, they’ll start calling your career “cute,” and introducing you as an “amateur” this or that to their friends. They’ll start answering questions for you at parties.
This flag is so red, it glows in the dark.
Maybe you’ve already dated someone who kept reminding you that you were an amateur, just to make sure you didn’t go getting any ideas about finding a better job than them, or actually running that marathon.
You know how demeaning it feels to be talked down to, and you know there’s no room for that in your life.
They always have to be right
Especially about things they don’t know anything about.
This kind of arrogance might slip out in a dating profile, or on a first date, but not always. And even if someone’s ego suffers a wardrobe malfunction and reveals a little too much early on, we’re likely to dismiss it. Why? Because it’s just that hard for a mature person to conceive of someone so arrogant that they can never say “I don’t know,” or “you were right,” or “I’m sorry,” or “I don’t know what I’m doing.”
We think that kind of personality’s an invention of Reality TV. But nope, they exist. You might be dating one.
Now, can someone mispronounce a word and laugh at themselves? It probably means they learned it from a book.
That’s a keeper.
You always grow in a relationship
It would be a sad world if you didn’t get wiser and more mature with age. So of course you’re going to make mistakes in a relationship. You’re going to develop emotionally. So are they.
You’ll go through adjustments. Nobody arrives into marriage or cohabitation with all the answers.
We get frustrated. We screw up. We forget something they asked us to do on the way home. We say things we don’t mean because of outside stress. But then we calm down and try to fix it.
We do better next time.
All of that’s what makes a healthy relationship.
It requires a basic level of self-awareness, and an emotional spine. That arm candy you’re wearing now, they’re not ready for real love yet. Maybe they need to get dumped a few more times first.