You might think that first date red flags are pretty easy to spot.
Ranting about his ex? Red flag. Asking you to come back to his place to “watch Netflix and chill?” Red flag. Answering a phone call and chatting to one of his buddies in the middle of dinner for something that cannot be described as an emergency? Red flag.
But what if you’re not clued in on how to spot red flags on a first date? What if you keep having the wool pulled over your eyes, then finding out many dates (or even a relationship) later that the man opposite you is bad news? What if you miss the more subtle red flags on a date?
I’ve compiled every red flag you could think of into this list.
23 First date red flags to watch out for
1. He’s late and he doesn’t have a good reason
First up, on first date red flags to watch out for, is punctuality. Now, there are times when you or your date will have a legitimate reason for turning up late. There might have been a family emergency. His car might unexpectedly break down or be involved in a crash. Or there might be an insane amount of unexpected traffic on the road. These are valid reasons for being late.
But unless he is physically unable to pick up the phone and send a text or call you to say he’s going to be late, it’s a red flag. If he’s going to be late by any more than 5 minutes and doesn’t think you deserve a heads-up, this shows a lack of respect and consideration for you and your time.
2. He talks about money
It’s important to talk about money and finances as you delve deeper into committing to each other. But on a first date? It’s a no-no.
If a man starts talking about how much money he makes or asks you how much you make, it’s bound to make you cringe, and for a good reason. That’s not an appropriate conversation with someone you’ve just met. It feels invasive and too much too soon.
Similarly, if a guy keeps talking about the price of everything, i.e., how expensive the wine is, how expensive his watch is, or how it’s shocking how much a loaf of bread is these days, that’s also a huge red flag. A first date is for getting to know each other, not discussing money!
3. He talks about sex
Sex is up there on first date red flags. Asking what your favorite sexual position is, how many guys you’ve slept with, bragging about how many women he has slept with, or making inappropriate references to sex.
It’s not the topic of sex that is the issue. It’s more that you’ve just met for the first time in person, and he has no idea what your comfort level is. There’s a high chance he doesn’t care and just wants to get jiggy.
Someone genuinely interested in getting to know you and wants to make you feel comfortable won’t venture into such intimate conversations on a first date.
4. He’s moving way too fast
It’s great if you instantly connect with someone on a first date and have deeper conversations about what you’re both looking for and where you see yourselves in five years. But, and this is a big but, there is such a thing as too much too soon.
If a guy starts talking about the future on a first date as though it’s already fully mapped out in his head, like where you’ll live, when you’ll get married, how many kids you’ll have, it’s a red flag.
The problem is, it can be difficult to spot this one because he might be saying all the things you want to hear! But he doesn’t know you, and you don’t know him. Don’t let yourself get carried away. Be the one to hit the brakes and tell him to slow things down.
5. He says he isn’t looking for anything serious
If you’re dating to find love and something long-term, when a man says this to you, listen. This is a clear red flag, not code for “the right woman will make me want to settle down.” Don’t assume you can change his mind.
He’s either on the rebound, enjoying casual hookups, or isn’t emotionally or financially stable. All of these are good reasons not to go on a second date.
6. He insists on ordering for you
Red flags in dating are not always easy to spot. If a man asks you out to dinner, then proceeds to order food for both of you when the waiter walks over, your first reaction might be, “I feel like a Bond girl,” or “wow, this is a huge turn-on.” Many women do find this endearing and romantic.
It could be harmless. He might know the best dishes to order because it’s his favorite restaurant, or he might be trying to impress you. You’ll only see if it’s a red flag if you insist on ordering for yourself and he doesn’t let you. This is a sign of someone who is controlling.
7. He’s constantly checking his phone or watch
Unless the man you’re on a first date with has kids or a sick family member they are caring for and needs to check their phone or keep it close by in case of an emergency; there is no excuse for this. Checking your phone, or worse, your watch, on a first date is a major red flag. It’s just incredibly rude.
If he can’t give you his full attention the first time he meets you for a few hours, imagine what he’ll be like in the future. You might find yourself out for dinner to celebrate your wedding anniversary, and he whacks out his laptop next to the bread basket and starts a conference call.
Phones should be silent and out of sight when you’re on a date, even if you’re a married couple who have been together for years!
8. He criticizes his ex or other women
What are red flags on a first date? Talking badly about exes, or women in general. A first date is too soon to broach the topic of exes. There isn’t a good reason to bring it up unless he’s answering a question and the answer directly involves his ex.
So if a man deems it appropriate to bring up his ex and badmouth her, friends, co-workers, or people around you, it’s not a good sign. He’s probably the kind of guy who blames others for everything and isn’t willing to take responsibility for anything. There’s also the possibility that he’s a narcissist.
Plus, first dates are meant to be light, breezy, and fun!
9. He’s rude to people
Pay attention to how your date treats you. Is he kind? Does he listen? Is he thoughtful? Does he make you feel at ease?
But at the same time, pay attention to how he treats other people. For example, when you’re on a first date in a bar, how does he treat the bartender? Is he polite, patient, and a good tipper? Or is he rude, demanding, or condescending?
This is important because you’re not a kind person if you’re only nice to people you think you need to be nice to or can benefit from.
10. He makes fun of you
Know the difference between an opinion, light-hearted bantering or teasing, and being offensive.
It’s okay if your date disagrees with you and has a different opinion, as long as it’s not racist or sexist, etc. It’s normal to have different views because you’re different people.
Similarly, bantering or teasing is one of the ways that men (and some women) flirt. If it feels harmless and light-hearted and only happens once or twice, it’s probably his way of flirting. Don’t be afraid to give as good as you get and poke him back!
But if you feel offended and like he has crossed a line and gone out of his way to put you down and make you feel embarrassed or ashamed, that’s a red flag. It’s not okay, even if he says he’s joking.
11. He doesn’t respect your boundaries
This is one of the big first date red flags to watch out for.
For example, let’s say you want to end the first date after a couple of hours and get home because you’ve got a big day at work tomorrow. If you tell him this, but he tries to convince you to stay, he isn’t respecting your boundaries.
If he tries to kiss you at the end of the night, and you pull away because you don’t want to, and then he throws his toys out of the pram or tries to make you feel guilty for not kissing him, he doesn’t respect your boundaries.
Pay attention to these seemingly small incidents.
12. He doesn’t understand your need to feel safe
Unfortunately, the world is still a different, less safe world for women. When dating, you’ve got to constantly weigh up whether you think a man is a potential psycho, where you’re walking late at night, how you’re getting home, etc. Men take these things for granted and often don’t even think about them until a woman shares these experiences with them.
But if you’re going on a first date and he insists on picking you up from your place, meeting you in a secluded area, or taking a walk at night down a dingy, un-lit street, you are right to be wary and say no. When you explain this to him, he should immediately understand your need to feel safe and want to make you feel comfortable. He should not get defensive or tell you he’s not a psycho or that you’re overreacting. This is a major first date red flag.
13. He has no opinion about anything
Some people are naturally chilled and easygoing. If they were any more laid back, they’d be horizontal. But there’s a difference between someone who is laid back and someone who has no opinion or doesn’t voice an opinion on anything.
If he insists on you making all the decisions, like where to meet up and what to order at the bar, and doesn’t seem to give you a genuine response to anything you say, it’s a red flag.
14. He’s OTT with the romance
Most women love romance. They want to see men put more effort into wooing them. So, if a man pulls out all the stops with flowers, a frosted necklace, and champagne on tap on the first date and hints that he’s falling for you, shouldn’t you be happy about it?
Maybe, but maybe not. Excessive displays of affection like this when you first meet someone is known as love bombing. This is how some men build intimacy and trust fast and lull women into a false sense of security. They do this because they want immediate validation from you and want to eventually control you.
Beware of this first date red flag. You’re not acting spoiled or ungrateful when over-the-top displays of affection freak you out on a first date with a guy you didn’t know two weeks ago.
15. He can’t let the tiny details go
Have you ever been on a first date with a guy who was a stickler for tiny, unimportant details? Maybe he kept bringing up who messaged who first online. Maybe you ask him a question, and he coldly tells you that he already answered it (weird). And you know that guys like this always want to split the bill at the end of the date. That’s not a red flag in itself, but if he wants to itemize every drink and entrée you ordered to the cent, the chances of him bagging himself a second date with you go south real fast, and rightly so.
16. He complains a lot
Look, we all have bad days and fires to put out in life. But is a first date the appropriate setting to vent about how bad the traffic is in town, how slow the wi-fi is in your house, or how much you hate your job?
No! This is a serious first date red flag.
First dates are meant to be fun. You’re both meant to put your best foot forward and make a good impression while being true to who you are.
Even if he’s got serious problems, like, Wholefoods just discontinued his favorite brand of coconut oil, this is not the time and place to state your grievances.
17. He doesn’t listen to you
He might be an ignorant extrovert, he might be a narcissist, or he might have missed the manners lesson at school. But regardless of the reason, if a man is not listening to you on a first date, what makes you think he will listen to you any other time?
Listening is integral to communication, and healthy communication is essential for a healthy, long-lasting relationship. So if he can’t listen to you for one minute or constantly talks over you, it’s disrespectful and a sign of worse things.
18. He gives you too many backhanded compliments
This is commonly known as “negging” amongst millennials. If you’ve ever been unsure whether you were just complimented or insulted, you were probably on the receiving end of a backhanded compliment.
Here are some examples:
“You look great for a woman in her 40s.”
“I don’t usually go for curvy women, but you’re hot.”
“You’re good-looking, but you’d be even better-looking if you made more effort with your appearance.”
Usually, men give backhanded compliments to women to make them feel insecure enough to seek their approval. In some cases, this is how pickup artists operate. It’s manipulative, and it’s unkind.
19. He’s swerving all your questions
Some people are shy or introverted (or both) and might be quiet on a first date. But if you have asked them a question like, “what’s the most memorable vacation you’ve ever been on,” and they mumble something or return your question with another question, that’s not normal. Who’s to say he’s not an undercover spy or on the run?
Similarly, if you’re asking questions about what he’s looking for from the dating process and he avoids answering or says something wishy-washy like, “let’s just see where things go,” that’s a red flag.
The whole point of a first date is that you get to know each other better and figure out if you have shared interests and a real connection. How can you do that when you’re on a date with someone who seems allergic to questions?
20. He cancels plans to hang out with you
You’ve just met this man, and already he’s going to cancel plans with friends/family/co-workers after one date to spend time with you?
This screams desperation and neediness. Plus, there’s a good chance that he’ll expect you to do the same. Of course, you want to be with someone who makes you a priority, but that shouldn’t happen so early on in the stages of dating!
21. Everything is about him
Did you ever get to the end of a date and learn a guy’s entire life story, including how he was a baby model for Pampers and his proposal to stop global warming? There’s just one hiccup: you barely spoke, and he knows practically nothing about you because he spent the entire date talking about himself and didn’t bother to ask you any questions.
This is a major first date red flag. It points to someone who is only thinking about themselves and doesn’t have the capacity to care about anyone else.
22. Things get too deep too soon
This is slightly different from a man discussing sex or a future with you on a first date. I’m talking about when a man starts sharing deeply personal things about his life with you. For example, childhood abuse or the death of a parent or child.
These are the heaviest types of conversations we can have with others, and bringing them up on a first date is a strong indication that he still has unresolved issues, emotions, and trauma relating to that experience. This is a major red flag—he shouldn’t be dating anyone, he should be speaking to a therapist.
23. He uses a nickname instead of your name
Finally, one of the red flags to watch out for on a first date is a man who instantly calls you by a nickname. That is only really appropriate once you’ve been dating for a while.
It might make your heart flutter when he rolls out names like “baby,” “sweetheart,” and “gorgeous,” but chances are he’s doing it because he has forgotten your name or didn’t bother to learn it at all. He’s a serial player, and he’s talking to so many women that the only way he can avoid messing up is to use generic pet names like these with everybody.
I want you to enjoy dating and go on first dates excited, ready to flirt and have a beautiful experience. But I also want you to be prepared and avoid getting hurt, scammed, or wasting time with a guy who isn’t a good long-term match for you. So carry these with you in the back of your mind, but remember to have fun!
Have you got any more first date red flags you always keep an eye out for that aren’t on this list? Share them with me in the comments below!