Join 3,572 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


How do you spot Dating Warning Phrases?
January 30, 2013 3:44 PM   Subscribe

Can you help me to better distinguish cheery lovebird songs vs. the squawks of ailing canaries in my dating coal mine?

I was just poking through some old emails and was kind of bowled over when I spotted how often and reliably "You're too good to me" was uttered by someone I was dating... not long before we were, uh, no longer dating anymore.

For umpty-freakin' years, I instinctively interpreted that phrase as a positive thing: a compliment, a gold star, a sign of warmth, a request for me to keep doing those things, an urge to return the generosity.... not (as I now think is more likely) a warning signal that the person was maybe feeling guilty, or smothered, or unworthy, or unhappily pressured to reciprocate, etc..

There must be other phrases like this, right? And if I figure out how to listen to them on the right frequency, I'll at least be able to react more nimbly? "Things are kind of crazy with work right now" probably qualifies as one. I'd love to be able to arm myself if you know any other examples of phrases that at least make you sit up and pay better attention. Thanks, y'all.
posted by argonauta to Human Relations (89 answers total) 185 users marked this as a favorite
 
Keeping in mind that one person's warning phrase is another's plain ol' use of the English language, I just caught myself using these recently, and realizing that it meant I wasn't particularly interested in seeing the person I was talking to (who I've been casually dating) anymore:

"I need to focus on [X] right now."
"I'm too busy to make plans right now, check back with me next month" and other variations on "I'm too busy"

(Geez, I feel like a jerk.)

And along the same lines as "You're too good to me" (which I actually do use positively and affectionately with my partners and don't mean literally at all because I rather like how good to me they are), repeated instances of "I don't deserve you" tend to raise red flags for me.
posted by rhiannonstone at 3:54 PM on January 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


But sometimes people are really busy at work. Whereas you are too good to me is specific to how one feels around a partner.
posted by angrycat at 3:54 PM on January 30, 2013


Yes, "you're too good to me"
and even worse,
"you're too good FOR me" or
"I don't deserve you." All are phrases of concern in my book.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 3:54 PM on January 30, 2013 [17 favorites]


It's not dating-specific, but I find that people who say things like "I am bad with money;" "I am a poor friend;" "I am never on time" are not looking to give you useful information so much as to give themselves permission to keep behaving like this. After all, you can't complain, right, they warned you! That that is a warning bell for even a casual friendship; a thousand time more so in a romantic relationship.

Also, watch how they treat other people, especially in situations of power. If a date is rude to a waiter, for example, it's a pretty good bet they will be rude to you, too.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:58 PM on January 30, 2013 [95 favorites]


But sometimes people are really busy at work.

True! I am often for real quite busy with work and volunteer commitments. But I also try really hard to find time for the people I want to find time for, and when it's the fourth or fifth "I'm too busy" in a row, maybe they're not invested in finding that time for you.
posted by rhiannonstone at 3:59 PM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I've been really busy," or "Things have been crazy" means they are not very interested in dating you. Sometimes people actually are busy but if they're into you, you will hear that explanation before or during the busy times, and if they're not, you will hear it after.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 4:02 PM on January 30, 2013 [39 favorites]


You know, my last bf used to say he was a terrible person, jokingly. But now I realize it was just a preemptive excuse akin to what GenjiandProust noted.
posted by DoubleLune at 4:06 PM on January 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


I've said "I've been really busy" when I've actually been busy. But when I met someone I was truly interested in dating, I made time for him despite being super busy.

And +1 for what everyone else said about "I'm bad with money" or "You're too good for me".
posted by ethidda at 4:08 PM on January 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


"I've been really busy," or "Things have been crazy" means they are not very interested in dating you. Sometimes people actually are busy but if they're into you, you will hear that explanation before or during the busy times, and if they're not, you will hear it after.

This is exactly right. Also, a person who wants to be there will make an effort: "I'm really busy, but let me take you out to dinner next week." Someone who doesn't want to be in the relationship will just let the excuses sit there, hoping you take the hint and stop contacting them, or even better initiate a break-up so they can paint themselves as the victim.
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:09 PM on January 30, 2013 [10 favorites]


I have been told, "when someone tells you you're too good for them, believe it." I think that applies to "I don't deserve you," etc.

Oh, god. Pardon me; there is a guy I need to go break up with.
posted by Punctual at 4:09 PM on January 30, 2013 [37 favorites]


I'd actually say that's the number one sign of someone who doesn't want to be there:

They don't take responsibility or have any solutions to anything. They never suggest any ideas to make things better; they just passively serve up excuses and wait for you to get tired of it.
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:11 PM on January 30, 2013 [32 favorites]


Since people tend to try to put their best foot forward early on in a relationship, unfortunately I think you have to mentally magnify any confession of personal flaws by a few fold. If you hear "I can be a little lazy sometimes" you might be tempted to make light of it, thinking--well, of course! Everyone feels a little lazy sometimes. That's normal. The thing is, with a person who is normal amounts of lazy, it's not going to occur to them to specifically mention it. Similarly for "I can be a little bit flaky sometimes," "sometimes I need a little bit of alone time to recharge" or "I can be a little bit of a slob."

In other words, mentally translate "a little bit" as "way more than most people."
posted by drlith at 4:12 PM on January 30, 2013 [19 favorites]


"In the past [bad things] happened to me and I reacted by [doing really terrible thing.] You think it means, "...and I've learned my lesson and will never do things like that again," but more often than not it means "when I go through stressful times in my life this is how I'm going to behave."
posted by Autumn at 4:13 PM on January 30, 2013 [59 favorites]


My work is pretty time-intensive, and I am often badly over-scheduled. So, when I say "I am really busy," I actually mean that I am really busy. But I try to qualify it with "..but I should be free next weekend" or "I could meet for coffee in the late afternoon on Wednesday" or something like that. And that's really only early in the dating process. By a couple of dates in, you ought to have some idea of the other person's schedule, and you should feel that they are making an effort to make time for you.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:14 PM on January 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've said "things are crazy at work" not as an "I don't want to date you" but "my situation makes dating this week impossible." Some times, non-dating life won't make room.

But I think if you heard it two weeks in a row, and the person didn't propose an alternative, or wasn't in an exceptional situation like "I'm sick, the cat was diagnosed with leukemia, and my kids have evening events this week," I'd interpret it as "either unavailable generally or not wanting to be available."
posted by zippy at 4:16 PM on January 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also: When exclusivity comes up, consider the statement: "I just want to keep it chill and see where things go." Some sentiment like that.

If you are hearing this before approximately two months of dating have passed, they're saying it because you are coming on a bit too strong and you need to relax.

If you hear it after approximately two months of dating have passed, they're into you but not super into you and they're most likely stringing you along.

Also in the interest of preserving your sanity and preventing further gray hairs, here are two and a half things you should always keep in mind about the language of dating, and they will save you some grief:

1. If someone you're dating, while Talking About Us, pays you a compliment and appends "but" to it, the important part is whatever comes after the "but," and they're hoping you'll take the whole thing as the important part. Ignore whatever comes before the "but," because it's not relevant and it's not important. I'm not saying they're trying to insult you, I'm saying that for the purposes of your discussion, the statement after "but" is the one you should be factoring into your decisions.

2. If you want to make sense of something said during a Talk About Us, the quickest shortcut is simply to excise the words "right now," if they appear. Forget them. Become selectively deaf when they show up. Develop a highly specific learning disability that prevents you from perceiving the words "right now." It will save you a ton of wondering. For example: "I don't think I can be with you [right now]," "I'm not ready to be in a relationship [right now]," etc. Remove "right now" and you will hear what they are actually saying.

2a. Use the space you saved to insert the words "With you," whenever they're talking in general terms about whether or not they are willing or able to be in a relationship. It's harsh but honest. Someone who tells you they just don't feel like they're able to be in a relationship is actually saying they don't feel like they're able to be in a relationship with you. Don't take it personally. Compatibility is not about being the best, or the worst. Don't call them out on their dishonesty, either - the world is lubricated by little lies like this. Just say you understand and put on your coat and hat and leave them to it. This will save you a lot of wondering as well, and it will also save you the puzzlement that happens when they said they didn't feel like they could be in a relationship and then two weeks later they're picking out promise rings for some chippie.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 4:31 PM on January 30, 2013 [218 favorites]


"You're too good to me"

I've heard the reverse: "I've been too nice to you." This was a terrible sign, even though she said it in a joking way.

Also, telling me what my preferences are and getting it wrong. I'm not just talking about serious, relationship-y conversations — I mean seemingly insignificant comments like "That's your favorite supermarket." And not accepting it when I explained that actually, no, what I said is I'll go there occasionally but only because it's near my apartment. If you're having that kind of communication breakdown about stuff that doesn't matter at all, that doesn't bode well for your ability to communicate about things that do matter.
posted by John Cohen at 4:35 PM on January 30, 2013 [10 favorites]


"I'm a really funny guy"--no he's not, otherwise he'd try to make me laugh instead of telling me.
"I love women"--no he doesn't, because he thinks of women as all the same.
posted by greta simone at 4:36 PM on January 30, 2013 [40 favorites]


Oh, the suggestion to mentally replace "right now" with "with you" is a great one.
posted by John Cohen at 4:37 PM on January 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


Oh man, this is a bit of a related thing, but maybe it counts? Whenever I have been going through a rough patch with a guy, been distressed and spoke to a mutual female friend about it, and *instead* of offering sympathy she is kind of harsh and just says something about how I need to get over it faster and move on - that female friend is planning to make a move on the guy I was with. Seriously, that happened to me twice back to back. With the second one, I had no idea she was interested in the guy I was dating, but I realized it the instant she delivered that line.
posted by cairdeas at 4:53 PM on January 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


BIG red flag is if someone talks with contempt, anger, or disrespect about their exes.

Or, in my experience, if they wax on and on about the wrongs done to them by their parents.

It's okay to have negative feelings about both of these kinds of relationships, but if they're expressing these feelings vitriolically or often, it's a VERY bad sign.
posted by artemisia at 4:56 PM on January 30, 2013 [42 favorites]


"Too good to me" can be a way of conveying that the speaker perceives there may be an imbalance in the amount of affection from one person vs. another. In other words, the speaker might be more comfortable if you were less effusive (in words, gestures, gifts, time) and gave him or her time to learn about you and figure out how he or she feels about you before you give him or her a banjo or a baked alaska or something.

Elaborate gifts or sacrifices can make the recipient feel really guilty (your protestations of "I just wanted you to have it") if he or she still needs to keep open the option of moving on to someone more sympatico. It's difficult to explain this without sounding like a jerk, no matter how sensible it may be, so "you're too good to me" can be a weak effort to get the perpetrator to calm down :)

It can also be a sweet compliment, though, so use your brain to figure out clues from context.
posted by amtho at 4:59 PM on January 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


"I really respect/love/cherish women." This is a bright, flashing warning sign that, in my experience, has never been wrong, and had never resulted in any false positives.
posted by hot soup girl at 5:02 PM on January 30, 2013 [47 favorites]


Also, I had heard all my life that the way a guy treats his mother is the way he'll treat his girlfriend or wife. I remembered being told that a million times when I met someone who treated his mother the worst out of anyone I've ever been friends with. I went ahead anyway because I was crazy about him. It happened exactly the way everyone said it would. In the end, he was getting mad at me for supposedly doing things that his mother and he himself were both in the habit of doing - but were not anything that I ever do at all. For example, he would tell me he resented me because I never said thank you (which was something both he and his mother often failed to do). Now, I've always been pretty familiar with what my negative qualities and failings are as a person. Not saying thank you is not one of them; I received heavy corporal punishment as a child for breaches of basic manners like that, it is permanently ingrained in me. Anyway, this is a mistake that I do not think I will make again.
posted by cairdeas at 5:49 PM on January 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


Another vote for emotional imbalance red flag: I once involuntarily told a version of "you're too good to me" to a guy that I was dating after realizing that (a) I'd never feel about him the way did about me and (b) it wasn't fair for me to string him along. Took a couple of days to work up the nerve to actually break it off, however.

I've unfortunately resisted seeing this as a red flag a couple of times: "The kind of guy you need is..." never the one who is saying this.

Not for the first time have I wondered how different my life would have been if I'd found AskMe earlier in life.
posted by Neneh at 5:50 PM on January 30, 2013 [11 favorites]


Every single guy I've dated who's said some version of "Girls don't like me because I'm too nice" has been a complete asshole.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 5:59 PM on January 30, 2013 [67 favorites]


Guys who have told me that they "hate hurting women" have generally been passive-aggressively horrible in relationships, more invested in seeing themselves as good guys than in actually being good guys.
posted by jaguar at 6:05 PM on January 30, 2013 [30 favorites]


Guys who tout their supposed "honesty" and "openness" get my Spidey sense tingling.
posted by nacho fries at 6:13 PM on January 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


You know, I don't think a single one of the guys who says he's a "nice guy" has been close to bf material. The people who describe themselves that way are using it as an excuse to a) get in girls pants, or b) for it to be okay when they do not-nice things.

Everyone does things at times that are mistakes, hurt other people, etc. They're basically claiming that either they don't do that, or the fact that they're "nice" mitigates it and makes it something they shouldn't be faulted for. And basically are just not self-aware enough to make a good partner.
posted by DoubleLune at 6:17 PM on January 30, 2013 [11 favorites]


men who refer to a grown woman as a "girl".

"you're so cute when you're angry."

the second sentence is definitely sexist; the first tells you he probably doesn't know much about feminism and he may or may not be sexist.

if a guy tells you he never wants to get married or have kids then a few years into the relationship when you want to get married and have kids don't be surprised when he reiterates this.
posted by wildflower at 6:26 PM on January 30, 2013 [17 favorites]


Yeah, I think guys who label themselves with any sort of subjective/relative quality (nice, kind, funny, smart) are a bit suspect.

My inner voice: "Oh yeah? Sez who -- YOU?"

I'll be the judge of that, thankyouverymuch.
posted by nacho fries at 6:27 PM on January 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


Oh! When he refers to you as property -- or as a generality. I had one who said "I like my women to look good" when I was dressing to go out.
posted by DoubleLune at 6:28 PM on January 30, 2013 [11 favorites]


Things I've heard that rang the relationship death-knell:

-"Oh well, I suppose I'd better enjoy this before you wise up and dump me"
translated to: you are a rebound, I have no intention of investing in this relationship, I think the only way to get sex from you is to pretend this is a relationship.

-"I love women, and all my women friends are feminist"
proceeded a talk on how reading The Game was really great and was going to help him "bang more birds ", before saying I must be a feminist because I'm not pretty enough, which he then followed up with asking for sex tonight (??) Yep, not good.

-(while in a relationship) "Why do we have do ask these questions? Why can't we just enjoy being together?"
translation: I am not serious about you, I am not going to commit to you, but I like you washing my socks and cooking stuff for me. I also could never afford such a nice flat without you.

-any talking about exes when you haven't asked. If you need to get over your ex see a therapist or a prostitute. (n.b. does not apply if your date has kids)

-"everyone does it" when you ask them to stop doing some horribly disrespectful thing i.e. openly ogling schoolchildren/women on the bus/whatever as you stand beside them. Normally follows a speech about evolution and THE SAVANNAH and men's hardwiring. People this disrespectful in public are much worse in private and far, far worse than that behind your back. Drop like a hot brick.

-Anyone over 25 who refers to themselves as a 'boy' or to women as 'girls'. Nope, we are grown-ups now, sorry. Serious immaturity follows this.

-Whingeing about clothes/shoes/makeup. If they don't know better than to tell you how to dress/do your hair/present yourself, the learning curve is too steep. Let someone else deal with that 50s shit.

-Telling you who they are instead of showing you, i.e. "I'm funny/clever/good in bed". People who say these things usually cannot back up their claims.
posted by everydayanewday at 6:34 PM on January 30, 2013 [34 favorites]


You can readily identify a potential boundary-crasher by his use of the wheedling phrase:

"But other women [insert something he wants you to do]".

Proper response: "I am not those women."
posted by nacho fries at 6:38 PM on January 30, 2013 [11 favorites]


"There's nothing I hate more than dishonesty" = "I'm probably going to tell you a bunch of lies real soon."
posted by munyeca at 6:40 PM on January 30, 2013 [11 favorites]


"My ex-girlfriends were psycho."

This other one is very specific, but I once had a boyfriend who was generally an all-around good guy. We had lots of schmoopy names for each other, and once in a while he would call me "sweetness". It always sounded vaguely familiar, and when I asked about it he reminded me it was from a Smiths song.

After we broke up I kind of put together the title of that song, Bigmouth Strikes Again and some of the lyrics. He was a good boyfriend but a horrible, horrible, passive-aggressive breaker-upper, and I have no doubt now that "sweetness", even during the best of times, was no term of endearment.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:04 PM on January 30, 2013 [10 favorites]


"I'd love to be able to arm myself if you know any other examples of phrases that at least make you sit up and pay better attention."

That phrase right there. It's a sign of someone looking for easy answers to complex situations. Every person is different, so every dating situation will be different. "You're too good to me" could very well be a way someone says how much they appreciate you, or it could be a sign of something else entirely. Judging one person's words based on the actions of an ex isn't wise. It also isn't fair.

If you build a list of gotcha phrases to look out for, you'll end up suspicious when the right person comes along and utters one of those phrases for a positive reason.

Be careful.
posted by 2oh1 at 7:27 PM on January 30, 2013 [26 favorites]


I don't think anyone here is advocating taking these phrases as immediate dealbreakers. Obviously any of them should be taken in context.

If someone has that little tinge of "hmm...maybe things aren't quite right" that they're mostly ignoring but keeps popping up in the back of their mind, then objectively examining the situation and looking for the red flag phrases is likely a good place to start.

My contribution to the list: "I'm Sorry" followed by ABSOLUTELY no effort to make amends or change whatever behavior required the apology. Also tied into the "anything after the but is what's relevant" any "I'm sorry, but" ...pay attention to the last part of the sentence.
posted by HermitDog at 7:36 PM on January 30, 2013 [9 favorites]


"You know that [bag/bike/drawer of sweaters] you've been keeping at my place? Would you mind taking them back to yours? I need the space for some new stuff I bought."
posted by Philemon at 7:45 PM on January 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


"I'm not shallow, and I don't care about looks." That translates to "I don't think you're pretty." Not surprisingly, the guy who said this to me stopped having sex with me shortly thereafter.
posted by rhymeswithcheery at 7:59 PM on January 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


[Folks, we're getting a little far afield here with some of these answers. It's fine to gently challenge assumptions but you need to be helpful and not just picking on other answers. Try again maybe? Thanks.]
posted by jessamyn at 8:23 PM on January 30, 2013


"I think I'm just not good at dating people/commitment/conflict"

"Those other people are all dumb/lazy/worthless/[dehumanizing term of contempt]"

"Those [gendered slur]s!" or "What a bunch of [gendered slurs]."

"So this woman I have never mentioned before now, we're friends and I know a lot about her and vice versa" (making a point of emphasizing that they're just friends when you would otherwise have no reason to think otherwise and the close friend popping up out of nowhere are both Problems)
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:35 PM on January 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


Any use of the word "tricking" in a description of how women relate to men. Tricking them into having kids, tricking them into marrying, tricking them into learning how to knit...it's all bad.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:37 PM on January 30, 2013 [35 favorites]


a few of the latest answers reminded me of another phrase of concern:

"I'm sorry you feel that way."

There may be a context in which this phrase could be used in a sincere or useful way, but generally I've heard it as a sort of half-assed "I'm apologizing, see, but not for what I did or said - I'm apologizing that you got upset over it, but I do not think that what I said/did was wrong in and of itself." It implies that whatever you're upset about, you're being unreasonable.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:45 PM on January 30, 2013 [23 favorites]


"I'm not good at long-term relationships" = I want everything to be fun and easy all the time and not have to worry about other peoples pesky needs and feelings
posted by procrastinator_general at 9:05 PM on January 30, 2013 [13 favorites]


'All my ex girlfriends are crazy'.

That one pretty much just signals the equivalent of the house lights coming on in the theater, and the usher opening the exit doors, because we're done here. So, so many flags. If you've dated more than three women, then there is something going on with your definition of crazy, or something questionable about your decision making process. Because in my experience, it's always meant "I'm not going to take personal responsibility but instead blame the other person, even for the choice of choosing them, which apparently was questionable to begin with".

Just exit, stage left.
posted by anitanita at 9:24 PM on January 30, 2013 [27 favorites]


When a guy describes himself as "laid-back," that generally translates as "indecisive and immature."
posted by so much modern time at 11:01 PM on January 30, 2013 [15 favorites]


Pee-wee: There's a lotta things about me you don't know anything about, Dottie. Things you wouldn't understand. Things you couldn't understand. Things you shouldn't understand.

Dottie: I don't understand.

Pee-wee: You don't wanna get mixed up with a guy like me. I'm a loner, Dottie. A rebel. So long, Dott.
Yeah, the whole wo/man of danger and mystery thing? Not A Good Sign. It almost always actually means "I have some very bad habits that I will not ever change that will introduce chaos, pain, despair, and possible penury and/or STDs to our relationship, but that's the price you pay for being with someone as special as me."

Praise for being different/better than all other wo/men often means you are putting up with something that they want you to continue to put up with and ps: don't complain.

Overmuch focus on whether you are smarter / more skilled / more athletic than they are means you probably just signed up for some sort of non-stop secret Battle Royale and this will end in tears.

Are they always telling you how other wo/men are hitting on them so hard? Why are they telling you this? Because they always want you feel like you're in some state of competition with the hordes of applicants for your position? Keep you on your toes? Remind you that if they stray, it's only to be expected that with the nonstop seduction they must endure they will eventually succumb (in a moment of weakness that you will almost surely be directly responsible for)?

All that said, some measure must be allowed for early fumbletongue awkwardness and it's not necessarily wise to be one-strike-you're-out about stuff, but educated observation of recurring themes goes a long way toward learning what to expect.
posted by taz at 11:32 PM on January 30, 2013 [19 favorites]


Dear gods, I just want to favorite all of these. Where the hell were all of you back, like, when I first started college?

Most of the above, plus:
"I'm such a terrible person." Either it's true, or they have issues far beyond what you are going to be able to fix.

Negative or shaming comments about other women, including when contrasted to you to look like a compliment. "I'm so glad you're not a whore like Suzie." "Thank God you don't look like that."

Insulting your appearance. You'd think this was obvious, but some of us are just dumb enough to consider it "honesty" rather than rudeness. I had an ex who, before we began dating, worked with me; and I came in one morning after after some emotional drama the night before with my eyes all red and post-crying swollen and no makeup, and he said "woah! You look like something from a horror movie!" and then cheerfully carried on with his work. Apparently he thought we were all buddies and this was just normal riffing, and three years later when we were together he was telling me to my face to go put on makeup before talking to him because I looked "older than his mom" without it. I daresay leaving him took those years right off, though.
posted by celtalitha at 12:23 AM on January 31, 2013 [15 favorites]


"I've never met a woman like you before."

At eighteen I took this to be proof of the specialness of my snowflakiness, and sparkled merrily. By twenty-eight I'd come to think it said rather more about the speaker, because I think I know lots of women like me, or at least quite like me in whichever aspect of personality/background inspired the comment at any given time. And yes, I think my current partner has said this about me, and I know he has lots of social anxiety and basically probably didn't speak to that many people at all in the year or so before moving his life in the direction that led to meeting lots of people all at once, including me. Hopefully that's all it means in his case.
posted by Lebannen at 1:27 AM on January 31, 2013 [10 favorites]


In general I'm suspicious of people who tell me about themselves unbidden: "I've always been people-oriented." "I have a talent for being warm and open and getting people to trust me." Well... You *did*. Why would anyone need to make these statements about themselves at all, outside of a dating profile or job interview?

OTOH anything bad anyone says about themselves is unfortunately to be believed. "I'm quite unperceptive about people," stated matter-of-factly by a woman. Women are trained, and punished harshly for failing, to read minds and anticipate everyone else's wants and needs. She might as well have stated matter-of-factly that she ate babies.

Any statement that doesn't add up. "I haven't been single in 10 years." "I met my GF on a dating site." If you weren't single what were you doing on a dating site? Okay, okay, I'm taking you too literally, what you mean is you haven't been single *for very long* over the last 10 years... Nope, turns out you weren't exaggerating. I've never seen a little black book in nine volumes before, with previous years' editions housed at the Bodleian.
posted by tel3path at 1:34 AM on January 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


Definitely "I'm an honest person. Honesty is very important to me." I was kind of "huh?" about that at first, but figured, eh, maybe he's had a bad experience. Then again, when someone says something that you yourself think, but would never outright say to someone whose company you've been enjoying... hm.

"I don't like playing games. It really bothers me to think anyone would play games in a relationship." Another one I naively bought into, in spite of my gut going "whuh? Neither do I, but I don't think I'd ever actually say so because um this is the sort of thing trust and time are supposed to build... huh..."

Anyone who treats people as if there are positions "beneath" them and that it would somehow justify worse treatment.

One guy hit all of these, in the end. He had been very polite to everyone until the day I broke up with him. I broke up with him because after a dinner in which he had insulted the waitress (threw me for a loop, never heard it from him in the year we'd been dating), made crap comments about other diners, and treated me to a remark about how boring and feminist it was that I always knew where north was (guess I burst his bubble of "on TEH SAVANNAH teh menz know direkshuns and not teh wimmins"?), he sat on my couch, in my home, looked at an SMS on his phone and said, "Oh, I'm sorry! It's this woman I've been dating. I need to step out, she wouldn't be happy if she heard your cat meow, she'd wonder where I am."

Huh. Dishonest and playing games (later found out from third parties - plural - that he had an Excel file to keep track of his "monogamous" dating style). How about that. He didn't have to worry about being anywhere near my cat a few minutes later.

Also nthing anyone who makes cruddy remarks about your appearance, especially if/when you're in a vulnerable state. Objectification ahoy.
posted by fraula at 2:56 AM on January 31, 2013 [8 favorites]


Every time a woman has said some variation of "you're sweet" she has soon lost interest. For a long time I mistook this feedback as positive and would do more of the thing that elicited the response. Now I know "you're sweet" = "I wish I were more into you than I am, because I really want to be moved by the thing you just did but I'm actually not moved by it at all."
posted by eustacescrubb at 4:41 AM on January 31, 2013 [46 favorites]


Also, do not be fooled by guys who say nasty stuff about women that reveals a misogynistic viewpoint or assumption BUT who also say feminist stuff or identify as feminists. They might be bullshitting you, or they might be entirely sincere but have serious issues with women that they can't get over. Either way, listen to the misogyny. It's what will come out when things get rough.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:01 AM on January 31, 2013 [21 favorites]


In early dating stages, my bigger red flags have always been triggered (and later confirmed by):

1. Blaming other people for all their problems. Like, all their exes were completely insane or just horrible people, their coworkers are idiots, their boss is out to get them.

2. Conversely, I've had a few bad experiences with men who make a point of telling me that they still hang out with all their exes and talk, text, and get together with them frequently. It's always turned out that they were actually still kindasorta dating these women.

3. Men who have talked excessively about how honest they are, how honest they are going to be with me..."I'm always going to tell you what's bothering me," etc. Those guys turn out to be pretty skillful liars.

and

4. This should be obvious, but someone who just can't pull together making plans. Like, it's Monday and they don't know what their weekend is going to look like just yet, so they'll get back to me. And in the meantime it's fun and flirty texts, but they can't/won't commit to a date.
posted by kinetic at 5:15 AM on January 31, 2013 [14 favorites]


"Oh, I've sort of been seeing someone. She really likes me and wants it to be serious but I'm not ready. I should say something, but I don't want to hurt her feelings." or

"She's really into me. I don't know why she thinks that. It's weird, but what are you gonna do. If I stopped talking to her it would hurt her feelings."

These people are either cheaters, or too conflict-avoidant to be around. Either way, it is not good.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:29 AM on January 31, 2013 [5 favorites]


"I'm really laid back" means "I'm uptight and will blame you for any discord, because I've already gotten dibs on being the laid back one here." Likewise, "I'm not looking for drama." This means "I am a first class drama creator, and (like mr laid back), as soon as I create some drama, I will get to pin the blame for it on you. Because he hates drama, like he already told you.Why are you being so dramatic?

"I lied to my parents (or friends) about you" means "I am ashamed of (you or something else that I can blame on you)"

"Body hair and/or vaginas are gross" means exactly that and also "I am too immature to appreciate who you are and will continue to expect you to conform to an unobtainable ideal." He may also have unhealthy attitudes about weight.

"I like that you drive pretty fast for a --" I cut him off to say "A girl?" And he said "well...yeah." I should have thrown him out of the car.

"I'm the strong silent type" meant "I won't tell you what I need and I won't tell you that I can't give you what you're asking for when you are direct."

"I only read my ex-girlfriend's email because I already knew she was cheating on me." My response to that was wrong what I said was "if you ever feel the need to read my email, just dump me." What I should have said was "goodbye."

Some general ones:
posted by bilabial at 5:33 AM on January 31, 2013 [24 favorites]


men who want to see me and have a time picked out but will not find an actual activity to do. Seriously, pick up a copy of the free weekly and find something fun to do.

This, most especially in early days. If someone can't be bothered to find something/anything to do with you, that never gets better. They're never going to think of you as someone who deserves to be pleased. It's one thing to be an easygoing person who agrees to try kayaking or the new Cambodian restaurant you suggest, but someone who can't come up with a single idea of something to do isn't interested in making you happy. And they're just lazy.
posted by kinetic at 5:50 AM on January 31, 2013 [12 favorites]


Every time a woman has said some variation of "you're sweet" she has soon lost interest. For a long time I mistook this feedback as positive and would do more of the thing that elicited the response. Now I know "you're sweet" = "I wish I were more into you than I am, because I really want to be moved by the thing you just did but I'm actually not moved by it at all."

God DAMN it! I've been doing this! Without realizing it!
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:53 AM on January 31, 2013 [18 favorites]


"I hate drama" or "I'm not looking for drama" or "no drama queens" = "I'm about to serve you a supersize drama sundae with all the toppings." People who say this are usually the SOURCE of the drama but never take responsibility for their role in it.
posted by Lieber Frau at 6:14 AM on January 31, 2013 [16 favorites]


In fact, people who even bring up drama in the early stages of a relationship.

"She was such a drama queen"
"Man, I'm such a lucky guy, unlike my friend Mike, he's got some serious baby mama drama"
"How do you deal with drama? Cause you know, sometimes it happens. And I need to make sure you're not going to make it worse."
"There was some drama at work today, but I tried not to get involved."



Baaaaaad news. Every. Single. One.
posted by bilabial at 6:25 AM on January 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


The thing is, with a person who is normal amounts of lazy, it's not going to occur to them to specifically mention it. Similarly for "I can be a little bit flaky sometimes," "sometimes I need a little bit of alone time to recharge" or "I can be a little bit of a slob."

This is true, though as with FAMOUS MONSTER's EXCELLENT COMMENT, if this is followed by something along the lines of "but I'm working on it" or "so please call me out on it," they're at least showing some self-awareness.
posted by psoas at 6:46 AM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


"You're sweet" (and worse -- "You're so sweet" -- which some Southern women almost live, somewhat of an art form, with iced tea) it's the kiss of death.

"You're sweet." = "You're vanilla."

"You're sweet." = "You're a real yawner."

It's as bad as her mother liking you, without disliking you there at the first, at least for a while.

You're not going to get into her shorts.

Wave her goodbye.
posted by dancestoblue at 6:53 AM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


When they say something along the lines of "I only live in the moment". Usually means they aren't going to acknowledge past mistakes or foresee future ones. (And in my experience has usually been followed by cheating.)

If you are having an actual problem and they tell you that it would be better if "you'd just stop worrying about it so much." Translation: I don't care and don't want to deal with it/hear about it anymore.
posted by Dynex at 7:49 AM on January 31, 2013 [6 favorites]


Just want to disagree with the majority about sweet. I say "that was so sweet!" and "you're such a sweetie!" and "what a sweet thing to do!" all the time and genuinely mean it, and do not also mean boring or vanilla, fwiw.
posted by onlyconnect at 8:04 AM on January 31, 2013 [7 favorites]


Just want to disagree with the majority about sweet. I say "that was so sweet!" and "you're such a sweetie!" and "what a sweet thing to do!" all the time and genuinely mean it, and do not also mean boring or vanilla, fwiw.

When I found myself doing this recently, with a guy I liked in many ways but was planning to break up with, I was saying "you're sweet" instead of stuff like "thank you" or "I love it". So like, rather than saying something meaning "I appreciate this thing you did," I was saying "this thing you did is objectively a good thing" and taking my own reaction out of the equation...
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:11 AM on January 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


The following three should be completely obvious, but if some version of my 19-year old self is reading this, please take heed:

"Let's just keep us a secret for a while. Isn't it more fun this way?" in reference to your very laid-back, no one cares at all workplace=he is cheating on you.

Responding to "I'm falling in love with you" with "I wish I could say the same wasn't true for me"=pretty much the opposite of anything good.

Insinuating that your age disparity means you don't really know how relationships are supposed to work=you're about to get seriously screwed.
posted by dysh at 8:20 AM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just a comment on the "you're too good for me/I don't deserve you" taxonomy that's been evolving through the thread:

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I find "what did I do to deserve you??" or "how did I get so lucky?" to be the right/healthy ways to say this. It usually means "I'm really happy and treasure having you in my life."
posted by dry white toast at 8:40 AM on January 31, 2013 [10 favorites]


I cannot believe I forgot this one...

anyone who tells you preemptively how great they are in bed (and just as bad is if they feel the need to mention that they're great kissers, ugh).

And of course, if they say, "in the sack," just run for your life.
posted by kinetic at 9:02 AM on January 31, 2013 [5 favorites]


Oh, man. I've found that any variation of "I'm pretty selfish" or "I'm kinda arrogant" or "Yeah, I can be a bastard/bitch," especially when delivered with a sly smile, is not an admission of faults to be worked on, but a straight-up brag. And a warning. For years I took these as honest self-inventories, which, well, they were, but the people who said these things didn't think selfishness and arrogance were serious handicaps or flaws to overcome. They were just announcing who they were so they didn't have to take responsibility when they proved to be jerks later. I've actually noticed this with friends more often than with romantic partners.

ANY variation of "I'm a nice/good guy" or "I respect women/treat women well/etc." I have not encountered any genuinely nice guy who felt compelled to announce it, but men who struggled with misogyny and relationships would say those things unbidden, usually while denouncing "those assholes" who, coincidentally, happened to get the girl.

tl;dr: "I'm nice" means its exact opposite, "I'm selfish" should be taken at face value.
posted by ziggly at 9:52 AM on January 31, 2013 [13 favorites]


"Let's just keep us a secret for a while" Oy, I've said a variant on this one more than once ("Let's not tell anyone about our hookup... it's nobody else's business"). It was when there was someone else in the same social circle that I was more interested in and still trying to go after...
posted by cairdeas at 9:58 AM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


I once dated a woman who told me she loved me after two weeks. Guess how long that lasted...

Unfortunately, I was too much of a rube to pull the rip-cord right then, but hey, you won't find this stuff in a textbook.

I sure wish MeFi had existed some 25 years ago.
posted by rhombus at 10:10 AM on January 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


Any over-the-top declarations of adoration in the very early stages of courtship. This usually signals a suitor who wants to overleap the getting-to-know-you phase, and hurry you into some pre-ordained role he has in mind for his fantasy woman.

It's often accompanied by extraordinary levels of attention -- lonnnng effusive emails, all-night phone calls, texts every hour on the hour -- as well as wild-hearted talk of big things to come. It's intoxicating in the moment. But in my experience, this leads to a relationship crash-and-burn when the reality of who I am doesn't match up with the gent's fevered imagining (or when he realizes he's bigged himself up, and can't himself match up to the false image he's promoted).
posted by nacho fries at 10:21 AM on January 31, 2013 [41 favorites]


Oh yeah and totally seconding Dynex about the 'you're just thinking about it too much', 'you don't need to think about it so much' = 'I would like us both to pretend I didn't cheat on you now we've had one 10 minute disussion'/'I don't want you to throw me out of this nice flat when you realise I have no intention of committing to you'/'I don't feel bad about any of the horrendous shit I've done and I'm tired of pretending to be sorry'. /'I decide when you're over something I've done'.

That one is actually a really big one. It all just boils down to 'You thinking about why I'm treating you so appallingly is ruining our relationship where I show nothing but contempt for you while getting everything I want. You are highly selfish and unreasonable'. It's basically gaslighting.
posted by everydayanewday at 10:56 AM on January 31, 2013 [15 favorites]


how about, "c'mon, I was just joking" after repeatedly hurting your feelings?

and another version of "you're too good for me" is "you're a saint".
posted by dawkins_7 at 1:23 PM on January 31, 2013 [8 favorites]


In my experience when a guy goes on and on about how honest he is you are going to experience one of two things:

1. He is going to say incredibly dickish things to you because he is "just being honest."
2. He is going to cheat.
posted by magnetsphere at 1:23 PM on January 31, 2013 [5 favorites]


1. Don't just pay attention to how they treat the waiter. Pay equal attention to how they drive and how they treat other drivers on the road. Drive after work, during rush hour, early morning, when starving to death etc etc. What you miss with the waiter, you will surely pick up during driving. This tells you how they treat random, fellow human beings and how much/little patience they have.

2.If they constantly look/size you up and your home/apartment/car/belongings. A glance can tell you what doesn't come out in words, or if its contrary to what is being said.

3. Listen to what they talk about on the first few dates. If you repeatedly hear about things that happened to them (hardships, abuse) when they have forgiven the offender then this may mean that "because X happened to me, I will be fearful whenever Y comes up in the relationship. And Y reminds me of X so I am going to dump you now."

4. "I do admit when I am wrong" but when they make mistakes, they think its their prerogative to choose when, if at all, they actually spit out "I am sorry".
posted by xm at 5:54 PM on January 31, 2013 [13 favorites]


And, #5- Making fun of things that are important to you and dismissing it as "don't you have a sense of humor" or "you are too serious".
posted by xm at 5:55 PM on January 31, 2013 [7 favorites]


1) Listen carefully to your very first impression of them if it's negative. If later they turn on the charm and you second guess, I guarantee it will come back to haunt you later. Without fail. I've had false negatives -- guys who seemed nice at first and later turned douchey -- but no false positives. Not one.

2) I guess the waiter test is good for picking up mega jerks who don't care about their social presentation but I've found more secretive assholes tend to pass it and treat waiters decently, even at times make a point of doing so. (Ted Bundy was apparently quite polite to most of the people he didn't murder.)

There are a couple of reasons for this: they are overcompensating for their inner Mr. Hyde by making a show for you that takes virtually no effort -- waiters are easy to be polite to because they're literally serving you and disappear from your life after the meal is done. Also a lot of jerks "black and white" people, and they want to show off what great taste they have in others because they're nice to the "right" people...the implication being that most people aren't worthy of their warmth.

I think a better test is to see how they treat others who need something from them when they're having a bad day AND there will be no social repercussions for their poor behavior. Let's say they're stressed at work and they have a nice but slightly annoying new employee who needs their help. How do they respond? Do they bitch to you about it later?

3) A great one I've found is the spill test. If someone accidentally spills something on a thing that they own or in a place where they'll have to clean it up what's their immediate response? Seriously watch their expression before they have time to put on a social face. If they react in anger at the person (glaring, swearing --Jesus Christ, be more careful!), even if just for a moment, that's usually a very bad sign. Most decent people will be frustrated but forgiving.
posted by timsneezed at 6:49 PM on January 31, 2013 [13 favorites]


"I've never done anything like this before."
I must have said that a thousand times!
posted by amodelcitizen at 11:08 PM on January 31, 2013 [6 favorites]


Every time a woman has said some variation of "you're sweet" she has soon lost interest.

Also want to disagree with this. Usually I only say this when I'm starting to become rather enamoured with someone.

There aren't hard and fast rules here. People are not all the same.
posted by Polychrome at 7:23 AM on February 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Every time a woman has said some variation of "you're sweet" she has soon lost interest. For a long time I mistook this feedback as positive and would do more of the thing that elicited the response. Now I know "you're sweet" = "I wish I were more into you than I am, because I really want to be moved by the thing you just did but I'm actually not moved by it at all."

I laughed out loud at this because I realized that every single time I say "aww, you're sweet," it's because I had no emotional response whatsoever and am trying to seem like I am into it. This does not mean that women dislike and friend-zone "sweet" guys (in fact I ONLY date sweet guys!), it means that they are not moved to tears and arousal by nice gestures from guys they don't feel chemistry with. And yeah it doesn't always mean this, just when it's said in that kind of flat forced semi-valley girl way.

Pretty much any guy who pulls "it's a joooooooke" is out because I love jokes and I hate stupid mean offensive bullshit and don't like conflating them.

Umm, guys who like to talk about how many sex partners they've had? Not because they're sluts but because often it comes with an inflated idea about how good they are at sex. I guess maybe you wanna test this one out.

men who want to see me and have a time picked out but will not find an actual activity to do.

Yes.

guys who have every minute planned, and insist that they will pick me up for the first date, and get upset when I say I'd prefer to drive myself. Why I bother to explain the safety concerns anymore is beyond me.

Yes. Especially because (beyond being afraid of being murdered/raped) I have gone on first dates with some guys who were shitty terrible arghhh fucking awful drivers, and I hate feeling unsafe in a speeding car with a douchebag stranger who wants to race people and cut people off and peel out everywhere. Basically I have to become the fun-killing bitch who says "ahhh, please stop!" "STOP PLEASE" "PLEASE FUCKING STOP IT WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM LET ME OUT"

"But other women [insert something he wants you to do]".

Seriously, this reminds me of a little kid yelling "BUT KATIE'S PARENTS LET HER STAY OUT PAST 10 ON THE WEEKENDS!" Anyone who treats you like their parent should be jettisoned into space.


Also, telling me what my preferences are and getting it wrong. I'm not just talking about serious, relationship-y conversations — I mean seemingly insignificant comments like "That's your favorite supermarket." And not accepting it when I explained that actually, no, what I said is I'll go there occasionally but only because it's near my apartment. If you're having that kind of communication breakdown about stuff that doesn't matter at all, that doesn't bode well for your ability to communicate about things that do matter.

Wow, I never really put my finger on it before, but an old boyfriend used to do this all the time-- would always say things like, "You're really into popular music on the radio," or something that was meant to sum me up. When I'd be like "?? I don't listen to the radio, I do like popular music though I used to be much less in tune with it," he'd be like, "But you like popular music on the radio and don't listen to much classical music or older music." Which wasn't true and obviously carried the implication that I was like a bubblegum airhead. It drove me insane and I guess I always felt like he was trying to subtly trivialize and demean me, but it was so true that he would do the same thing in serious conversations, and god it was awful. Just not listening and using a definition of you that fits their (weird, negative?) feelings about you instead of treating you like a person.
posted by stoneandstar at 4:04 PM on February 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


*starts crying in public about something minor* "Sorry, I usually never cry!" = Get used to them crying twice a week.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:22 AM on February 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Argh, how did I miss this thread when it was first posted?!

As has been stated here and elsewhere, it's pretty obvious when someone has decided that they like you way too much even though they don't know you yet. After which you run away screaming (unless of course you've already decided the same for them). But even when they argue on this point and try to backtrack, hold your ground.

Guy on second date: I can see us moving in together.

Me: *Glares* It's way to early to talk about that.

G: Oh, I don't mean right away, I mean like a year from now!

M: *Glares some more*

They've already decided upon their life's plan for the immediate future, which has nothing to do with taking your feelings into account.
posted by sockerpup at 1:32 PM on February 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


Another phrase that means the opposite, more often than not: "I don't hold grudges."
posted by kagredon at 2:27 PM on February 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'd be careful about the driving habits in traffic thing. Bad enough traffic has a way of turning anyone and everyone into assholes. It's like a contagion. And being frustrated with another vehicles' driver doesn't necessarily mean being personally angry with the driver as a human being, even if thats how it comes out sounding. There are reasons for it: someone's befuddlement or obliviousness as a driver is actually objectively bad (often dangerous) for others. Their befuddlement at the cash register is merely an annoyance. (Reactions to those kinds of inconveniences and frustrations are more meaningful tells to me.)

Also, it's OK to be a less than angelically tempered person. You just need a compatible partner. (Who may be the same way, or a good complementary influence.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:31 AM on February 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sneering + a statistically unlikely number of "idiots" in their personal and professional worlds.
posted by nelljie at 6:51 PM on February 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


Why is it that so many of these are prevalent in romance novels? The 50 Shades-ish book I'm reading now (which has almost perfect ratings on Goodreads and Amazon) is full of this stuff. It's mind-boggling. (But to be fair, I'm not really a fan of the genre.)

"I'm not shallow, and I don't care about looks." That translates to "I don't think you're pretty." Not surprisingly, the guy who said this to me stopped having sex with me shortly thereafter.

Heh. It also translates to, "You look okay enough to have sex with but I don't want to be seen in public with you."
posted by fuse theorem at 8:12 AM on February 23, 2013


I just wanted to come back to thank everyone for all of these incredibly insightful comments, which have honestly already improved my life -- and I hope I'm not the only one.

(I'd also like to take this opportunity to ask anyone from The Future who might see this comment to please use one of their time-travel thingamabobs to give 25 year-old me a chance to read this entire discussion. Maybe with an annual refresher as needed. Many thanks in advance (or in the past -- I have less of a clue about how that's supposed to work than I do about human relations).)
posted by argonauta at 3:37 PM on March 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


« Older I'm not her assistant but she'...   |  I'm not sure if i should disco... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.