A discussion in my SPAN (Support for People Affected by Narcissistic abuse in relationships) online support group recently led one of my beautiful members to ask me what I meant when I told another group member that she could avoid getting involved with another narcissist in the future by simply raising her standards when it came to dating new people.
While she was recently divorced from a toxic narcissist and not quite ready to think about dating yet, she wanted to know what I meant.
“When I am ready to date again, it would help me to know what you mean exactly to ‘raise your standards’?”
Anyone who isn’t already in a relationship might be in search of that perfect someone that they can imagine building a life with – both men and women. When you’re waiting for Mr. or Mrs. Right, you sometimes start to think the opposite sex is just far too picky.
But, if you’ve been in a toxic relationship with a narcissist, the abuse you’ve experienced has left you damaged and maybe unsure of what you really want in a relationship. Personally, I have some basic deal breakers for any relationship, including my current marriage, and they are as follows:
1. Don’t hit me or intentionally hurt me physically.
2. Don’t cheat on me.
3. Don’t hurt my children.
It might surprise you to know that when it comes to deal breakers with dating, men and women are surprisingly alike in what turns them off (and what won’t lead to more dates). Knowing this can help you avoid a dry spell – and, if you’re willing to raise your own standards, it can also help you avoid getting stuck to a narcissist again.
So, what sorts of issues are red flags for potential future mates? Let’s start there – some basic Dating 101, if you will. You might already know this stuff, and that’s okay. It never hurts to have a quick refresher, right?
Communication is Key
Not knowing how to communicate on a date is something that a lot of women just don’t want to put up with, such as not being able to talk clearly and not knowing the basic difference between commonly misused words.
To men, this might seem too picky, but to women, a man that doesn’t know how to communicate from the start, including with their eyes, it won’t get any better as the relationship progresses.
Women do put more of an emphasis on communication than men do because this is how women relate. A deal breaker with communication is a man or a woman who is obviously the star in their own world – ahem, this is also a sign of narcissism.
These kinds of people might talk so much that it’s hard to get a word in edgewise. While a man or woman want to find out about their date, give them the condensed version of yourself, not your life story – and on the flip side, you shouldn’t expect a guy to tell you everything on day one. It’s not normal behavior, despite what the narcissist might have led you to believe.
During a date, you don’t want to focus on the bad stuff. Someone that you’ve just met or are just now starting to get to know doesn’t want to hear all about the job that you hate, or the terrible day you’ve just experienced – and, quite honestly, they’re not going to necessarily enjoy hearing about your narcissistic ex. That’s more like seventh date material, if you understand what I mean – and focusing for too long on any negativity from your past isn’t healthy anyway.
Communication during a date means communicating with the person with whom you’re on the date. It doesn’t mean that this is a fresh avenue for you to spill all of your resentment and heartache about the person who was in your life before him or her.
If you bring your ex into the conversation, it can be an instant deal breaker because it shows that you haven’t worked through feelings about that former flame. No one wants a preview of the excess baggage you’ll be bringing along if they date you.
It also shows that you’re inconsiderate. It’s a deal breaker to use someone you barely know as a sounding board about the lost loves in your life. You might feel that you’re connecting, while the other person feels like they should be charging you a therapy fee.
Work through your issues about your ex before you move on to dating someone new. See a real therapist and make sure all of your issues with that situation are resolved prior to you dating someone else. You’ll be doing yourself a big favor.
Most people know how to be polite. Some don’t. If you don’t know how to be polite, that can be a deal breaker. If you haven’t mastered basic table etiquette, then you need to learn before you hit the dating circuit.
First, don’t put your elbows on the table. Don’t slouch down so far in your chair that it looks like you’re practically resting on your neck. When it’s time to eat, don’t share your food in open-mouthed chewing with the other person.
It’s rude and disgusting to look at someone else’s chewed up meal. These are deal breakers – especially for women. Don’t slurp your food, push your food onto your fork with your fingers, don’t burp, don’t blow your nose and don’t pick your teeth when you’re on a date.
If you get a bite of something that tastes terrible, don’t make a show of spitting it out. Discreetly remove it in with a napkin. If something is out of reach, ask for it, don’t reach across the table and grab it.
One of the biggest issues that’s a deal breaker among both men and women are dates that get on the cell phone. If you text or take a call during a date and it’s not an absolute emergency, you can bet you’ll probably never get another date.
It’s rude to pay attention to someone who isn’t even there via a cell phone. Being rude to others (including the waitress or waiter) around you on the date is a deal breaker. If you’re out with your friends, treating them rudely is also a deal breaker.
Your date will end up wondering if that’s how you treat other people, if you’ll start to treat him or her that way as well. Under the heading of being impolite is not having a tolerance toward people who have different religions, are from different cultures, are a different race or have different sexual preferences.
Being small minded or making bigoted or racist comments is a deal breaker. It’s rude and offensive. It’s also not polite to expect your date to like all the same things that you like.
Just because you like a certain style of music doesn’t mean she will. And to expect someone to give in to your tastes is a deal breaker. Instead of looking for someone that is exactly like you when it comes to preferences, learn how to explore the differences.
It can be a deal breaker to be sarcastic or to make fun of something that your date finds interesting. It makes you look mean and bullying to make fun of someone just because they’re into things that you’re not.
Not Taking Care of Your Appearance
Surprising, men and women aren’t looking for someone who doesn’t have any flaws. But both sexes do look for someone who takes pride in his or her appearance. This can range from clothing choice to hygiene habits.
When you show up for a date, even if it’s a casual date, you should always look your best. Those worn sweatpants might make you feel comfortable, but to your date, they say that you couldn’t be bothered to put forth much effort.
Save the around the house clothes for around the house. Don’t wear a pair of shoes that could be worn when cleaning out the garage or mowing. Don’t wear shoes that don’t fit the occasion. An example of this is wearing high heels for a beach walk.
The shoes are out of place and will only tell your date that you’re trying too hard to impress. Be careful going too bold. That bright Hawaiian shirt might look great on a vacation, but on a date, it’s better to choose clothes and shoes that blend in and save the wilder choices for a later date.
A deal breaker in both men and women is showing up for a date without having spent some time on personal hygiene. If you can’t be bothered to brush and floss your teeth, it’s better that you stay home.
Poor hygiene habits can also be a deal breaker. These include things like wiping your mouth on the sleeve of your shirt after eating. Or coughing up phlegm and then spitting it onto the ground.
Take care of your smile. It’s one of the first impressions that you’ll make on someone else when it comes to dating. A big deal breaker for men and women is pretending to be something you’re not online or through text messages, then showing up in person and you look and act totally differently.
An example of this is a girl who pretends to be into things guys like just to impress the guy. Or a guy who says he has washboard abs, when it’s really more like a beer belly. What both sexes really appreciate is a person who’s honest with them right from the start.
Don’t lie about your body type, your looks or your hobbies just to get someone interested in you. When the truth comes out, it will only backfire. You want to date someone who likes the real you, not some fictional person who doesn’t exist.
Certain habits can also make your appearance less than desirable on a date. Someone who smells like cigarette smoke can be a deal breaker to some people. People who drink more than their limit on a date are a turnoff, too.
Unresolved Personal Issues
Every person in the world is going to have some emotional wounds given to them by life experiences. Most people go on to get through this issues by working them out or seeking the advice of a counselor.
Having experienced personal problems is nothing to be ashamed of and is normal. However, dragging these issues around with you, especially on dates is when it becomes a problem.
Personal issues that are deal breakers involve things like not being able to let go and move on from anything that hurt you emotionally and springing that upset on your date. Your date doesn’t want to hear about the times your former friend stole money from you or skipped out without paying rent.
He doesn’t want to hear about daddy issues. She doesn’t want to hear about your issues with your mom or your dad. Or your siblings. Or your neighbors. If those things are still eating away at you, it’s a sign that you need to deal with them rather than date and talk about them.
Your date doesn’t want to hear about a list of problems that were someone else’s fault. It makes you sound whiny and immature. If you have a personal issue that’s driven you to try to deal with it through the development of an addiction, that’s a definite deal breaker.
Having an addiction with drugs isn’t something that’s fair to expect another person to have to deal with, especially someone that you don’t even know that well. It puts too much on them emotionally.
If you have an addiction with drugs or with alcohol, take care of it and get well before you seek a relationship. An addiction can introduce a level of upheaval into a relationship that can add a lot of drama.
When there’s an addiction, the person that you’re dating never gets to know who you really are because the addition can mask that. People with an alcohol or drug addiction can often have varying mood swings and that’s not a good way to begin a relationship.
Not Being Dependable
A deal breaker among men and women is dating people who don’t know how to keep their word. These people are often flighty. They’ll say one thing and mean another. Sometimes, they can be prone to mind games.
Men and women are looking for someone who has a solid character. They know that if you’re not dependable, as the relationship develops, when they need someone, you won’t be the one they’ll be able to call.
It’s a deal breaker because a person who isn’t dependable has all kinds of excuses for his or her behavior. Why they didn’t show up when they said they would. Why they blew you off, why they couldn’t pay for a meal they promised to pay for.
These people are often not financially stable and they’re looking for someone they can lean on. Being someone who can’t take care of himself is a deal breaker. Both men and women want someone who is independent and knows how to keep his word.
A man or woman who has a life that’s out of control isn’t someone that anything can be built with because that person can’t be trusted. Without trust, there can’t be a healthy relationship.
Someone who’s too clingy isn’t someone who can be depended on. This is because the other person in the dating relationship will constantly have to reassure the clingy one, constantly have to feed their need for reassurance and company.
Signs of being clingy include always wanting to know who you’re with and what you’re doing. The person could be afraid that you’re leaving them behind. A dating relationship needs to be a two way street.
Each person should have a circle of friends as well as friends they enjoy seeing as a dating couple. It’s important for each person to have outside interests in a dating relationship and this includes different friends.
When you have separate interests, it can help a dating relationship stay fresh and seem more interesting. Don’t allow yourself (or the other person) to lose their identity and friendships just because you want to spend more time together.
Being Too Familiar Too Fast
When you date someone, there are certain physical boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed unless it’s clear that the other person is open to the contact. On a first date, you should have and expect personal boundaries.
Treating someone like they’re an old friend that you can hang all over is going to make the other person uncomfortable. While this is usually a dating deal breaker that’s more common in the way that men behave, women are also guilty of this one.
Part of the problem is because dating has become more like a checklist. People are trying to see if the other person fits the bill physically. This means that he or she is trying to figure out if they’re compatible – if they’re a good fit.
Though it’s important to date someone that you’re physically attracted to, dating isn’t a supermarket where you can go in and start rubbing and touching to see if you like what you see.
Because men are usually bigger, taller and have more physical strength, being too hands on can make a woman feel uncomfortable, intimidated and sometimes can cross the boundaries into sexual harassment.
Never assume it’s okay to touch someone else. Instead, make sure that you have a clear okay before you do. It’s not just the physical where a date can get too familiar. Being too familiar too fast can be a deal breaker when it comes to emotions, too.
When a person starts pushing for emotional depth that hasn’t developed yet, this can turn people off. An example of this is when a couple just start dating and by the end of the first week, one party is ready to move in together, to be exclusive, or already talking about being in love.
This is usually a sign of a deeper emotional problem that should raise red flags. Though it’s not easy to date in today’s world, there are plenty of good men and women looking for that special someone. Figure out what your deal breakers are and try to find someone who suits your personal preferences!
Angela Atkinson is a Certified Life Coach and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic relationships since 2006, Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed coaching and has certifications in life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. In her life coaching practice, Atkinson’s clients enjoy her personalized approach that allows and encourages them to become the best possible versions of themselves and to succeed in doing what they love most. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online and NarcissismSupportCoach.com.