Dating can be a frustrating experience, especially once you’ve decided it’s time to start shopping for that one and only (or you’re at least open to the idea). You might spend months or even years nurturing a relationship with someone you’ve already picked out baby names with only to have everything come to a screeching halt and feel like you’ve wasted the last months or years of your life. And suddenly you’re back to square one, trying to find another potential Mr. or Mrs. Perfect. Luckily, relationship research can give you some insight into what things you can look out for that might save you time, energy and emotional baggage down the line. Here are some things to look for when you’re dating and trying to find “the one”.
Red Flags (a.k.a. things that you should be aware of but aren’t worth ending a relationship over)
Dating partners that have a history of family turmoil (such as divorce, high conflict, etc.) are more likely to have similar issues in their own relationships. No, this does not mean you should never date someone who had divorced parents. But if you find a dating partner who tells you all about how “crazy” their family is, you might want to start paying closer attention to if that “crazy” got passed down. There’s a difference between someone who doesn’t realize they act the same way their “crazy” family does, and someone who’s aware of it and working to change it in themselves.
Similarity, people who have had a troubled relationship history are also sometimes at risk for repeated relationship problems in the future. If a dating partner tells you about the string of “losers” they have dated or all the previous partners that have been horrible to them, that might suggest some relationship deficiencies with your partner. After all, the only thing all those “losers” had in common was dating your partner.
Pay close attention during the first few dates to how your partner is both talking and listening to you. While you might not be far enough into the relationship to have a “fight”, if your date isn’t paying attention to you talk about how cute your kittens are, they probably won’t care about your deeper emotions and thoughts down the road either.
Deal Breakers (a.k.a. probably time to move on)
Unresolved mental health issues:
This is pretty simple. People with current and on-going mental health issues make bad dating and romantic partners. If someone is in the middle of struggling with depression, anxiety, or any other mental health disorder, they don’t need you to start dating them to fix them or help them along. At least not as a romantic partner. (Keep in mind this is not the same thing as someone who struggled with mental health in the past or a current marital partner who develops mental health concerns).
Differing world views and values:
This one is a common trap for many couples. I am not talking here about your taste in movies, ice cream, or underwear. I’m talking about the big stuff. Religion, children, gender roles, finances, etc. While it may seem like these differences can be overcome (can’t we all just get along?), many couples find out down the road that it’s much easier to get along with a friend or acquaintance who differs from you than someone you’re living with every day. These differences can become major stumbling blocks for couples, particularly after they transition to parenthood.
Is your dating partner physically, verbally, or sexually abusing you? Leave and don’t look back.