Red Flag or Overreaction? First Date Deal-Breakers Explained

Feel empowered to prioritize your wants and needs. Read our ultimate list of potential first date deal breakers.

First dates are rarely the most comfortable situations in the world. From picking that cool-but-not-too-romantic place to meet to dealing with nerves and coping with awkward silences, there is a lot to navigate. 

But understanding first date deal breakers is one of the best things you can do to set your dating life up for success. We’ve put together the ultimate list of potential first date red flags so that you can be prepped for just about anything.

1. They treat wait staff rudely

This is a huge first date red flag. If your date is rude to the waiter, talks down to them, or orders them around, get out quick. Poor behavior like this in public means that your date doesn’t respect others and is totally fine with displaying their incivility. And if respect is a foundational element of a healthy relationship, then that means your date probably won’t live out that standard with you or the people you care about.

2. They talk negatively about their family

This isn’t necessarily a first date deal-breaker, but it should give you pause. The way that someone treats their family is telling—because we’re always our truest selves around the people closest to us. Spilling dirt on their parents or siblings isn’t the best way to make a good impression on a date. But if this is the only reddish flag, try giving them another chance. Perhaps there’s a lot going on with their family and they felt that you were a safe space to vent.

3. They’re too touchy-feely

On a first date, comfort and connection are everything. So, if your date makes you feel uncomfortable with too much touch, this might not be the right fit. They should be able to read unspoken signs (aka body language) to understand when it’s ok to include physical touch. 

But sometimes that’s harder said than done. Asking you if it’s ok to hold your hand, hug, and kiss is a sign of respect and means that they’re listening. If they’re going full steam ahead and being too handsy on a first date, consider making your end-of-date goodbye the last one. Use these tips to reject someone nicely.

4. They don’t offer to pay

While you shouldn’t stick to the old rule of “the man always pays” anymore, you should use the modern dating rule of “both people should offer.” It’s worth having that awkward you-both-reached-for-your-wallets moment to know that your date respects your finances. 

What is a deal breaker? Not offering to pay. It’s just bad taste and could be a sign of laziness, disrespect, or even financial instability. 

5. They’re insecure

First dates have a natural awkwardness to them, so it’s normal to encounter a date who might be lacking a little bit of confidence. First date jitters are real! But it could be a first date red flag if they’re on a quest for validation, comparing themselves with others, undermining themselves, or apologizing for even the littlest things. 

It could be nerves, but beware of going further with someone who displays these types of insecurities. Negative self talk isn’t healthy and can bring you down, too, or force you to constantly validate and assure them (which isn’t your job). While this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pursue a second date, realize that they might have some growing to do before they’re ready for a relationship.

6. They get drunk

Indulging in a little liquid courage is often a welcome activity on a first date. It can help you both loosen up and take an edge off of the nerves. But it can become problematic if your date is getting drunk. There are times for partying and a first date usually isn’t one of them. The goal is to get to know each other, and getting too drunk to have a real conversation isn’t a good look. 

7. They dominate the conversation 

Sometimes it’s helpful—especially for introverts—to go on a date with someone who talks more than you do. They can help steer the conversation or fill awkward silences. But dominating the convo to the point of not letting you get a word in or asking you questions is a real first date deal breaker. You might leave the date exhausted and drained, thinking that the other person doesn’t know a thing about you. That’s not a good sign for a potential future.

8. They didn’t put effort into their appearance

First dates are all about first impressions, and you both should want to make a good one. Dressing appropriately is part of it. While appearance shouldn’t be the only thing you consider (it’s important to prioritize confidence over looks), if it looks like your date didn’t put in any effort, that’s worth contemplating. But take into account where your first date is. If you’re going on a hike together, a little grunge is normal; if you’re meeting at a Michelin-star restaurant, leave the grunge for the trail.

9. They love bomb you

Love bombing is when someone is over the top in their affection and attention, often, but not always, with the goal of manipulation. You’ll know a love bomb when you see it. Think rose petals, expensive champagne, and a violin player on your first date. But love bombing doesn’t only involve lavish gifts; it could also include telling you constantly that you’re amazing, too good to be true, just their type, and so on. 

Love bombing feels really good at first but could be a first date deal breaker. Just be cautious and don’t be afraid to tell the person if the attention makes you feel uncomfortable. Communication is key.

10. They’re distracted

A distracted date isn’t a date worth seeing again. If they can’t stop checking their phone, the TV, or their watch, they’re not valuing you or your time. This is a first date red flag.

11. They talk money or politics

Discussing money and politics is not necessarily a deal breaker. Sometimes talking about topics that have depth is welcome, especially if you’re both connecting on other things. However, money and politics can be contentious when you both have different perspectives on saving, investing, social issues, government involvement, and more. Aligning with someone on these topics can be a sign that a first date went well; immediately arguing about them could be a potential deal breaker in a relationship. 

12. They’re a bad kisser

Part of having chemistry with someone is enjoying their physical touch. If they’re kissing methods aren’t doing it for you, it might be a sign that you’re not a good fit for each other physically. Try giving them a few more chances, even communicating how you like to be kissed. If their kisses are still giving you more sighs than sparks, it’s ok to move on.

13. They try to one-up you

You’ve probably encountered a one-upper in your life. That person who meets every one of your experiences with a “better” one or brags about, well, anything. If your date made you feel like your life story and skills are mediocre compared to theirs, find someone else who celebrates your victories and accomplishments.

14. They keep bring up their ex

Talking about exes isn’t a first date deal breaker; in fact, it can show a sense of maturity if you’re both able to discuss your dating histories in healthy, respectful ways. But if your date keeps bringing up their ex, it might be a sign that they’re not over the person or haven’t fully processed the breakup. This means that there would be less room for you in a future relationship.

15. They have different intentions for dating

Make sure to set your intention for the date before you meet. If you’re here for something casual and don’t want to commit to anything, great! If you’re looking for a long-term partner, wonderful. Aligning with your date is important, so if they have different romantic goals, it could be a potential deal breaker in a relationship.

16. They smoke

If smoking isn’t for you, this is probably a first date deal breaker. You might be thinking, “Well, I can motivate them to stop!” But it’s not healthy to start a dating relationship with a person that you already want to change. 

17. They’re being negative

Negativity isn’t something you want to deal with on a first date. Constant nagging or overt pessimism and cynicism can be real downers. These can also be signs of underlying, unresolved issues. Try to stay positive throughout the date and, if you’re interested in seeing the person again, let them know afterward how you felt. Maybe they just had a bad day, and it was a one-time issue.

18. They ghost you after the date

If you’ve tried reaching out to your date but with no response, they have ghosted you, which means they’re either not good at communicating, fear confrontation, or think that ghosting is normal—none of which are ok. This is a huge post-first date red flag. Learn how to deal with ghosting so you can start to move on and get started dating again.

Some of these first date deal breakers depend on what you want in someone and in a potential relationship. Remember that respect, communication, and chemistry are key, so if you feel like these are lacking on your date, it might be best to keep looking—it’s worth it when finding a future partner.

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