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Dating shows are balm to our weary post-lockdown brains, full of pretty people in colourful swimwear and wedding outfits, sharing their most mortifying ups and downs with the viewing public. And one of the most enjoyable aspects, of course, is spotting early on who's making a big mistake.
From Love is Blind to Love Island to Married at First Sight, we're all dating experts now, and while we cheer on the successes, there's a sense of smug satisfactions when our grim predictions come to pass.
Perhaps that's because it's easier to spot 'red flags' in a potential partner when it's not our own hearts on the line.
Relationships coach Melody Chadamoyo says, "a red flag is a sign of danger and in a relationship, it's something your partner does that shows lack of respect, integrity, and interest in your wellbeing - demonstrating that the person would not be able to have a healthy relationship with you."
When it's you being dazzled by hearts and flowers, and declarations of love three days in, it's a lot harder to figure out what's genuine attraction and what's just lust and flattery, and that goes for all of us.
As singles ease back into the dating pool post lockdown, then, they may need a little help - so here are the red flags to watch out for, according to vision experts Lenstore.
1 They spend too much time talking about their ex
Dating and relationships expert Clarissa Bloom comments “I'm firmly in the camp that it's ok to bring up ex-partners if the conversation is relevant, it's not insensitive and won't start a direct argument.”
“But the main area for concern is if they speak highly negatively of their ex," she says. "This could be a sign they haven't fully got over them. Breaking up can be a very hard time and they might want to go on a date to get over their ex-partner, but you shouldn't be used as a tool for them to overcome their ex.
"They may need some time on their own to fully get over their feelings.”
If he or she still has the ex as a screensaver, and suffers 'mention-itis', talking endlessly about them and their amazing family/friends/house/job, it's a giant neon sign reading 'avoid.'
2 Something in your gut feels wrong
Relationship coach Melody Chadamoyo suggests “Listen to your intuition. Some people spend time writing pros and cons lists to see whether they should be together instead of listening to their intuition."
“On a date, if you start to feel uncomfortable don’t try to explain it or reason with yourself but rather walk away. Your intuition is always looking out for you. We’ve all said 'I knew this was going to happen' after things have already gone badly. That knowing is your intuition.”
Don't confuse gut feeling with nerves - everyone feels nervous before a date; but intuition is a steady inner voice.
Watch: TikTok's 'She Knows' trend shows the good and bad side of intuition
3 They don’t talk through issues
“How you handle disagreements is crucial for how the relationship grows and thrives," says Melody. "In a good relationship, a couple will talk through issues, listening to the other and expressing their own point of view. This allows both parties to feel heard and seen.”
“If something comes up that you don’t agree with, and the person refuses to discuss it this can be a massive red flag.”
If it's early on, it may simply be the case that they're nervous of conflict, but if it persists, consider whether you want to be with someone who can't listen - or even talk - when the going gets tough
4 Me, me, me
“If the conversation is purely about one person, this can be a quick red flag," says Bloom. "Both people on the date should be eager to get to know each other, whether that's directly asking questions, or following up an answer with an enquiry back.”
If they're spending more time looking at their phone than looking at you, or holding forth about their own opinions, experiences and thoughts with no interest in yours, it's a serious sign that they're self-obsessed.
5 Whirlwind romance
Chris Pleines, a dating expert from Dating Scout states “Another red flag to watch out for is being trapped into a whirlwind romance.”
“When you haven't build any foundation yet for your relationship but they are already treating you as if you are the love of their life, they are, in fact, lulling you into a false sense of security," he says. "They are just putting up a front and manipulating you into thinking that they are “the one.”
"Once you fall for them, that's when they start taking advantage of you. They can get away with toxic behaviours in the actual relationship because you are manipulated into thinking they'll go back to being the “perfect” romantic partner you first met.”
If s/he's declared love in the first week and is pushing for moving in within a month, slam on the brakes - and ask why it's all happening to speedily.
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6 They complain all the time
“It's one thing to be comfortable and open up about your private sentiments," says Pleines, "it's another to complain relentlessly. You may not see through it at first, but a person who does this on a date, and the first date at that, will bring a steady stream of personal problems and negativity.”
Of course, they may have plenty to complain about, so initially, it seems reasonable. But if it's relentless, he says, "you will be left with so little space or none at all - to open up your own emotional life. If they do this on a first date, how much worse is it going to be in the future?
"Of course, you have to give the other person a chance. It is possible that they could only be having a particularly bad day. However, monitor if the behaviour persists and do not ignore this red flag.”