27 comments on “Dating Red Flags

  1. Hi Stephen – I know I’ve said this before but I’m going to say it again anyway: This is really relevant info.

    To all of us thinking of dating post-abuse, it can seem like a minefield out there (it certainly does to me) and its good to be reassured that it is okay to do things at a pace we’re comfortable with, and to trust our instincts.

    • Hi SSS – I’m glad you find my post helpful 🙂

      I completely hear you on the ‘minefield’ aspects of dating after abuse. Yes, there are many people out there who are single for very good reasons, and it’s not of their choosing. After my recent experiences, I do feel much more confident in my ability to spot and heed the red flags when they are flying.

  2. Well, Stephen, look at it this way. AT LEAST you didn’t spend 5k to be “matched” to those women! 🙂 Disheartening huh? As SSS said, it is a mine field, and I can imagine no less for men, but in a different way. There are a ton of women that are just looking for a MAN. Some yes a meal ticket to boot. These women probably spent good money to be hooked up with the “man of their dreams” and you crushed it. Good for you! I would imagine that the one that had been involved w/ an N would have been more than happy IF you had exhibited N traits instead of wanting her to “look” at herself. From your experience I can imagine half of your “matches” will do very well when they come into the range of an N.
    I admire that you can remove yourself from the melee and take some time out. So important . Time to process. And get bigger closets? 🙂

    • True on the $5k! Conveniently, they even offered payment plans :/. Of course when they first contacted me, they wouldn’t tell me how much it cost, even after I asked them repeatedly. After I went to their office and did the first few surveys and received the entire sales spiel, they finally told me what it would cost. I was ready to get up and walk out when they said “well how about for $2500?” I laughed and was on my way out the door when they told me they would put me in their system for free and I would be a ‘passive’ member, which meant they wouldn’t actively try to match me. I figured I wouldn’t hear from them for a while, if ever. Surprisingly, my phone has nearly been ringing non-stop from the matchmaking service, even though they aren’t supposed to be actively matching me. I’m thinking that they must have many more 40 something women in their database than they do men of that age.

      One other interesting aspect of the matchmaking service was that they were insistent that I follow their ‘recipe’ for success. Their recipe was that I was to make the initial contact, have a short (<10min) phone conversation to set up a meeting, and then have a meeting over a cup of coffee to see if there is a connection. They were definitely trying to sell the 'love at first site' type of relationship. I didn't follow their rules. At all. They were starting to get upset with me. I could care less what they think. I'm not going to agree to be in a LTR with someone based on a 10 min phone conversation and a 10 min cup of coffee date!

      I do think many of the women would be more comfortable with someone with a different approach than the one I use. I truthfully think some of them WANT a man to be overtly sexual and unable to keep his hands off her. Then they are surprised when Mr. Hands turns into a jerk.

      The woman with the NPD ex and 3 kids was definitely in a conundrum, and I think she really could benefit from some counseling. In the past, I would have done more to 'help' her, but I now realize that it's not my job to 'help' her, or anyone else. She was capable of identifying Narc behaviors, but she did not understand them at all. She said she had been involved with another man since her divorce that exhibited similar behaviors to her ex and ended that relationship, so she's able to spot the behaviors, but she still thinks that 'someday they will change' etc, i.e. codependent thinking. She was codependent in just about every aspect of her life, from her job, to her kids, to her house. It was truthfully quite annoying. She would tell me how happy-go-lucky she was and then spend the day complaining about something to me through text messages. She had started a new job when we first met, and she hated it. From what she told me of it, I would have hated it, too. But what did she do about it? Nothing but complain. I asked her several times if she had started looking for something else, but there was always an excuse why she hadn't. I truly think she enjoyed being the martyr. She was the one that would get things done at all costs, even at great detriment to herself. There's a lot more to this story. Perhaps a topic for another blog post.

      Ha on the closets! I truthfully have a TON of closet space, with a large walk in and an additional closet in my bedroom. There is PLENTY of room. I have so much closet room that over half of the space goes unused, even with no dresser in my bedroom. I believe Ms. Closets had a pretty severe shopping addiction. She told me a few times that she was in a 'difficult' time financially.


      • LOL Stephen! It is a very “interesting” adventure to say the least 🙂 Glad you are sharing it!

        I agree whole heartedly with your assessment of my genders tactics. Most, I do believe look for the sexual advances, and early on. It is how most gauge “interest”. If he doesn’t want to get her into bed immediately, well, there must be something wrong. With him, with her, with the whole scenario. Cuz, for most, that IS the plan right? 🙂 Hook someone quick and fast. And don’t let go, no matter what. And I also agree that there are many more 40 something ish women out there and because they are the majority they are willing to lower their standards to just “get a man”. To say she has one. And, obviously willing to pay 5k to make that happen!!!!

        For every male “asshole” out there ( and there are plenty of women “assholes” too, they don’t have to be N’s ) that is given the boot by his partner/ wife/ gf for horrible transgressions, there are at least 5 women lined up ready, willing and able to make the ” asshole ” their own. They simply do not care. He will be her “asshole” LOL Men for the most part do not have to try much. And if it doesn’t work out, so what? There are plenty more where she came from. Emotional investment is becoming quickly a dying “art” I am afraid.

        Can’t wait to read “chapter 2”!!!!

  3. I am glad to have come across your blog after seeing the wonderful Carrie Reimer re-blog this post. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I am cautiously entering the dating scene again and find that I am constantly looking for the “red flags” …it makes for a bit of work. I have recently learned to pull back from the emotional investing too early and am getting better at trusting my instincts. No small feat (family of origin has narcissism, my ex as well) but I’m determined to stop the cycle. Good for you, I hope you will continue sharing your stories.

    • Welcome Aveline!

      It definitely is a challenge to enter the dating scene again after abuse. I completely empathize. When I decided to try dating again, I went in with the attitude that I was going to take it slow, listen to my gut, not allow myself to be pressured into anything and hopefully at least make some new friends along the way. So far it has worked out quite well. I’ve met quite a few women, but no one that I truly felt I could connect with for a longer term scenario.

      I hear you on stopping the cycle. After a lifetime of narcissism, it’s very difficult to put myself into a different mindset; that mindset that I need to stop the cycle. It’s a work in progress, but so far I’ve been doing OK. I, too, find myself constantly looking for red flags. I feel my hyper vigilance over red flags is a natural outcome of years of not being able to trust myself and my gut to make the right decisions. It’s possible that I may overlook someone that could be a truly great partner right now due to my hyper vigilance, but that’s OK. If I do overlook someone because of my hyper vigilance, it just means i wasn’t at the right place at the time we met for me to be sufficiently accepting of who that person is. Yes, I believe I have to meet the right person, but I also need to meet that person at the right time.

      Best wishes on your healing journey, Aveline!

      Stephen Bach

      • Stephen nice to meet you. Everything you said in your first paragraph is exactly what I am trying to do. There is a huge assessment phase that needs to be balanced though with allowing oneself to be vulnerable and share. I find that the most challenging thing.

        “I feel my hyper vigilance over red flags is a natural outcome of years of not being able to trust myself and my gut to make the right decisions.” Yes, yes, and yes…very well put, and I appreciate how much empowering that statement is for those of us who have lived through abusive relationships when it comes to dating.

  4. I appreciate the honesty of this post, but I don’t know… It seems to me like one off comment and the woman is eliminated. It seems severe. I’m going to follow your blog and see what happens for you.

    • 18mitzvot –

      Yes yes yes!

      That is exactly the point!

      After a lifetime of having red flags literally wrapped around my head and ignoring them, I’m looking at every one very carefully right now and trusting my gut to help me make the right decision.

      It may seem severe to you, but ultimately, the only person that gets to decide who I want to be with is me. I don’t have to give someone another chance ‘just to be nice’. I don’t have to pretend that they really didn’t say or do what they just said or did. I don’t even have to ask for clarification unless I feel it’s warranted. I can end it when and how I see fit, based on my interpretation of the situation. Does that mean I may not give someone that deserves another chance that extra chance? Possibly. But it also means I won’t be giving someone another chance that doesn’t deserve another chance.

      A question for you: Which one of the 8 scenarios listed in this post do you feel would have given me the best chance at a healthy relationship? Which one most deserved another chance?


      • I am gonna comment here………………..I know it was unsolicited , but my 2 cents. None of us need to give anyone any explanation ever re our gut feelings. If it doesn’t feel right, we just don’t do it. We listen to our selves. Doesn’t have to be a statement an action even on the other persons part. Of course an “victim” of an N relationship is going to by hyper vigilent, with good reason , if we are healing/ healed. No one deserves a 2nd date, ever. A date is simply that. It’s not a commitment to anything other than perhaps paying for the cup of coffee. I am always baffled as to why ppl think you have to give someone a “chance”? A chance to do what, exactly? I think Stephen is on the right track. It may not accomplish for the women what they want but if he is ok with it and himself , no harm no foul.

      • Good questions, Stephen. I think you were too harsh with #4, but right to quit anyway. Way too much drama in her family.
        You are also right that only you get to decide who may or may not be good for you, and I love the way you expressed yourself. I am just wondering… how does a person decide when they are ready to start dating again?

      • Absolutely Ellie! Feel free to jump in anytime.

        I agree with all you have to say. No one ‘deserves’ a chance. If a woman and I agree to meet and I choose not to continue after our meeting, we don’t continue. If she chooses not to continue, we don’t continue. It’s as simple as that. I don’t have to offer reasons, and neither does she. I don’t have to make allowances. All I have to do is tell her in a respectful way that I’m not interested in a romantic relationship. I don’t owe her anything, and she doesn’t owe me anything. It’s not her job to try and change who she is to make herself more appealing to me in hopes of furthering our relationship. Truthfully, such behaviors would be a red flag in my book.


        I am not sure where you are at in your healing process, but I feel it’s critical to have left the victim state and own your piece in your prior relationships prior to dating again. Often, this means accepting that you allowed the situation to continue. To be honest, if you feel that people always ‘deserve’ another chance and to not give them that chance is being ‘severe’, you are setting yourself up to be taken advantage of again. As Ellie said, the best approach is to go with what your gut is telling you. Listen…does your gut tell you that you are ready to date? What does it tell you you need to work on? Do you know what you will do when you see red flags? There’s a lot to consider before throwing yourself out there.

        It seems that there is much interest in #4. I would surmise that interest is based on the fact that many of the women that read this have come from similar situations. I would admit that she was the best candidate of all the ones listed, but ultimately, she had many remaining issues from her NXH and still had many behaviors associated with codependency, which meant it would never work. I’m thinking I may make a dedicated post to #4 since there is quite a bit to her story.


  5. “Then she told me that she “never wanted to hear a man apologize to her again” and it was “like fingernails on a chalkboard” when a man would apologize to her. Red flag. ”

    This statement could have been a very covert message on her part. In other words, set YOU up to walk on egg shells knowing you can’t ever apologize. Don’t do anything you need to apologize for.

    Makes me wonder what was really going on with her.

    Hurry up with that post!

    • Truthfully Ellie, her underlying message wasn’t really covert. I asked her if that meant that I couldn’t apologize to her and her response was that if I lived ‘honestly’ I shouldn’t do anything for which I would need to apologize.

      It was a monster red flag in my book. So if I lived ‘honestly’ I should never make a mistake? Yikes!

      I’ll get working on that post 🙂

      • I’m looking forward to part two. I guessed that you were the type of person who would appreciate a good debate, and I’m glad I guessed correctly! It’s all part of recovery.

      • Now I’m jumping in…forgive me ha ha… I agree Stephen that her statement about living honestly means you shouldn’t do anything for which you would need to apologize…very serious red flag. Living honestly and humanly means that mistakes are going to happen. Mistakes and how one gets through them and deals/communicates/resolves are everything in a healthy relationship.

        I can see how some women would be sensitive to having children (I’m a single mom with 2 kiddos, shared custody mind you) and a NPD husband referred to as having “baggage”. That’s a pretty harsh term, and I would probably run from a man who considered these things as baggage. But that is a separate issue – I think you were not harsh at all in leaving that situation. Kids or no kids is a deal breaker for some, and that makes sense. But the fact of the matter is, she was not emotionally divorced from her NPD ex, and seemingly not even aware of the depth of the abusive situation she had been living. Speaking for myself, it took many years to realize that, then to separate, then to establish a separate independent life with my children. Three years separated and it is only THIS year that I feel I am able to be in a position to begin dating in a healthy, albeit extremely cautious/hypervigilant way. I think one needs to be in a position to be OKAY and happy with being alone with oneself, before they should begin dating.

        Sorry, I went on here. I appreciate this discussion and your post Stephen…given me much food for thought in my own process, thank you.

      • Hi Aveline!

        Jump in anytime you would like! No forgiveness necessary because you are more than welcome!

        Yes, her statement about living ‘honestly’ was a huge red flag. Just because I live honestly doesn’t mean I won’t ever make mistakes. To me, living honestly means owning my mistakes and apologizing for them. It’s not possible to live honestly and not ever apologize. Her definition of living honestly is a setup for failure. I agree, she is not aware of how damaged she is. When I get around to writing the post about her, I hope to highlight some other similar episodes that portrayed her codependency and how she still thought that her ex might someday change.

        I understand your concern with the word ‘baggage’. Perhaps there is a better term (‘challenges’)? We all have baggage. Some have more than others. I have a fair amount. I have an elementary age daughter whom I have nearly 50% of the time and an ex that can be quite difficult at times. I also pay a significant amount of money in child support every month. I think one of the biggest baggage items I have is the age of my daughter. Many women that are in my age range are empty nesters or very close to empty nesters. Getting involved with me means that they will have children around for at least the next 10 years. I know that presents a dilemma for some women.

        Kids are certainly not a deal breaker for me. In fact I’d truthfully prefer someone that had a child in my daughter’s age range. She’s a very social kid and I try all I can to give her many social opportunities. My preference would be a woman that has had children. From what I have experienced, women that have never had children have a very different, more self centered, view of life than women that have had children.

        I think you are definitely on the right track to get back to dating again. Yes, we have to own our piece of our past and acknowledge how we contributed to our predicaments. We then need to fully separate emotionally from our abusive past. During this process we are evolving emotionally and as we gain new knowledge and insight, our internal prescription for what makes a successful relationship changes. Dating before we truly reach a new understanding of what we want out of a relationship will most likely lead to a lot of confusion.

        I’m glad you found my thoughts helpful 🙂

        Best wishes to you on your healing journey.


  6. Yes, I agree – a set up for failure.

    “Baggage” has a negative connotation nowadays. I have had that word used insensitively perhaps with respect to my own children. I consider my children to be a huge bonus…smart, curious, confident and thoughtful boys, despite the challenges they’ve faced in recent years, but that would have to be for someone to decide for himself. I agree we all have things that are challenges, or additional considerations, for potential partners. I prefer to be upfront about the major ones that may be deal breakers for men. The fact that I have kids is one of them that I put out there right away. And early on in dating, I think the fact that there are issues with a difficult ex and so on.

    In the past, I’ve dating single men without kids, thinking this would be “easier”. I have in fact found the very same thing as you have, that single fathers (particularly ones who have split custody 50% and take on greater roles in the hand-on parenting) have a maturity and sensitivity that men who don’t have children do not have.

    Really great to have your perspective on this. Good luck on your own journey, I think you are well on your way too.

  7. Pingback: More on #4 (Dating Red Flags pt 2) | The Narcissist's Son

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