Dating Red Herrings: 12 Traits That May Point You in the Wrong Direction

by eHarmony Staff

We’re all familiar with movie "red herrings" — those clues or events that seem important, but only take the viewer in the wrong direction and away from the real solution. 

In the real world of dating, red herrings are all too common. Things that seem important, impressive or even disappointing early on may turn out to be false leads that point us in the wrong direction. In the early stages of a relationship you have to make decisions with little bits of information. So we all look for indicators to help us choose to go forward or go away. Some of these traits are good indicators and some can be very misleading. Not because they are bad things, necessarily, but because they don’t tell you much about whether the person will be a good partner for you. Putting too much faith in these litmus tests can have you wasting time and energy on someone who was never really right for you.

Dating Red Herrings

We're all familiar with movie "red herrings" -- those clues or events that seem important, but only take the viewer in the wrong direction and away from the real solution. In the real world of dating, red herrings are all too common. Things that seem important, impressive or even disappointing early on may turn out to be false leads that point us in the wrong direction. In the early stages of a relationship you have to make decisions with little bits of information. So we all look for indicators to help us choose to go forward or go away. Some of these traits are good indicators and some can be very misleading. Not because they are bad things, necessarily, but because they don’t tell you much about whether the person will be a good partner for you. Putting too much faith in these litmus tests can have you wasting time and energy on someone who was never really right for you.

A Life Dedicated to Fun

What if you discover that your new guy/gal is REALLY about fun, frivolity, and distraction. There are people who work hard and play hard, and then some that just play hard. At a certain point you’ll probably want to have a sense that your good time Charlie has a deeper level and deeper goals than just putting food on the table and seeking the next thrill. Seeing a person once or twice a week and having a great time can be intoxicating. Make sure you don’t let this blind you to the other elements that you need to see before moving forward.

Great Small-Talk Skills

It isn’t that light conversation skills are bad. It’s nice to have a nice conversation. It’s just that as a barometer for deep connection, small-talk isn’t a so reliable. In fact, many awful people learn early on to engage in small talk. It’s said that British royalty are taught to be able to talk to anyone for 3 minutes. (“Hello, and what do you do for a living?”) It’s really just a tactic to be able to interact in a pleasant and shallow manner. By the same token people who aren’t good at small-talk may take more effort and be well worth it.

Exceptional Gifts

Intelligence can be impressive. In fact, some of us have left a first date and been bowled over by the brilliance of the person we just met. You can’t help but think, “Wow, that person is really smart, and they are attracted to me?” It can feel flattering and increase our attraction. But, certainly, we know that truly brilliant people can make for difficult partners. The same is true for talented people. The eccentricity of talent can make a life together maddening. The point is not that your exceptional date is a bad person waiting to make your life tougher, but rather that you shouldn’t be dazzled by their gifts.

Financial Success

Money certainly isn’t a bad thing, but it tells you so little about the person who has it. Some people have money because they are willing to work 80 hours a week, eating and sleeping their job. Is that a partner you’d like to have? Some people have money because their parents left it to them. They have never worked and have no work ethic. Is this a person that sounds like a good partner for you? Some people have money and a balanced well-ordered life. It’s impossible to know without a great deal more information.

The Joker

A jokey person is quite different from a fun person. A jokester is a person who rattles off one-liners the entire night. You get the feeling they could’ve been a stand-up comedian. We all like to laugh, and being on a first date with a joker can be a blast, but unlike some of these traits that my hide unpleasant behavior, the joker may cause trouble by just continuing to be himself. One night of jokes can be great. Two weeks of jokes may be torture. Also, a person who cannot be serious may have serious issues that they are avoiding.

Status

Dr. Neil Clark Warren, eHarmony Founder and Psychologist, always said that most people choose their mates based on approximately 5 personality traits. One of the five is Status. Do you feel like the new person is of your station in life or higher? Women tend to value this more than men, but it is important to both genders. The problem is that status, unlike some things, is subject to change. It is also a product of behavior – like financial standing. You may like that your new husband is a mover and shaker, but not like that he plays golf 20 hours a week to be that way.

No Relationship Baggage

He’s 38 and never married. No bad break-ups. No angry exes. No past heartache. It seems too good to be true. Maybe it is good, and maybe it means he has never been in a real relationship. Maybe he has never done the hard work of trying to make a relationship work. Maybe he just runs before it gets serious, and maybe you would get to teach him all these skills and hope that it works out. Baggage can be annoying, but it can also be the proof that a person is strong, tempered, and willing to really love you.

The Charmer

It is a graceless age in many ways. We’re short on social niceties and long on convenience and efficiency. (Short text messages that are barely in English, for example.) So, when we meet a charming person it can feel wonderful. It can cause us to lower our guard and look past a whole host of issues. Just remember, charm is a learned social behavior. Charm for your parents and friends is a wonderful thing to see, but it’s just one thing you need to know about your new person.

Lots of Friends

She has lots of friends. Good thing, right? Probably. But it’s very important that you meet these friends and see her interact with them. Is it a group of equals? Is she too eager to please? Is she dependent on these friends? Does she want them around all the time, short changing your alone time? What if her friends are mostly men? That introduces a new series of questions. There’s no shortcut to learning about a person’s nature. Friends are the kind of indicator that require deeper knowledge.

Really Laid Back

If your life is harried and hectic, spending the evening with a very laid back person can be a treat. Their entire demeanor puts you at ease, and you may end the night feeling as if you’ve had a restful meditation. This is a great place to start a relationship. It’s important to realize that if you were to end up together this super laid back style is going to need to be mixed with some proactive energy. You’re going to need a spark. You’re going to need passion and a willingness to make the relationship deeper and more connected. If you are the only one bringing these things to the relationship you’ll likely resent his/her lack of initiative.

Close with His/Her Family

A family person! Who wouldn’t be thrilled to be with someone who values family? Have you ever seen, Arrested Development? Just knowing that a person loves to be with their family is the tip of the knowledge iceberg. Will you like their family? Will the family be in on every decision you make as a couple? Some families are like quicksand and some are a blessing. You’ll need more info to know which you have.

The Attentive Dater

Many people dream of being with an attentive person, especially if they’ve spent time dating someone who was less than interested in them. So, if you find that your new love is an attentive person, that’s great. Just don’t use that trait as some kind of super qualifier for a deeper relationship. Because what feels special and attentive early on, may seem clingy, needy, and sad later on. You want this new person to have an interest in you, and to have an interest in their own life.

View Next Slideshow : Six Things We Miss About 'Old-Fashioned' Dating

Why some "old-fashioned" ideas about dating may be due for a comeback.


more blog posts

More like this:

By posting a comment, I agree to the Community Standards.
Need help with eHarmony.com?