There is a definite spectrum of normal behavior when it comes to dating. If you get lucky, you will find yourself on a date with someone who is polite, reliable, and overall good company. It’s the other end of the spectrum that you have to worry about. One of the patterns of behaviors that is abnormal – and downright off-putting- is a man or women who comes across as too intense. What does “too intense” look like?
One of the main ways men and women show intensity is through touch or physical contact. Perhaps they hold your hand with a grip that says they’re afraid you could pull away at any moment, or they may put both hands on your shoulders and physically guide you or clutch you as if you are a car that needs to be steered. Similarly, some men and women will kiss you with force or try to hold the kiss with an intensity that feels like too much. No matter what the specific behavior is, when you see someone be too intense physically, you know it immediately and it should be a warning sign that this is someone who could be either very needy or very controlling.
Intense eye contact
This type of intensity can be unnerving for anyone. Of course, when talking to someone, it’s normal to make eye contact. But intense men and women seek eye contact and want to hold that intense eye contact as if it’s locked into gear. This behavior makes people nervous because there is a possessive, emotionally intense element to it. If someone makes eye contact with you once or twice, that’s fine. If someone needs to lock eye contact on a regular basis, that person is focusing on you with too much intensity – and that never ends well.
Too much planning for the future
When you meet someone you like, it’s expected that you will envision future dates or shared activities in the future. But too much future talk is a sign of intensity that should make you run (or maybe walk, as lifeguards say) for the nearest exit sign. Anyone talking too much about the future – when you’re on one of the first few dates – is trying to get you to verbally agree to a contract that the two of you will stay together. If people are psychologically healthy, they say to themselves, “I like what I see so far, too, but why should there be any rush? It’s not like making a relationship official comes with a deadline like filing taxes.”
Showing emotions that are too intense, too soon
In short, the beginning of dating should involve everyone being on their very best behavior and showing their best possible self. Of course, we all have issues – psychologists like myself included! – but everyone should be working hard to keep it together and present a healthy, balanced version of themselves early in dating. Yes, you want to be authentic and you should be your true self on dates, but if you see someone showing emotions that are really intense – especially anger, bitterness, sadness or hopelessness – the person you’re on a date with is telling you from the start that he or she is intense – and maybe even a little psychologically imbalanced. We all have intense negative emotions sometimes, but we should reserve the expression of those intense feelings for conversations with people we trust and know well. Why would anyone share intense feelings with someone they hardly know? That doesn’t make sense because you don’t really know someone you just started dating, and you should never share too much with someone you don’t know.
The most important point
There is nothing inherently bad or wrong with anyone who is intense. Yes, they may sometimes overdo it or feel things too intensely, but at least they feel things. For men and women who struggle with this, they just need to pull back on the level of intensity. At the same time, a man or woman who comes across as too intense in the beginning of dating isn’t necessarily the best relationship material at this point in time. Dating someone who is too intense from the very beginning is usually a bad idea because that kind of emotion can’t be sustained over time, and caution – the opposite of intensity – should be a focus in the beginning of dating so that everyone makes sure they are investing in a person who makes sense for their particular personality.
About the Author:
Dr. Seth is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, Psychology Today blogger, and TV guest expert. He practices in Los Angeles and treats a wide range of issues and disorders and specializes in relationships, parenting, and addiction. He has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve.