Show me someone who doesn’t have any personal issues and I’ll show you a briefcase full of thousand dollar bills. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, it’s simply not going to happen. The goal in dating isn’t to find someone who doesn’t have any issues but rather to find someone who doesn’t have serious emotional problems. This is not to say that there’s anything inherently bad about a person with emotional problems; those individuals just have to work on their issues and wait to get into a relationship until they’re stable and balanced. As you look for a lasting relationship, I’ll give you the 411 on how to distinguish between those who have basic, everyday issues versus those who have intense emotional problems.
If you see red flags in the first few weeks of dating
The best way to tell if someone has serious emotional issues as opposed to the garden-variety, everyday issues is to consider the timing. In the beginning of dating, everyone is theoretically on their best behavior. For this reason, you shouldn’t see any major red flags in the first month or so of dating. If you do see such signs in the first few weeks, it’s fair to assume that you’ve started dating someone who has significant, long-lasting emotional issues.
If family or friends notice your date’s bad behavior
There’s nothing quite like someone you know well to keep it real and put a situation in perspective for you. If you are dating someone who has any number of issues – a touch of jealousy, a hint of insecurity, or a habit of getting defensive – you and those close to you will typically blow it off. Why? Because we all have flaws. However, we don’t all have serious emotional issues. If someone close to you points out something worrisome in your date – and you trust the person who reports it, it’s fair to say that your date probably has some emotional issues that could seriously get in the way of having a good relationship.
If the intensity of your date’s negative feelings are too strong
It’s perfectly normal to show a little anger or frustration here or there when you’re dating someone. Yet sometimes you’re out on a date with someone and his or her reaction hits you like a freight train. When you see your date express a negative emotion, you will instantly have an oh snap! moment if the emotion is too strong, and this isn’t normal. If your date gets a little too angry or frustrated about something small in the blink of an eye, be very careful. There’s a good chance that your date has some serious emotional issues.
If your date can’t bounce back quickly after getting upset about something small
A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is this: Getting annoyed or upset about something minor is okay as long as you can bounce back within a few minutes. But if you get upset and you’re then stuck in a funk that’s hard to get out of? It’s a problem. If you’re on a date with someone who can’t seem to bounce back quickly, it’s a sign that your date may have some pretty heavy emotional issues. Ask yourself immediately, do I want to be this person’s therapist in the relationship? (Just checking…but please answer “no.”)
If you think about your date’s worrisome traits before you fall asleep or when you first wake up
I’ve heard it said that the thoughts you have when you first wake up are some of the most clear and honest thoughts you will have all day, and I have found this to be true in my own life and in the lives of my therapy clients. If you wake up in the morning and replay upsetting statements your date made or you mull over things he or she did, odds are that your instinct is sending you a clear message that this person may have some serious emotional problems. Your instincts speak to you loudly when you hit the pillow at night, too. If you’re lying in bad and trying to fall asleep but keep replaying something upsetting about your date, it’s a sign that your date is triggering real anxiety in you and that this person may have emotional issues that are interfering with your ability to relax and feel good about the future of the relationship.
You’ll hit the dating bullseye – finding someone positive and lasting – if you remember to be on the lookout for serious emotional problems as you meet new people across the dating world. When you do meet them, don’t freak out, be rude, or run for hills crying. Instead, try your hardest to be kind and empathetic, and let them down easy. If they catch you off guard by trying to make future plans, say, “Let me think about it and get back to you.” If they go in for a real kiss when you know you’re not going to see them again, say, “Can we just do a kiss on the cheek?” Ultimately, being nice is the right thing to do, even when you meet with someone who has emotional problems.
What has your experience been like identifying serious emotional issues in a date?
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.