Because consistency and reliability are the cornerstone of a relationship, it’s important to figure out who someone is – reliable or unreliable –before you start to develop serious feelings for a person. Once you’re hooked, after all, it can be awfully hard to tear yourself away from someone. I will review the basic warning signs of unreliability so that you can make sure your Reliability Detector gives you a clear signal when it’s time to move on to the next person.
Losing or messing up directions to your meeting place.
Yes, everyone can get lost, but this first impression is important so your date should use good judgment in planning: researching ahead of time how to get to the meeting place; checking transportation methods or parking restrictions; and allowing extra time to find the place. If your date has a problem with finding their way there, it’s a clear sign that the meeting is either not very important to him, or that she may be a disorganized person. If it’s the latter, ask yourself: Do I really want to deal with someone who’s disorganized for years to come? Finally, to be fair, getting lost or messing up the directions once may be understandable. If your date does this twice, however, this level of flakiness and disorganization is a serious warning sign.
Your date’s social or extracurricular calendar couldn’t be fuller.
When comparing, say, fifty adults within the same age range, there is an obvious spectrum of “busy.” Simply put, some people are busier than others. When you first meet someone, try to get a sense of how busy they are. In other words, how much do they typically pack their calendar? Aside from working hours, is this someone who is usually home most nights of the week and out of the house one or two nights per week? Is this someone who chooses to be out of the house most nights per week but home only one or two nights? Finally, if you look at the weekend as a whole, is this someone who packs their weekend full with activities? My point: Dating someone who structures their life so they are always busy means that they may not have a lot of time to give you once you’re in a relationship. As reliable as he or she may be with all the activities that keep them busy, their calendar tells you that they may not be so reliable for you and only you.
Your date is easily distractible or a little spastic.
When you’re having your first few conversations with a date – whether on the phone or in person – watch out for signs of distractibility. If he tends to lose his train of thought frequently or has to ask you again what you’ve said, this may be a person whose brain works so fast or frenetically that they can’t focus easily for a period of time. Easily distractible individuals are often unreliable because they are disorganized internally; they simply can’t juggle much without getting flustered. Just imagine how this trait could bother you years down the road when you’re dealing with a mortgage, children, or unexpected life stressors. “Spastic” might be cute or charming in the very beginning, but do not sugarcoat the truth: It is not charming years later.
Your date is late more than once.
If your date is late to call you or to meet you the first time you’ve scheduled to connect, make a mental note and do not forget it. Lateness is a major sign of either disorganization or selfishness, and each of those traits makes for a highly unreliable person. If your date is late a second time within a short period of time, you should seriously consider waving this new relationship goodbye before things get any more serious. Being a grownup is all about honoring one’s commitments. Normally, I tell my clients, “You teach people how to treat you.” Accordingly, I suggest that they tell their date what they need and give their date a chance to change their behavior. But if you’re just getting to know a date and he or she is late more than once, your date has failed to honor basic social conventions in such a fundamental way that I don’t believe it is worth your time to try to change the behavior. My goodness, if they don’t get it by now, will they ever get it?
Reliability isn’t the sexiest of traits. When contestants on dating shows are asked what they’re looking for in a partner, no one ever exclaims, “Reliability!” Interestingly, that’s part of the problem people have in dating: prioritizing the wrong factors. Make sure that you prioritize reliability above almost all other traits as you search for lasting love!
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.