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Serial Daters: What to Look For and How to Deal with One

by eharmony Editorial Team - November 22, 2023

If you’ve been single long enough, chances are you’ve run into a serial dater. As the name implies, serial daters aren’t in it for the long term. They date several people in succession and never for a long time – what attracts them is the thrill of the chase. And once they’ve acquired their target? The sheen wears off and it’s time to move on.

While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to keep things casual, serial daters rarely make it clear they’re in it “for a good time not a long time”. They often leave partners confused and even heartbroken, wondering what they did wrong when the fault is all on the other side. Let’s look more deeply at the definition of serial dating, the signs of a serial dater and how to deal with dating one.

Why serial daters act the way they do

While some are master manipulators and enjoy playing with peoples’ emotions, serial daters often act from a bone-deep fear of rejection – basically, they’re scared you’ll leave so they torpedo the relationship first. They love the validation and appreciation that comes with a relationship but the moment vulnerability happens – yours or theirs – they’re ready to bail. What seems like a promising relationship can suddenly blow up with no warning.

While a serial dater isn’t necessarily a narcissist, studying serial dater psychology does reveal a tendency towards self-absorption. They’re so focused on getting what they want from a relationship that they forget there’s another person involved.

Dealing with a serial dater may be fun in the short term but almost never works out. So how do you identify the signs? Here’s some tips:

How to spot a serial dater

Spotting a serial dater can be tricky in the initial stages of a relationship – many of their behaviors aren’t bad in and of themselves. However, there are some signs of a serial dater to watch out for, especially in combination:

Big, showy gestures

Roses, a ridiculously fancy first dinner, a declaration of feelings way before it’s reasonable to expect one: all tried and true serial dater tactics. And all designed to make you believe they’re a genuine prospect as a partner –  don’t fall for it!

They keep things superficial

For all a serial dater talks a good game, you’ll find they rarely say anything of substance. Conversations will be casual, compliments will be off-the-cuff and there will be no room for honesty or vulnerability – two signs someone is serious about you.

They’re terrible communicators

Serial daters often take a while to text back, or can even go no-contact without reason or explanation. Texting regularly or talking at length with someone can lead to deeper attachments, which serial daters like to avoid, hence pretending they’ve forgotten you exist.

They love attention

Serial daters crave attention and who better to get it from than a new significant other? This is partially why they move on so quickly – once the initial relationship glow has faded they need a new source of validation.

Their history makes it clear

It’s possible, of course, that they just didn’t feel a connection before you. But if your partner has a history of short, casual relationships, it’s a potential red flag when deciding whether or not they’re a serial dater. Most people don’t change dramatically regardless of what romance novels might tell you.

How to handle a serial dater

Dealing with a serial dater can be really hard, especially if you’re looking for a genuine relationship. But if you really want tame the beast, here are some ways you can try to keep them interested.

Maintain your independence

Serial daters love to be the center of your world but you can push back on that by making sure they know you have your own life, hobbies and passions. Show you don’t need them to be complete.

Match their communication levels

They text rarely? Don’t blow up their phone in response. They are fine with just a weekly call? Call back once and leave it be. It’s also important to let them know how you like to communicate and how often, so they can match your style.

Take sex off the table

While there’s nothing wrong with casual sex, someone who values you rather than the thrill of the chase will wait until you’re ready. Waiting creates anticipation and can work in your favor when it comes to keeping them interested.

Give yourself a deadline

Your time has value. Give yourself a period – three months, perhaps – to take the relationship for a test drive. Don’t give them an ultimatum but make sure they know you’re not one to waste time on a dead-end relationship.

All of that said, not every serial dater wants to settle down. George Clooney did, it’s true, but then not all of us are Amal Clooney. If you believe your partner is a serial dater, sometimes the best option is to simply end the relationship before you get any more invested in it.

Kiss serial dating goodbye with eharmony

Discovering someone you thought had real relationship potential is a serial dater can be tough, especially when you’re looking for something long-term. Why take the chance when on eharmony, there are millions of eligible singles looking for the same thing you are – a real and lasting love. Leave the heartbreak of serial dating behind and sign up for eharmony today.

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