Dear Dr. G,
I just got back on the dating scene after a long-term relationship. Even though I totally knew what I was looking for in my last relationship, it still ended up in disaster. Can you tell me what I should be avoiding in my next partner?
Every three minutes, someone in the United States has sex with someone that they totally should not have because they did not look for the red flags. By the time you have finished reading this article, someone will have done it (if you’re a physics major, it’ll have happened five times), and maybe that someone is right here on this campus! It’s so easy to hear your friend talk about his date last night and pick out the problems easily, but it can be really tough to be an objective observer when it comes to your own love life. These are the times when you turn to your really bitchy friend to tell you what to hate about your newest fling, but you’re mad at them right now because they were a little too mean about your last haircut, so I’m happy to take up the role.
I would say the first round of red flags are ones that you can tell right off the bat, without even much conversation. For example, let’s start with physical attributes; do they keep their nails trimmed so as to not injure you while fingering you? Is there a bunch of dirt up under those nails? Drop a subtle hint to keep ‘em clean or move on. Do they wear a little red hat that says “Make America Great Again”? Or have a questionable tattoo of their last partner’s name across their forehead? These will naturally lead you to a few things you need to unpack, but maybe sometimes it’s easier to just burn the whole suitcase and keep swiping on Tinder. If you think a red flag is that they weigh a bit too much, have body hair or that their clothes are kind of old, you are certainly the red flag in this scenario and maybe you should deal with that before trying to put any of your parts inside of another person. You can further consider how they present themselves on social media. If you can scroll through their Twitter and laugh at all the horrible sh*t they say about their exes, remember that that will be you one day, and it’s all fun and games until they post a “haha funny screenshot of my Notes app!” meme and suddenly your full first and last name is on the internet under the heading “let me peg him.”
The next round of red flags are the ones I think people overlook the most, and they fall under the umbrella of “poor communication skills.” Listen, I am not the type of person to micromanage another person’s time, but if it takes six days for you to have a conversation of five text bubble exchanges, something is certainly not right. Also, people who are actually into you tend to send more than two words when they text you … If all someone does for you is fuck you and send you one text every four days, you could probably Venmo your computer science major friend to program a vibrator that does that and more. Assuming that they actually talk to you, you also should be careful of people who communicate very poorly. If your new girlfriend loves to share her feelings with you, but only ever at 2 a.m. when you’re asleep, plus her feelings are that she doesn’t like you, I think it’s probably best for everyone to cut the cord. Also, I don’t know about y’all, but I definitely don’t love when my casual hookup tells me in detail about the sex that they had last week with someone else (especially during a pandemic???) so if they can’t resist describing the hot f*cking they did with their professor last week maybe you’re better off friends than partners. Finally, if you expect a good morning and good night text every day with no gaps in communication, you are once again the red flag; I know constant contact is nice but we are just beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel of the largest health crisis in the last century. And outside of that, maybe their annoying biology professor just dropped the fourth group presentation assignment in a row. Cut everyone a little slack.
The final, and I’d say most important set of red flags, are the ones that arise when you’re bangin’. If you’re both sliding against each other and your slicked up bodies make a funny farting sound, you can laugh at that; if you get weird looks for laughing during a hookup, then I recommend you start hooking up with other people. Is this new partner open about consent and boundaries? One of the worst times to fly blind is when you could either just be making out or you could be having anal, and it’s simply always best practice to ask what the expectations are before you have sex with (maybe?) a stranger. If you think consent is not very sexy or don’t like talking about it, you already know what I’m gonna say … you are probably the red flag. If you prefer your partners start choking you without even asking, you’re definitely part of the problem. If anything, it’s kind of your civic duty; sure, maybe you like when your partner slaps you during sex unprovoked, BUT I DON’T! We as a campus and society should not reward people who do that in bed, and N*cole W*ng would expect better of us as trauma-informed, respectful and accountable little sluts, God rest her soul (she’s not dead, I just miss her).
Trust me, the red flags are always there, whether they refuse to baby talk their pets or “just don’t really listen to music” (I will never trust someone who is able to be alone with their thoughts at all times, I literally had to listen to HAIM just to write this article). You’re amazing, you deserve the best and you deserve to take off the rose-colored glasses!