Updated: Dec 7, 2020
Red flags are always so vivid in the rear view mirror, aren’t they? It’s easy to look back at what now appears to be a blinking, neon “NOPE,” and think, “I really should have seen this coming.”
But unfortunately Mr. Wrong doesn’t come with a warning label. In fact, he usually shows up to a first date in his best Mr. Right mask. And it’s up to us to unmask him.
What makes a man Mr. Right?
Simple. Sing it, Aretha!
If you want a healthy, happy relationship, you need some R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Love is lovely, but at the end of the day it’s respect that lays the groundwork for trust. You can’t trust someone who doesn’t respect your boundaries. And you can’t find true intimacy with someone you can’t trust.
In short: if you’re dating a dude who doesn’t treat you with respect, he’s the wrong guy for you. Period.
But when you’re caught up in the buzzing new relationship energy of a fledgling romance, it’s hard to see those red flags through your rose-tinted glasses. And by the time you realize who you’re really dealing with, your feelings may have taken over, leading you to make excuses for his disrespectful behavior and to rationalize your decision to put up with it.
That, in short, is how so many women with all five s’s (smart, strong, sane, sexy, and successful) end up in abusive, dysfunctional relationships. Because what you put up with, you end up with.
Happily, there’s a simple test you can use as early on as you please to find out if you’re dating the real deal–a man who has genuine respect for women like you–or simply a master of disguise.
Here’s how it works. Say you’re out on a first date. It’s going well. Maybe he bought you a fancy drink (the kind with an umbrella!), or maybe you’re enjoying a lovely stroll together through the park.
The witty banter is flowing, and the chemistry is definitely there.
But at the same time, you’re starting to get a vibe that something is… off.
Step one is to pay close attention to that feeling. Intuition is just a fancy word for all the information your subconscious mind is picking up that your conscious mind hasn’t had time to fully process. If your gut is telling you this guy might be less than respectful, trust your instincts and move on to step two to test your hypothesis.
Step two is to find a reason to say “no” to your date in a non-confrontational way, or to casually push back. For example, if he tries to order you a second drink, tell him, “No thanks, I’m good for now.” If he makes a suggestion for something to do afterward, make an alternate suggestion. If he asks you about something personal, playfully reply that you will tell him another time. Don’t explain yourself or justify your response. Let your friendly, but contrary, reply stand on its own.
The idea here isn’t to be rude or uncooperative; you’re still in the testing phase and this may turn out to be Mr. Right (or at least Mr. Right Now) after all. You’re simply setting down a boundary, calmly and cheerfully. This step may feel awkward at first, since we women are socialized to be accommodating, especially on a first date. So you might want to role play in advance with a friend. The more you practice, the easier it gets.
Step three is to take note of his response. Does he seem irritated? Or does he take your response in stride? Does he try to guilt trip or cajole you into changing your mind? Does he try to be in control? Or is he unruffled and happy to accommodate?
His response will speak volumes about whether or not his default setting is to respect women and accept healthy boundaries. And that is the single best measure of whether or not he’s going to treat you respectfully in the long-term.
Bottom line: if this guy won’t take “no” for an answer, then he’s not the guy for you. Because if you can’t feel safe saying no to him, you’ll never feel safe saying yes to him, either.