We’ve all been there. In the middle of a first date (maybe even the second, third, or fourth) and the person we thought we really liked does something unforgivable. Just like that, all of the attraction is gone. Or maybe you’re on that date and suddenly the person you’re really feeling just doesn’t seem to be feeling you anymore, and you wonder what you might have done to change the vibe so quickly.
While it’s totally possible that neither person has done anything wrong and that the sparks just fizzled, there are some behaviors that are serious turnoffs for most people. It’s true that these offenses can vary a bit from person to person so I spoke with several relationship experts and psychologists to discover the top behaviors that turn people off.
Forgetting to show interest
While no one wants someone who is too clingy, it’s important to remember that showing some level of interest is necessary to maintain a relationship. I spoke with Samantha Daniels, a professional matchmaker, relationship expert, and author who told me that forgetting to show interest could be a deal breaker.
“You may be one of those people who genuinely forgets to reply to texts or Facebook messages. However, your forgetfulness is no excuse for bad manners,” she said. “Your partner will get annoyed if you do not respond to his or her notes time and time again. Remedy this by making it a habit to send a quick reply back as soon as you see a message. Even if the message is nothing urgent, your loved one will appreciate the quick response.”
Not expressing gratitude or withholding acknowledgement
Just like showing interest is important, expressing gratitude for the thoughtful things your partner does — and acknowledging things that are going on in their life — helps sustain a connection. Daniels told me that it can be as simple as thanking your partner for doing the dishes, but that actually saying the words is important.
“You may think your significant other knows you appreciate something, but it is always better to vocalize it to them,” Daniels told me. “Plus, it is important to show thanks to people in all areas of your life. When you show appreciation to coworkers and strangers, your loved one will realize that you are a considerate, thoughtful person.”
Chris M. Lyon, a relationship expert and coach told me that not only do people want to be appreciated, they want to be heard and understood. “When people are acknowledged, their physiology changes and they relax, listen, and open up,” Lyon said. “In a relationship, the partner who refuses or can’t acknowledge is seen as too self-centered or ignorant to be able to understand where someone else is coming from. It is literally putting a wall up to someone who is trying to share their feelings or experiences.” Lyon said this is one of the most harmful behaviors that he’s seen with couples.
Acting like a child
Daniels told me that immaturity can be a deal breaker in relationships as well. “This may seem like a no-brainer, but it is unfortunately something that is all too common in many relationships,” she said. “When one person acts entitled and makes childish demands, that signals that the person is not ready for a serious, long-term commitment.”
She went on to add that if you’re finding you still maintain the mindset you had while you were in college, it’s “time for an update.” She elaborated, “Your loved one will appreciate any increase in responsibility from you, and you will feel good knowing that he or she respects you as an equal partner in the relationship.”
Excessive texting while together or being preoccupied
If forgetting to show interest or not expressing gratitude are already deal breakers, it makes sense that being preoccupied on dates — or being more concerned about text messages than you are about your partner — are less than ideal. Rachel Conlisk, a relationship expert and dating coach, told me that if you aren’t paying attention to your date, they’ll start paying attention to someone else altogether. “Being more interested in your mobile tells your date that you have more interesting things than them on your phone,” she said. “No one wants to feel second best.”
Erika Boissiere, a licensed marriage and family therapist and founder of The Relationship Institute of San Francisco agrees. “No one likes to feel like the person they are talking to is preoccupied,” she told me. “The feeling that someone has something better to do, or their mind is elsewhere makes us feel incredibly unimportant. And when we feel like a low priority in someone’s life, it’s usually a huge turn off.” So put away your phone and listen to what your partner is saying.
Penny pinching on a date
Conlisk also told me that another big turn off during a date is being a penny pincher. While it’s one thing — and totally fine — to want to split the bill, it’s all about how you do it.
“Nothing is more unattractive than someone who scrupulously tots up to the last penny exactly how much each of you has spent at the end of the date to split the bill,” Conlisk told me. “Dates should be fun, not an exercise in math. Split it equally, or take it in turns to pay, and concentrate on conversation and having fun.”
Disrespect for service industry workers
While you’re out on your date, it’s also important to avoid being rude to your servers, baristas, and other service industry personnel. Kimberly Hershenson, a NYC-based therapist, told me that this is one of the top turnoffs she hears from her clients.
“Rudeness in general is a huge turn off for many of my clients, and I often hear that many pay close attention to how others treat people who serve them for an indication about how they might be treated further down the road,” she said. “One client in particular stop dating a man after he yelled at a waitress for getting his order wrong. She saw it is a sign he had a temper and would one day blow up at her.”
Talking about previous partners
It isn’t just about what you do, it can also be about what you say or who you’re talking about. Relationship expert Conlisk told me that talking about previous partners is a big no-no. “This sends the message to your date that you have other [people] on your mind, and you are more interested in your exes than finding out about the new [person] in you life,” she said, adding that no one wants to feel like they’re in competition with your history.
While there may be times when you need to talk about prior relationships and partners, it’s a good general rule to keep it to yourself, especially early on. “Even worse than talking about exes is [complaining] about them,” Conlisk added. “You will not only come across as a negative person, your date will wonder if [they] will feature on your list of exes to moan about in the future.”
Selfishness, arrogance, and bragging
Relationships are all about give and take. That’s why selfishness, arrogance, and bragging on the part of one person in a relationship can make the other feel left out or neglected. Hershenson told me that this is especially true if one person is being selfish when it comes to sex. “Whether it’s guilt tripping a partner into having sex when they don’t want to, or ignoring a partner’s need for pleasure in the bedroom, clients often complain about not having their needs met sexually,” she said.
Boissiere agrees and added that this selfishness can come up in conversations as well. “When people take over a conversation, and make it ‘all about them,’ it’s incredibly hard for the listener to stay engaged,” she said. “Worse, if this person is a repeat offender, we lose interest altogether, and will even avoid talking to them. The person’s mind is clearly on just themselves, and this can be a major turn off.”
Clinical Psychologist Helen Odessky said that any kind of arrogance, bragging, one-upping behaviors, and repeatedly turning the conversation and all attention to yourself turns people off. “People like to feel reciprocity in a relationship,” she told me. “We all have a psychological need to be ‘seen’ so if one person continuously takes all the attention, we feel invisible and are turned off.”
“Saying you’ll be at a place at a certain time and constantly running late is annoying to many of my clients,” Hershenson told me. “If you’re repeatedly late, it starts feeling like you don’t care about other people’s time.”
This may mean leaving a few minutes earlier than usual before meeting someone for a date, but it will be worth it to avoid being late. If you do end up running late regularly, ask yourself if there’s a reason you are struggling to be on time. It could be you aren’t actually all that excited to spend time with the person to begin with.
Lack of confidence
While we’ve already established that arrogance and cockiness can be a turn off, the opposite may also be true. According to coach Lyon, confidence is in general the most attractive attribute for people.
“If someone moves, behaves, and talks in ways that show they are not confident, it’s an instant turnoff, because it’s seen as a weakness in spirit or character,” Lyon said. “In relationships, the non-confident partner can be seen as almost a liability, not dependable or strong for the other partner to lean on.”
Lyon also told me that while confidence is the biggest turn on in a relationship, communication is the most bonding attribute in a relationship and that poor communication leads to a lot of problems. “Things are assumed, confused, and up in the air. This breeds hurt, stagnation, and divisiveness,” she noted.
Lyon went on to say that while good communication in the relationship can be a turn on, poor communication “can seem like apathy and rejection, leaving the partner feeling insecure with the relationship and pushed away.” If you’re having trouble communicating with your partner, consider seeing a professional, either in individual therapy or in couples’ counseling.
While hygiene isn’t a behavior per se, psychologist Odessky said that poor hygiene shows a lot more than just a lack of showering or teeth brushing priorities.
“Because it is seen as disrespectful of others not to practice basic hygiene, we see people with poor hygiene as undesirable friends and mates,” she said. Not only are you not respecting yourself if you practice poor hygiene, you’re also being disrespectful to others around you. A little deodorant can go a long way.
Just as Conlisk suggested you should never complain about previous partners, Odessky told me that this applies to all forms of complaining and “woe-is-me” behavior. “If you tend to complain more than anything else, people will be put off,” Odessky said. “It can feel burdensome, and emotions are contagious, so people will try to insulate themselves from those they see as overly negative in order to protect themselves psychologically.”
If you’re feeling a need to complain or need a safe space to vent, don’t put all of this on your partner. As much as your partner likely wants to be supportive of you, you can’t expect them to take it all on themselves.
Davida Rappaport is a psychic and spiritual counselor who has over 35 years of experience counseling people on personal growth, self-esteem, dating, and relationships. She told me that many of her clients have trouble with criticism.
“When someone offers them advice, the fine line between constructive criticism and insults and abuse can easily be crossed,” she said. “Many of my clients have come from abusive backgrounds and relationships, so when someone offers them advice or a critique, they are immediately turned off, do not want to listen to anything the other person has to say, and become very defensive.” Rappaport said that any advice or critique should be delivered in a loving, supportive way.
Excessive drinking or drug use
While drinking and drug use may not be an immediate deal-breaker for everyone, Rappaport said that many of her clients have problems with friends, partners, and other people in their lives “who consume an overabundance of alcohol, or are recreational drug users.” These clients find it very difficult to deal with these people in their lives.
“When someone is intoxicated on a more or less regular basis, my clients find they cannot talk to them,” she said. “In many cases, they find they are dealing with someone who does not want to take responsibility or carry their own weight in a relationship or work environment.” Rappaport added that being under the influence of excessive alcohol or recreational drugs often impairs someone’s judgment and behavior. “My clients can become so frustrated, they refuse to talk to the person under those conditions.”
Being fake or lying
While there are a lot of different behaviors that turn people off, the one that tops the list for many of the experts I spoke to is lying or being fake. Therapist Boissiere told me that, as adults, we have very little time for shallow and meaningless conversations. “What boils up for many is that when someone is ‘fake,’ it’s very hard to trust them,” she said. “At the root of it, how can you trust someone that isn’t being honest even [during] a simple conversation?”
Rappaport also deals with a lot of women for whom lying and being fake is a problem in their relationships. “Many of these women come from backgrounds where the men in their lives constantly lied to them. As a result, they keep attracting the same type of men over and over again because it is familiar and comfortable for them,” Rappaport said. “If they can catch their partners or potential partners in a lie before they become emotionally involved, they probably would walk away. Once they discover the man has lied, they are done and the relationship is over, sometimes as quickly as it started.”
Remember the golden rule
When dating, it’s all too easy to focus so much on ourselves that we forget our potential partners are people too. When you’re trying to figure out how to appeal to others, remember to treat others as you want to be treated.
Would you want someone to spend the date texting, talking about their exes, complaining constantly, or being fake? I didn’t think so, and neither do the experts. So take a shower, roll on some deodorant, and get ready to be turned on.