When dating, it’s vital to know your boundaries

Even if things seem to go well initially, be aware of red flags that don’t sit well with you

A friend of mine went on a date recently. It was her second date with the same guy. Both are professionals in their early 40s in a big U.S. city. He seemed accomplished, stable, and not to mention, very handsome. She was excited. However, she did notice that, over text, he said some things that gave her pause. He cursed a lot, which isn’t objectively bad, but it’s not her thing. And he would make offhand comments about other people, often not in a positive light, and pass them off as jokes. But she was willing to try.

She told me the first date was really fun! They spent about four hours together over drinks, dinner and more drinks. He was smart, attentive, affectionate (there was some kissing), and he generally seemed like a good guy.

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The morning after the first date, he texted her and asked when he could see her again. Love this! I always tell my clients that if you’re interested, show it! They made plans to see each other that Monday, just three days after the first date.

When they met that Monday, he greeted her with a kiss, and he kept going on about how much he liked her. My friend was naturally cautious because of the potential red flags she noticed when they texted ... but they had had such a good first date. She said to him, “You don’t really know me yet. So, while I’m certainly flattered, I want to make sure you like me for me, not just what I look like or the idea of me.” This seemed to go over well.

Then, during the next 45 minutes, he said two things that really made her upset. One was that he called women “chicks.” Maybe she could let that slide. But then he commented on a woman he worked with who happened to be from another country. The comment was xenophobic. In addition, he commented on her body, which is never acceptable. That was my friend’s limit. She knew that if such an inappropriate and judgmental comment could roll off his tongue as easily as it did, without nary a second thought, this was not a man she wanted to be with. She could no longer enjoy this date.

When any of my friends or clients tell me about a date with potential red flags, I remind them very strongly to speak their minds. As women, we are often raised to people-please and hold back on calling out bad behavior. But if you want to say something, say something. Clearly, this man didn’t think much about what he said, so why should my friend care what she says in response?

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I’m so glad my friend had the courage to speak up. She said, “When you’re done with your food, I’d like to go home. That comment about your co-worker really didn’t sit well with me.” He replied that it was a joke. She then said, “I didn’t find it funny. Our humor is just much too different for this to work.”

And, true to her word, less than an hour into the date, they parted ways. I was so proud of my friend for holding her ground and knowing her own boundaries and standards. It’s a lesson for everyone to know what you can live with and can’t live with. And if you can’t, it’s OK — and encouraged — to express that.

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Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating.