Here’s a little-known secret: Divorce attorneys give surprisingly good dating advice, not just legal advice.
We recently asked divorce lawyers around the country to share the big red flags they think singles should be aware of when dating. Of course, no one is perfect ― there’s a good chance people you date will tick one or two of these boxes. If they check most of them, though, proceed with caution.
1. They’re talking marriage or the next big step.
“Chris Pratt revealed in a 2009 interview that he knew soon after meeting his now-ex-wife Anna Faris that he ‘wanted to marry her pretty soon’ after he met her. ‘It took a while for me to admit it, because it would be crazy to be like, I want to marry you’ the first day I met her. But I could have!’ Turns out, that kind of certainty doesn’t necessarily mean that the relationship is built to last. It may be an indicator, instead, that this person feels familiar, like old patterns, old obsessions and old problems. If you want someone who brings out the best in you, that might not be the person who fits like an old glove. It might be healthier in the beginning of a relationship to feel uncertain and tenuous about the new person in your life.” ― Liat Sadler, a specialist in family law in San Francisco
2. Claims in their dating profiles are exaggerated.
“Be wary if your date’s online dating profiles turn out to be mostly fiction. It’s not unusual for people to pump up their dating profiles a little bit in order to make themselves look good. But when you find out that a person’s profile is so exaggerated that it borders on being made up — run! If someone isn’t honest with you right from the beginning, they’re not going to be honest with you ever.” ― Karen Covy, an attorney and divorce coach based in Chicago
3. They paint themselves as the victim of all of their past relationships.
“If your date describes every single one of their exes as ‘crazy,’ it’s a sign that they cannot take responsibility for their role in relationships. It’s a strong red flag that they won’t own their share of a relationship with you. Relationships take investment from both people. Someone who refuses to own their mistakes is not likely to fully invest, and you may end up being the one trying to make the relationship work.” ― Morghan Richardson, a divorce attorney in New York City
4. There’s no physical spark.
“In the beginning of a relationship, the sex or physical connection doesn’t have to be mind-blowing to indicate that the relationship has staying power. There’s often awkward fumbling as you and the other person get to know one another. But if there is no sense of excitement at the beginning regarding getting to know one another intimately, there won’t be any excitement later. That might be fine if neither person requires sexual intimacy as part of a successful relationship. Some people stay in these relationships because they enjoyed the other person’s companionship and their friendship. A relationship with uninspiring intimacy may bring beautiful children into the world, and it may end on amicable terms because the friendship was always the strongest part of the relationship. But for many couples, the lack of sexual intimacy may lead one person to eventually seek it elsewhere, and that can spell the end of the marriage.” ― Sadler
5. They’ve been divorced multiple times.
“We have a saying, ‘Sometimes it’s not the ex, it’s you that’s the problem.’ Unfortunately, we see repeat customers. Those who frequently marry are often quick to commit and quick to leave. For some, being married, just being married, makes them feel like they fit in.” ― Randall Kessler, a divorce attorney in Atlanta
6. They hint that their financial life is a mess.
“Watch out if your date sends you mixed messages about their financial stability. Maybe he likes to treat you to dinners or gifts, but then his electricity gets shut off. Or she’s constantly waiting for that one financial break that will get her ‘all caught up’ on her bad financial decisions. How does this play out once you have a family? How will you feel shouldering the financial burden of a marriage, especially if you decide to have kids? One of my clients was constantly having to manipulate the family finances to cover for her ex-husband’s overspending. The result was her trying to enforce limits on his spending, resentment building between them and a messy divorce over debt.” ― Richardson
7. They’re “technically married but separated.”
“It’s an obvious red flag if they don’t tell you they’re married. Yes, this happens. It’s also bad if they don’t tell you until late into the date or even the second or third date. Then they explain that they’re ‘technically married but separated.’ Well, that means they’re married. It’s bad news. At a minimum, they are having trouble concluding their divorce, which means either they or their spouse (or both) is angry or fighting or incapable of reaching agreement. At a maximum, they are lying about being separated.” ― Kessler
8. They drink. A lot.
“There’s nothing wrong with having a drink or two at dinner. But if you’re dating someone who consistently has many drinks, especially many strong drinks, every time you see them, that’s not necessarily a good sign. It doesn’t matter that the person doesn’t ever seem to get drunk. In the early stages of alcoholism, a person’s tolerance goes up. If someone drinks a lot, the fact that they can ‘hold their liquor’ often means they’re just well on their way to becoming an alcoholic. Be mindful of that drink count.” ― Covy
9. They want to spend every waking moment together.
“Be wary if the person is wanting too much, too soon. Your new paramour may even convince you that you two are already close, even though you’ve just met. It’s dangerous to date from a place of desperation to be in a relationship. It can feel like a torrid love affair when suddenly you and your new fling are spending every minute together. There’s a sense of merging with the other person that can be beautiful if it happens in select moments. But when that sense of merging lasts for a long time, it can indicate danger. This is the kind of relationship that can become volatile and even violent when one person starts to need space and differentiation from the other. Until they feel secure in themselves, they should probably take a break from dating and work on their self-esteem.” ― Sadler