When I was 25, I started a “relationship” I suspected would end badly (I use quotes because I realized after that it was not, in fact, a relationship). He had serious commitment issues, and he panicked any time talk of the future came up. Did I not think it was a red flag that he was 34 and had never been in a serious relationship? No, I told myself, he’s “misunderstood.” Note to self for future — if you ever describe someone as “misunderstood,” you are probably dating someone who is bad news. It was a real learning experience, and while I don’t regret the experience, I wish I had known a few things ahead of time.
Dating can be risky — you’re entrusting someone with your emotions, and there’s always a chance it could go badly. There are a number of warning signs that someone could be risky to date (otherwise known as “bad news”), such as your friends warning you against it or a track record of short relationships. However, only you know if you truly want to start seeing someone, and you get to choose who to date. People have started beautiful relationships with someone who might have been described as bad news, but it’s always good to be careful.
Read on to find nine things to keep in mind before you start dating someone who is bad news.
1. TAKE YOUR TIME
Don’t rush things with someone who’s bad news. In fact, rushing a relationship is probably not a good strategy in general. “You shouldn’t go all in and become exclusive right away,” matchmaker and CEO of Exclusive Matchmaking Susan Trombetti tells Elite Daily. “You need to be able to evaluate whether or not they can meet your needs to start with instead of jumping in with both feet.” Take your time getting to know someone before committing.
2. DETERMINE WHY THEY’RE BAD NEWS
“Bad news” can mean many different things to different people, and some things may or may not be dealbreakers for you. “Ask yourself what types of behavior are the red flags indicative of,” Trombetti says. Maybe someone doesn’t seem mature enough for a relationship yet or they seem hung up on their ex. Be aware of why they’re bad news before making a decision.
3. BE REALISTIC
Regardless of why they’re bad news, you should be realistic about what their problems might be. If they seem unlikely to commit to moving in together, for example, try not to expect that from them. You can choose to be patient or not, but at the end of the day, it’s your time, and you have to decide if the person you’re dating seems to be valuing it. Additionally, you cannot force someone you’re seeing to become someone they’re not or do something they don’t want to do. Be realistic about whether the relationship is right for you.
4. BE OPEN TO CHANGE
Someone who is bad news may or may not change, but you want to be open to either outcome. “Always remind yourself that people do grow and change,” Trombetti says. “Sometimes, they just need to change their behaviors and not really their personalities which don’t change much.” If the bad-news-partner is making an effort to change, be open to it, and support their work.
5. UNDERSTAND YOUR OWN PERSPECTIVE
Are you someone who seeks out people who are bad news because you enjoying fixing them? “You should always be aware if you have a need to fix someone, or if you think you are the one that’s going to change them,” Trombetti says. “For starters, you can’t change anyone and secondly, you need to check your need to fix someone.” Maybe you’ve consciously decided to date someone who’s bad news so that you can fix them, rather than because you want to be with them, and it might be worth asking if that’s the right choice for you. After all, people are not objects — they can’t be “fixed,” especially not by force of will.
6. BE HONEST WITH YOUR FRIENDS
One of the big challenges of dating someone who is bad news is that your friends might not be supportive. Therefore, it’s always better to give them an honest perspective of the relationship, rather than only highlighting the problems. “They are only getting one-sided information and don’t have the full picture like you,” Trombetti says. If you give your friends full information, they can support you in whatever way you need.
7. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
It’s important to never let your partner stand in the way of taking care of yourself. It’s crucial that you take all steps to make sure you’re mentally healthy. Let’s say someone is bad news because they’re extremely anxious and their anxiety can affect others as well — be aware of this, and make sure you do the self-care necessary to manage your own anxiety.
8. COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR PARTNER
If you’re worried about the relationship, don’t hide that from your partner. In fact, they probably are aware of some of the issues that make them “bad news,” and they may appreciate the chance to talk about it. Never pass predisposed judgment without engaging in an open and honest conversation first. Having the line of dialogue open is critical for a healthy relationship.
9. STAY OPEN ALL POSSIBLE OUTCOMES
Someone may be “bad news” for a particular reason, but that doesn’t mean that they’re a bad person or unworthy of a relationship. However, if their red flags are deal breakers to you, the two of you may just not be a good fit. Stay conscious of whether or not you think the relationship is healthy and bringing you joy, and if it’s not, be open to ending it. Similarly, stay open to the possibility that whatever makes them “bad news” doesn’t make them incompatible with you. Dating is always a risk, and only you can assess if the risk is worth it.
People are people, and no one is perfect. Maybe you’ve met someone you’d describe as “bad news,” but you’d like to date them anyway. It’s OK to start a relationship under uncertainty — you can never really know the future. Just remember to always take care of yourself, and recall these things before starting to date someone with red flags. Remember — a red flag is just a warning, but only you know what makes you happy and healthy in a relationship.
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