You know those people who tell you that dating in your 20s is joyous, carefree and full of possibility? I am not one of those people.

I am here to tell you that dating as a young adult is more like a vast expanse littered with trash fires as far as the eye can see.

OK, yes - I'm being dramatic. You will probably find some wonderful people in there as well. Possibly a bit charred on the edges, but there. Over the course of these 10 years, most of us will date a mix of people. Good people, bad people, good people who make bad decisions.

Maybe you won't date anyone. In which case, I applaud your wise restraint. But this article is not for you. This is for those of us learning, in those young-adult years, to identify the people who do or do not belong in our lives - and sometimes it takes lots of mistakes to figure that out. And sometimes (cough cough, points at self) it might take until our 30s to implement that knowledge. In any case, here are 10 potential romantic partners I suggest you avoid.


1. The Emotional Manipulator

This person uses your feelings against you. No matter the situation, the blame for every relationship issue falls to you. You could have plans to meet, be standing out in the cold and rain waiting for two hours and it is somehow you who misunderstood their needs.

Everything they say and do is designed to make you feel insecure and fearful that they might leave you, so you are constantly apologizing and feeling like you are in the wrong.

You are not. But you are with the wrong person.

2. The One Who Won't Be Hated

I once dated a guy who was obsessed with over-explaining his actions. My friends called him "disclaimer guy" because he did sweet things like surprising me at the airport with flowers while simultaneously telling me that these weren't grand gestures - just the mark of a nice guy. When I was hurt after it ended, he repeatedly told me that I wasn't "allowed" to feel hurt or speak poorly of him to my friends because he had always pointed out that everything he did was devoid of intense emotion. It wasn't his fault that I read into these actions.

3. The One Who Is So Nice (or Seemingly So Feminist)

When someone claims they are "nice," run in the opposite direction. Anyone who is truly nice won't need to announce it. Especially in a fit of rage as you tell them you're not interested in them. The worst combo I've encountered is a man who insists he's a nice guy feminist. Again, this is not a label that needs to be screamed; if you are one, it will be evident in your behavior.

4. The Open Relationship Evangelist

Open relationships are far more common these days, or at least people seem more willing to talk about them. But you still find people who don't understand that communication and honesty is essential in these arrangements. A man I once dated emphasized that he wanted to keep things casual. I consented to this - with the stipulation that we be truthful with each other about any additional romantic partners.

Seven months into us seeing each other, I asked point-blank about the other people he might be dating. He swore that there wasn't anyone else and that he didn't want there to be, but months later admitted that there had been others. He knew the truth would have made me walk away sooner.

5. The One Who Is Obsessed With Their Ex

There's nothing more irritating than constantly being compared to an ex. "My ex always did this" or "When my ex and I went on vacation ..." Sometimes I think it's because they were the one dumped. Sometimes it's residual feelings. Sometimes they haven't had that many relationships, and they only know how to keep analyzing things side by side with the last person in their life. But always being pitted against (the memory of!) another person is tiresome. Next!

6. The One Who Is Selfish in the Bedroom - and Everywhere Else

Fantasies are fun. Enacting them with your partner can be physically gratifying and stimulate intimacy. But role-playing in the bedroom is not meant to be one-sided. (Got that, porn industry?) One of my boyfriends was under the impression that fantasies consisted of him telling what he wanted and me instantly complying. He never asked what turned me on or what he could do to excite me sexually. This kind of aloofness tends to infiltrate other parts of a relationship, leading you to realize that this person is not capable of seeing past their needs or desires.

7. The One Obsessed With Settling Down

These people are so focused on the end-game that they're missing all the fun casual, getting-to-know-you stuff, which is important and exciting. Someone who rushes to get into a serious relationship, I've found, has made up their mind where things are going instead of letting ... things ... happen. With a person like this, I had to ask myself: "Are they even listening to me?" (No.) "Am I just a space-filler?" (Yes.) Settling down can't be forced. It's a joint decision.

8. The Person Who Thinks Marriage Is a Trap

Marriage is a trap and THEY WILL NOT BE TRAPPED, OK? Their refrains - "Why is everyone in such a rush to get married?" and "I'm not looking for anything serious" - make you think twice about even wearing a white sundress, lest they think you're dropping a hint.

Sure, they'll tell you that "everyone who gets married is unhappy," but don't be surprised when they get engaged to the person they date right after you.

9. The One Who Wants You to Be a Mind Reader

A friend of mine, a white Italian woman, dated a Korean man for several years and was devastated when he broke up with her. His explanation? His mother had told him that American girls were easy and not acceptable for marriage or a serious relationship. Never relaying to her that race could be a deal-breaker, he assumed she knew they wouldn't make it long-term. She did not.

10. The Secret Traditionalist

Publicly declaring that women can do anything, while you privately maintain they should stay home, raise children and clean the house? No, thanks. An ex-boyfriend of mine used to proudly boast of my professional exploits, saying I was on my way to conquering the world. But when we talked marriage and kids, he insisted that I would take on a traditional role and put aside my ambitions for the sake of our future children. Instead, I put him aside.

In my experience, these red flags don't magically disappear after your 30th birthday. But you will spot them quicker once you've seen them before.