Most people want a partner who’s attentive, caring, and, if you’re looking for an exclusive relationship, actually committed. All great things! But sometimes, especially if you follow the advice of so, so many movies that teach you to admire grand romantic gestures, your potential partner’s white knight behavior could be covering up some serious flaws.
To sidestep the disappointment you’ll feel when a person who seemed “different” suddenly bails, keep an eye out for these six “romantic” moves:
1. THEY PROFESS THEIR LOVE VERY EARLY ON.
If you’ve ever been with a partner who couldn’t express their feelings even after six months of dating, meeting someone who announces, “HEY, I’M INTO YOU!” quickly and confidently can feel like a blessing.
But it all depends on how they say it, according to Dr. Mariana Bockarova, Ph.D., who teaches relationship psychology at the University of Toronto. It’s normal to feel infatuated very quickly if you really like someone, but if a person says something as huge as, “I’m completely in love with you,” or, “I know you’re my soul mate and I want to spend the rest of my life with you,” only a few weeks into dating, you should take a few steps back, Dr. Bockarova says.
“Although not true in all cases, this sort of behavior is quite common, unfortunately, among controlling, abusive, or narcissistic partners,” Dr. Bockarova says.
While people with these qualities may really believe they’re in love, they don’t actually know you or your flaws yet, Dr. Bockarova explains. So when you deviate from their perfect perception of you, you may be met with aggression or coldness. In the worst case scenarios, you may find yourself walking on eggshells because you don’t want to disappoint them.
“I would tread carefully with someone making extremely grand gestures before they know you,” Dr. Bockarova says. “Be cognizant that long-lasting and healthy love takes communication, trust, reliability, and genuine care, which takes time to build.”
2. THEY OVERSHARE ON THE FIRST DATE.
It’s easy to think that someone who reveals a lot on a first date immediately feels connected to you—particularly when they go into detail about their childhood or family, which shows they’re not afraid to open up a little. However, be cautious if the conversation turns to past relationships, Dr. Bockarova says.
If an ex comes up naturally in the context of a story about a trip they took together, that’s one thing. But if they ramble about their past dating experiences or verbally rip apart people they’ve been with, they may not be in the right place to start a new relationship.
3. THEY CHAT YOU UP NONSTOP.
When you first hit it off with someone, it’s perfectly natural (and great!) to text and talk a lot. It’s certainly more romantic than that guy who takes four days just to text back “lol.” But overdoing it on the meme-sending—and everyone has their own threshold—can be a bad sign.
“They may simply attach to romantic partners quickly and be unaware that the amount of communication is overwhelming,” Dr. Bockarova says—particularly if they respond to your request for a little space with anger, or by making you feel guilty.
4. THEY WANT TO SPEND ALL OF THEIR TIME WITH YOU.
Theoretically, “I just can’t get enough of you!” sounds flattering as heck, because yes, you are in fact an awesome human to be around. But if your new boo wants to come over to your place every night—even when you make it clear that you’re working or with friends or hell, just want a night to yourself—look out.
“Requests for more quality time together can become toxic and unhealthy when you feel pressured or are actively made to feel guilty for wanting to spend time on interests or with people other than your partner,” Dr. Bockarova says. “Relationships should be built on mutual trust, care, reliability, and love; not coercion, manipulation of emotions, and fear.”
5. THEY’RE VERY PROTECTIVE OF YOU.
“I love you too much to imagine you with anyone else!” may sound sweet at first, but often, it can cloak a very unhealthy form of jealousy.
“Jealousy is a normal response to a real threat to the relationship,” Dr. Bockarova says of the evolutionary emotion humans feel when they suspect their relationship is in danger. However, irrational jealousy can be a sign your partner is controlling.
“If you find yourself having to defend completely innocent behavior, or [with a partner who] insistent on prying into your phone or social media accounts in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable and isn’t reciprocated, there are definite red flags,” she says.
6. THEY MAKE SWEEPING, GRANDIOSE PROMISES.
It’s not that saying something like, “I would never hurt you,” is inherently bad, but sometimes the people who dramatically promise they’ll never leave or wound you are precisely the ones who do.
“It’s best to pay attention to a person’s actions and values first before wholeheartedly latching onto their words,” Dr. Bockarova warns, adding that a disconnect between words and behaviors could leave you feeling hurt and disappointed in the long run.