A serial dater is a unique breed. They fall somewhere in between a casual dater—a person who intentionally seeks very lighthearted romantic or sexual connections (often seeing multiple partners at once)—and a serial monogamist—a person who goes from one relationship into the next without spending much time alone in between them. The serial dater is one who loves the thrill of the chase and the excitement of the beginning, then jumps ship—to a first date with another person—before anything too serious can develop. And they love the power of doing so.
The thing that makes serial daters so interesting and, unfortunately for you, attractive, is that they're master manipulators. I'm not saying they're bad people—sometimes, this behaviour isn't even on a conscious level!—but they typically present themselves to be different from who they really are. If you're looking for a genuine and lasting relationship, that's obviously a problem.
Eek, so what makes someone a serial dater?
Serial daters tend to be people who are either addicted to power dynamics (having the upper hand), or very afraid of being rejected. It's often a mix of both. And when I say afraid of rejection, I mean very afraid, to a point that they must be the person to reject you before you could even have a chance to leave them. Oftentimes, they string you along **just** long enough that you're tempted to commit to them and give them all the reassurance in the world, then the second you're vulnerable, they pull away. How. Frustrating.
Many serial daters actually enjoy breaking up with people, because their fear of rejection or thrill of the chase often comes from a place of deep insecurity. They love the validation that comes from knowing somebody wanted to be with them, whether or not the feelings were mutual. They might want sex, but it's usually the affection of another desirable person that gets them going. Then once they have that—and they see your feelings are turning the situationship into something more serious—they bail...just to pursue the same power struggle with someone else.
Sounds fun, huh? I know...not at all. So here are the signs to watch out for when you're seeing a new potential partner, to ensure you don't end up falling under the spell of yet another serial dater:
1. Serial daters like to have really long dates early on.
Obviously, this isn't a black-and-white rule: Some completely emotionally available, relationship-oriented people enjoy hours-long dates, especially if they feel an instant connection. And there's nothing wrong with that! But serial daters often depend on drawn-out dates to have a chance to sweep you off your feet and grab your attention (and thus their gratification) from the start. They get off knowing they "hooked" you, so in their eyes, the sooner and faster, the better.
2. Serial daters randomly go off the grid.
The guy who's been texting you almost every day suddenly goes MIA for a week, then comes back with some dramatic excuse ("Sorry, my grandma died"). Whether their reason is legit or not, if they do this type of disappearing-act-plus-OTT-explanation thing regularly, they clearly like to use drama as a way to win your sympathy.
Be honest: You're more likely to grant special exceptions to their behaviour—or even feel like you're having some intense bonding experience with them—when they make you believe that only something catastrophic would keep them from talking to you. Don't fall for it!
3. Serial daters pull out all the stops.
I don't want to spoil the idea of grand romantic gestures, because those can be amazing (from the right person). But given that serial daters tend to do things on repeat, they know which buttons to push, in a good way. They're less likely to go slow and build a friendship while courting you and much more likely to orchestrate a quick and dramatic (that word again!) beginning, complete with all the hearts and flowers.
A word to the wise: If it feels a little too much too soon for things to be genuine, it probably is.
4. Serial daters like to make you jealous.
Unfortunately, a lot of people use jealousy as a means of feeling better about themselves—as in, if they're able to make their partner even a little jealous, then they obviously must really care about them. Trying to make someone jealous isn't healthy—and it often backfires (that's a different story)—but that's what serial daters often do.
You might hear them talk about adventures with their friends of the opposite sex, or randomly bring other women's names into conversations. At the end of the day, they're typically more focused on earning your attention than on building a relationship, and they'll stop at nothing to get it. (Then, as mentioned, they bail once they do.)
5. Serial daters often make grandiose statements.
If you ever hear comments like, "I was a player before I met you," "I've never opened up to someone like this before," or "I've never felt serious about anyone until now," let yourself feel the feels, but then consider the context.
Has this person also talked about their intentions and desires—a.k.a. what they're looking for in their dating process? Have they actually communicated that they want to build a relationship with someone? Do their words match up to their actions—are they planning dates with you (and sticking to them), being vulnerable, and showing future-oriented thinking? If not, or if you're getting mixed signals, you may have a serial dater—albeit a very charming one—on your hands.
6. Serial daters tend to be the one to leave their exes.
Real talk: You're probably not going to dive into the ex files on your first or second date with someone (generally a good idea). But after the first few dates or weeks when things are going well, especially if you're confused about their intentions, you might want to casually bring up the convo.
Ask this person about their last two or three relationships, specifically how serious they were and how they ended. If it comes out that they were the one to end every major relationship, take a minute to digest that. Someone who ends relationships quickly might lack problem-solving skills (which are obviously necessary for a healthy LTR), and someone who regularly leaves people wanting more from them might have a pattern that'll continue for a long time. Think about whether you and your beautiful heart would be better off not going down that road to find out.
This article originally appeared on Women's Health US.
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