5 Romantic Red Flags Every 20-Something Should Know To Avoid Heartbreak

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When I go out on dates, I sometimes find myself searching for the red flag that will rule this guy out as an ideal mate. Even though I want to be an optimist, I've learned from experience to be more of a realist. To avoid making the same mistake twice by liking the emotionally unavailable jerk, it's necessary to pay attention to the red flags.

If I could go back and warn my 22-year-old self, I'd clue her in on the few red flags that signal a relationship could put me at risk for getting hurt, and that I need to walk away.

He says he “doesn't believe in monogamy.”

If a potential mate tells you “I don't believe in monogamy,” you should tell him you don't waste your time on people who don't believe in monogamy. It's your responsibility to detect the BS behind this statement.

You have a gut feeling.

Following your heart is overrated. The gut is where it's really at. Once I had a nightmare that God was mad at me for betraying the seasons, and when I woke up, I knew the dream had to do with a guy I liked. Although I did not heed the warning sign at that moment, I see now that my gut was telling me that I was wasting my time. Pay attention to the danger signs your psyche sends you.

He keeps stuff his ex-girlfriend gave him.

Even if a guy doesn't talk about his ex-girlfriend often, there are unspoken signs that he's not over it. For example, if he keeps a mixtape she made him in his car, or has a ticket stub from somewhere they went together up on his bulletin board, he's still hung up.

He doesn't know what he wants.

Being confused about his own goals is a bad sign for you. For example, if one day he's talking about wanting to quit his job and move away only to say that his job makes him happy a few months later, he clearly doesn't know what he wants. What's to stop him from waking up in a few months and changing his mind about you? On the other hand, signs that he does know what he wants are if he has a volunteer cause, job or hobby he feels passionate about.

He acts flaky at the beginning.

Does he make plans for a second or third date and then flake out without a word? This behavior sets the tone for the entire relationship, and it should not be tolerated. If he bails out on his plans without clear communication, don't try to contact him anymore. Someone who leaves you hanging in the beginning is going to continue being unreliable.

It's easy to be idealistic about love and dating in your early 20s, but trust me, you will become more realistic about recognizing the red flags after you've fallen for the wrong guy. Some of the best advice I've gotten about getting over someone who broke your heart is to skip the dramatic, tearful situation, skip fixating on whether the girl he's seeing now is as pretty as you and just move on.

The next time around, avoid this type of heartache by having a three-strike rule: If there are three red flags, he strikes out. It can feel futile to find an ideal partner at times, but it's just like every other aspect of life: You have to accept the possibility of failure in order to succeed.