8 Dating App Red Flag Phrases That Are Surprisingly Toxic — Translated

What are you looking for?

At first glance, this phrase seems innocuous. After all, doesn’t everyone want to be transparent about what they’re looking for so no one gets led on? Women who ask this question may assume that men who ask them the same are doing so for the same reasons; unfortunately, that is usually not the case. When used specifically by emotionally unavailable men on dating apps, it is usually a way of gauging your interest in hooking up, with a few exceptions. When used by narcissists in general, this phrase can also be used to identify if you’re searching for a relationship so you are more susceptible to manipulation. Once they find out what you’re looking for, narcissists can manufacture the “soulmate effect.” The narcissist may mirror your hobbies and interests, your deepest desires and what you’re looking for in a partner to exploit you for whatever they need. They will create the ideal relationship based on your response only to later devalue you.

It’s fair to assume that most people on a dating app would be looking for dating, so the question is often unnecessary unless you’re looking for something else. Whether someone wants a long-term relationship with a specific person or not will usually become clearer further along the dating process. Some men who are looking for anything outside of these parameters are searching for something outside of what they know is the “default,” so they’re curious if you’d be open to a hookup or something casual instead. Yet instead of saying upfront what they are looking for, they will do something much more devious: they will ask you first in hopes that you are also looking for a hookup. If you say you are looking for a relationship, they will usually mirror your response and pretend they want a relationship too even though they are just looking for sex, or double down hoping they can coerce you into something more casual. Be wary of potential dating partners who  tell you they are “not looking for anything serious” or “going with the flow.” This is less of a subtle red flag and more of a glaring stop sign. If someone hints that they are not looking for anything serious even if you’ve established you’re here to date, you are not compatible and will only be settling for less.

Never let anyone know what you’re looking for right away. After all, you don’t know this person. You don’t know yet if you are looking for anything specifically with them. Instead, turn the question back on the person who asked and be mindful that some men will misrepresent what they are looking for. You can also go for a safer reply like, “I am here to go on dates to see if there’s a connection.”

I am not looking to be pen pals. I am better in person than texting.

In a world that presents numerous safety risks for women, this is a major red flag if presented in someone’s dating app bio or messages, especially if they are persistent about meeting up without a conversation. While it’s true that no one wants to message each other for weeks or months before meeting up, a person who is unwilling to even engage in a few first conversations with you to see if you’re compatible enough to meet is usually only looking for something casual or more sinisterly, they know that if you do have a conversation with them, it will reveal immediate red flags that would cause you to opt out ahead of time. This is a low-effort and dangerous attempt to get you to meet them right away without vetting them properly. Avoid potential dating partners who do not care about your safety or comfort.

What’s your type?

Why would a person want to know what someone else’s “type” is so early on rather than allowing a connection to unfold organically? Some people are just curious if they fit your schema of the ideal partner, but often times this is a set up for manipulation. This phrase is weaponized strategically to figure out the qualities and traits you are searching for so a toxic person or narcissist can temporarily morph into the ideal partner for you. Rather than disclosing what your type is (whether physically or emotionally), simply let the person know that you’ll know it when you find it and focus on getting to know the person more.

My ex…

Any phrase that starts with “my ex” is by default suspect. Watch out for dating app profiles that also frequently feature pictures of other women. When you’re first pursuing a new partner, no exes or current prospects should be mentioned. It is not only inappropriate, but it also shows a level of callousness that doesn’t bode well for a potential dating partner. Dates are about the present moment, not the past. Mentions of exes on a first conversation or first date can be a signal of emotional unavailability, tactlessness, or narcissistic game-playing in the form of jealousy induction. Some may be deliberately trying to provoke jealousy in you to make themselves appear desirable because they believe you’re out of their league or attempting to get you to compete for them.

Let me cook for you sometime or let’s go to this place near me.

This can be a kind gesture with someone you already know well but a low-effort and unsafe first date idea for women. It signals a presumptuousness and erosion of boundaries that doesn’t bode well for the future. If a man is asking you to only go to places near him for a first date, chances are he’s only looking for a convenient hook-up. This shows a sense of entitlement and disregard for your needs which is a major red flag.

I am not looking for any drama. No drama.

People who state on their profiles or messages that they are not looking for any drama tend to be the sources of drama. People who are emotionally stable and calm rarely need to announce that they do not need any drama in their lives. Those who declare they are avoiding “drama” are usually gaslighters who avoid constructive conversations and healthy accountability. These toxic types approach every discussion as a fight and perceive it as a challenge to their sense of entitlement rather than having the emotional maturity to handle it when someone is expressing their valid emotions. Ask yourself: why are they preemptively announcing that they’re not looking for drama? Is it because they manufacture chaos on purpose? Or have a lot of chaos in their lives as a result of not being able to handle a basic conversation without resorting to belittling others? Chances are, you’re the one who will be subjected to drama if you entertain them.

I would never lie to you. Looking for someone loyal.

Similarly, watch out for other preemptive, unprovoked defenses like, “I am trustworthy and would never lie to you,” as this can be a red flag of a pathological liar who feels the need to establish their trustworthiness early on. Genuinely loyal and honest people do not need to morally grandstand about how honest they are or declare that they are looking for a loyal partner. Loyalty and honesty are the bare minimum in relationships and do not need to be declared, yet disloyal and dishonest partners often speak about these qualities as if they are rare – that’s because these are not qualities they possess, but would like their partners to possess. If a dating partner emphasizes these qualities either in themselves or in terms of what they are searching for, this can be a signal that they have a specific motive. For example, a man who is a serial cheater may declare he wants a loyal partner on their profile because he’s projecting his own disloyalty onto others and expects his partners to remain faithful even if he is not.

I am fluent in sarcasm. I need someone who understands my sense of humor.

While light sarcasm can be fun and mutually enjoyable if both parties are engaged and can possibly be a medium for flirtation, a perpetually sarcastic and condescending demeanor used to bully others can be a major turn-off. People who take pride in being persistently sarcastic or cruel under the guise of a “joke” are rarely compatible with anyone who has a healthy level of sensitivity and empathy. Don’t dismiss the fact that chronic sarcasm can be a red flag of psychopathy and deeper issues. Remind yourself: if a person is naturally amusing and comedic, would they need to mention their sense of humor? It’s clear they’re mentioning it because enough people have found their particular brand of “humor” or mockery inappropriate and they did not feel “understood” enough by empathic people with boundaries. Stay away from partners who engage in backhanded compliments or “negging” in an attempt to get you to chase them. You deserve better than the hot and cold tactics of a manipulator. Learn to protect yourself in dating and set healthy boundaries.


About the author

Shahida Arabi

Shahida is a graduate of Harvard University and Columbia University. She is a published researcher and author of Power: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse and Breaking Trauma Bonds with Narcissists and Psychopaths. Her books have been translated into 16+ languages all over the world. Her work has been featured on Salon, HuffPost, Inc., Bustle, Psychology Today, Healthline, VICE, NYDaily News and more. For more inspiration and insight on manipulation and red flags, follow her on Instagram here.