Seeing the Flowers Through the Weeds

(NOW: You can read Dategirl every day on the Daily Weekly!) Recently a woman re-entering the dating world after nearly 20 years wrote me, wondering how she could get over her fears and try to find love again. I told her (in the Nov. 3 issue) to quit being a coward, for one, but several people wrote me pointing out that she was also looking for ways to weed out the cads who'd caused her so much pain in the past. While there are no guarantees, there are some things to look out for—and these go for all genders and persuasions: • Common sense is your friend. Are they employed? If not, how long has it been? Are they a felon? Are they kind to waiters and other service providers? Have they ever murdered an animal "for fun?" Are your political/religious beliefs diametrically opposed? If they're a non-custodial parent, is their child support up-to-date? Do they resort to baby talk when thrust into an awkward situation? Are they single? I mean really single (separated doesn't count). "Trapped in a sexless marriage" counts even less. • Do they smack-talk their ex? I once had a friend introduce me to her new married (nice!) boyfriend, and all he could talk about was how much money he had and how much he hated his "bitch wife." It turned out he was a habitual cheater/liar, so if anyone had grounds to be a "bitch," it'd be that wife of his. I hope she got everything in the divorce. • Too much, too soon. When someone starts tossing around the L-bomb or baby names before you've been together a few months, you might want to take a step back. If they don't know you, they can't love you. • If he/she looks good on paper, but you have to convince yourself to "like" them, don't. Just because he has a good job, is reasonably handsome, and isn't a registered sex offender doesn't mean he's right for you. Talking yourself into a relationship doesn't do anyone any favors. By rejecting him, you're freeing him to find someone who won't need convincing. • At the same time, if your type is "loser," get thee to therapy. Whether kittens or men, I've always been one to adopt strays. However, after dating a guy who used a rolled-up sweater as a pillow, lived in a firetrap filled with illegal immigrants (who had no choice but to live there), and smelled so foul that I often had to order him to bathe, I took a break to regroup. Once a kitty is off the street, it quickly learns to keep itself clean—not so this guy. And never have I sent a kitten to the store to pick up basil (with my cash) and have it return with a 12-pack of Meister Bräu instead. • Jealousy isn't flattering, it's a giant red flag. Your new paramour isn't jealous of all your female friends because she's in love with you. Nor does he want you to Mormon up your wardrobe for your own good. It's natural to be a little insecure when you first fall in love, but when that insecurity manifests itself in quizzes on your whereabouts, e-mail hacks, and/or freak-outs when you're 10 minutes late, it's time to move on. • If all your friends hate him/her, they probably have a point. Good friends will be predisposed to adore your beliked. Therefore, if your pals loathe Ms./Mr. Right, you might want to figure out why. Because they're not seeing your new piece through a fog of mind-blowing orgasms, they're seeing the reality. Being newly infatuated is a lot like being wasted—let your friends be the designated drivers. Unless your friends are underminers, which has been known to happen. In that case, get new friends.

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