Did you ever hear the saying, “Pain in life is inevitable, but misery is optional?” Applied to dating, avoiding misery typically means staying away from toxic people. You know the kind I’m talking about: people who are selfish, vain, perpetually victimized, materialistic, harsh, shallow, bitter…the list of negative attributes goes on and on. (Of course, there are toxic men and women, so this is an equal-opportunity list, divided into two sets of five.)
If you’re a guy, how can you get a leg up (so to speak) on avoiding toxicity in your dating life? First, consider the five female archetypes I’ve outlined below. From being overly materialistic to clingy to just plain nitpicky, these women will likely become the iceberg to your Titanic, sinking all possible romantic joy quicker than you can hum the film’s “My Heart Will Go On” theme song by Celine Dion. The only things that should go “on” are your feet walking out the door if you encounter any of these female terrors, so watch out… you’ve been warned!
Five toxic female archetypes for men to avoid:
1. The Material Girl. She’s all about the money, honey. She’s checking out your car, level of professional success, and bank account before — and in all likelihood, instead of — seeing and appreciating the real you on dates. If you don’t escape her soon, you’ll start to feel like the most important parts of you are found in your wallet and/or bank account. It’s a dehumanizing experience to date this kind of woman, so why bother?
2. The Queen of Dependence. This lady is usually attractive, sweet, and open (yes, those are her good qualities). But she can’t make up her mind about what to have for dinner, let alone take a stand on making more important decisions in her life. From the minute the two of you meet, she’s leaning on you for advice and answers to every trivial question she encounters. She wants you to be crowned “King of All Her Choices,” but ruling over that kingdom gets old really, really fast. Next thing you know, you’re bored with doing all the mental work of managing her life for her… and then wondering why you feel so disengaged.
3. Ms. Criti-catastrophe. This woman’s got what professionals call an “overly developed critical super-ego.” In layman’s terms, she’s a nitpicker extraordinaire. It’s the way you drive, style your hair and clothes, the guys you hang out with, the seats you grab at the movie… nothing you do will ever be quite right, in her opinion. The first thing to go after a few dates with her is your self-esteem. Clearly, you’re already a failure in her eyes — and if you don’t look away from her judgmental gaze pretty fast, you’ll see your own reflection there and internalize her damaging opinions as if they were your own.
4. The Bitter Girl. This woman is quick to let you know that everything sucks, and she’s so mistreated by everyone. (You could also call her Miss Lemony Snicket, since her life seems to be a never-ending series of unfortunate events.) However, you didn’t cause Bitter Girl’s troubles — and you can’t cure them, either. In fact, you’ll be her next excuse for why things are going so horribly wrong in her life. Your real nightmare begins when you start to feel a little like Lemony Snicket yourself, and your once-positive nature gets overwhelmed by her perpetually gloomy outlook and daily dose of misery.
5. Miss Demeanor. She might have a mighty fine look and smile, but she’s also got quite a demeanor to go with those assets… and here’s what I mean by this: “da nicer you are, da meaner she is.” Her harsh attitude makes a pretty poor impression on others when you’re out in public. Oh sure, when you’re alone together she can be fun and pleasant enough. But put her in a situation where she’s not the star of the show and she becomes cranky, outwardly irritable, and has no interest in integrating into your life when you’re clearly just a bit player in hers. The longer you’re with her, the quieter you’ll become, lest you risk unleashing the beast (e.g., her mouth, shrieking one of her infamous tirades).
But these ladies aren’t the only ones wreaking havoc on their dates; there are plenty of toxic men out there, too. So how does a woman know which ones to avoid in the dating world? Perhaps it’s a guy who’s so cheap that you feel like you’re on a date with a human cash register — his conversational skills are dull enough to put you to sleep if not for his occasional “ringing,” which reminds you with alarming regularity exactly how much everything costs, how expensive certain things are, and what you each owe when the bill arrives. Maybe it’s someone who considers controlling others to be a contact sport that he must win, no matter what. Or is it the kind of man who’s forever lovelorn, weighed down with way too much baggage for even your toned arms to carry any meaningful distance? Watch out for these five types of men who (in comparison to being stuck with them for a partner) make staying single for life look highly appealing…
Five toxic male archetypes for women to avoid:
1. Peter Pan. At first, you’re confused; he’s over 30 and (physically, at least) looks his age. And yet, there’s something about him that reads “college dorm” and “secretly wearing green tights beneath his Dockers.” You’ve found Mr. “I’ll never grow up,” otherwise known as Peter Pan — someone who can handle the superficial issues life throws at him, but don’t dig too deep looking for a strong connection, commitment, or an equally mature partnership from him. Toxicity permeates the relationship when you’re the only one who stays grounded, spinning your wheels, and wondering why you can’t land him the way you’d hoped to while he flies off to Neverland again. He’s fun, but if you think that will translate into a long-term relationship, you’re only kidding yourself.
2. El Cheapo Grande. You’ve met this cheap chap before, haven’t you? He’s the one who seems intent on getting together, so he asks you out — and then zeroes in on the cost of everything (and the value of nothing) throughout your date. His toxicity isn’t just a fixation on the financial aspects of dating, though. It’s a flawed character trait — his cheapness goes deep, straight to the core of who he is inside. He’s as stingy with genuine affection as he is with the dollars he doesn’t want to spend. He’ll make you feel inconsiderate, too — as if you’re some kind of greedy spendthrift intent on bankrupting him. But dating doesn’t require anyone to pay a small fortune; there are plenty of ways to enjoy a person’s company and treat someone special without breaking the bank. He just hasn’t learned that.
3. Mr. Egomaniac. He’s just so smart, isn’t he — and if you have any questions about just how brilliant he is, he’ll be the first person to happily remind you. And yes, he’s also confident, so there’s a good reason why you’re drawn to him initially. As educated and successful as he may be, he’s missing a normal person’s sensitivity and empathy chips — you know, the ones that actually make you consider other people’s feelings before you speak and take a genuine interest in their lives? He usually talks non-stop, as if “conversation” is just the waiting period he must endure while you’re speaking and he’s catching his breath before resuming his soliloquy. He’s a know-it-all who’s always right and willing to shoot you down to prove his point. You’ll sense the effects of his toxicity when you start to feel boring and worthless in his company. Recognize that his egomania has absolutely nothing to do with you — then run.
4. The Control Freak. At first, you might think: Oh, he’s attentive. That’s nice. Next thing you know, this emotional micromanager places every word and move of yours under the kind of intense scrutiny that’s more worthy of a panel evaluating Ph.D. candidates than a romantic tête-á-tête. You begin to second-guess yourself about everything from what to order for dinner (sugar is a no-no if he’s a health fanatic) to date-night entertainment (he’ll never embrace your movie choices) to interacting with his family and friends (he’ll tell you what to wear, say, and do without even blinking). Being under his thumb starts out cozily enough, but soon stifles every aspect of your individuality.
5. King of the (Eternally) Brokenhearted. His vulnerability seems appealing when he admits his attraction to you, but there’s also a distance there that you can’t quite put your finger on. He tells you that he broke up with a woman months or years earlier, and he’s still struggling to move forward emotionally. He expects lots of understanding from you, along with plenty of space and no pressure — you know, to speed up the healing process? But in fact, he’s still hung up on the woman (or more likely, women) he dated before you. You’ll never live up to or trump the ex(es). He wants you to fall for him (hey, he craves the attention!), so he’s sporadically charming while becoming increasingly distant, which makes you feel even more confused about your relationship status. A word to the wise: Speed through that state of confusion as if you’re flying down a highway toward a much better, less narcissistic destination.
Dave Singleton, an award-winning writer and columnist for Match.com since 2003, is the author of two books on dating and relationships. Visit hiswebsite, follow him onTwitter, oremail him.