Red Flags In Online Dating


A profile is an amazing thing.

Think about it. In a few short paragraphs and some check boxes, we attempt to summarize our entire selves—or at least to give enough information that the right person might want to learn more.

It’s really the ultimate marketing. We’re marketing ourselves.

I personally think that CatholicMatch has this system worked out brilliantly. In one short page, our friends at CatholicMatch have created a format that can, if used correctly, give a remarkable snapshot of some of the most important issues Catholic singles face in dating. Is this person Catholic? Does he or she take the faith seriously? Free to marry? Have children? Want children? What are his or her values? What is important? Lifestyle?

In such a tight and well-constructed format, every piece of information takes on an almost exaggerated importance. When you only know five facts about someone, each fact comprises 20 percent of your overall impression.

Which is why it becomes very problematic if one of those facts is…well, alarming. Or strange. Or out of place. You think “I can’t be reading that right.” “Maybe he meant something else.” “Maybe she didn’t understand the question.”

And thus, I begin my discussion “Profiles: Things That Make You Go ‘Huh?’” in which we will examine the factoids we discover about people that make us stop, scratch our heads, ask “huh?” and immediately move on to the next profile. The statements that, if you have posted on your profile, you may want to reconsider.

Parenting puzzles

Today’s topic, and one of my primary “huh?” elicitors, involves two seemingly unrelated multiple choice questions. The first, as you’ve probably all seen, asks whether the person being profiled has children. The answer that catches my attention is “yes, at home part time.”

This, I generally assume, means that those children are minors and that they live with someone else (presumably their other parent) the rest of the time. Obviously a less-than-ideal situation for children, but one in which some really stellar parents sometimes unfortunately find themselves. And those parents – the really stellar ones – do everything they can to make the situation easier for the children and to maximize the time they spend with them.

So far, so good.

The head-scratching starts when I then refer back to the last question of the previous section, an innocent-looking little one-word line: relocating. It asks whether the person is willing to move to another city (state, country, whatever) for the sake of a relationship.

Incredibly, I sometimes see grown men (perhaps women too – I don’t see a lot of female profiles) with children who live with them part time answer this with “I’m open to live anywhere.”

What the what?!?


My concern

Seriously, I’m very open to the fact that I might be reading this wrong or understanding it wrong. I’m open to any explanation except the obvious one, that this parent is willing to move away from his or her own children for the sake of a relationship.

’Cause if that’s the case, I’m out. Gone. Next!

I have always been open to dating someone with children. But I have never, ever been open to dating someone who doesn’t put his children and his role as father ahead of his love life. That’s unfathomable to me – completely incomprehensible. They’re kids.  They need a dad…one who’s around.

Not living under the same roof full-time is heartbreaking enough for a child. But to voluntarily move out of state? To go far enough away that you can’t be readily available for parent conferences and school plays and emergency room trips? To force your children to get on an airplane every time they want to hug their father?

I think the traits that make a man a good father are the same traits that make him a good man, whether he has kids or not. And primary among those is the ability to put the needs of others – particularly young children – ahead of his own desires. And willingness to move away from his own kids (under any circumstances) to me seems radically incompatible with that.


Other explanations

Like I said, if I’m describing your profile, I’d love to hear that I’ve read it wrong somewhere. Maybe your “children” are in their 30s and sleeping on the sofa in your basement. Maybe your young children would join you if you moved, along with your super-supportive (and annulled) ex, who is willing to live anywhere in the interest of helping you follow your latest flame. Maybe they aren’t your children at all, but merely the tenant children of migrant workers who live with you seasonally. Maybe you live on the U.S.S. Enterprise and can transport your children at will with a simple command to “beam them up.” If so, you might want to go back and clarify that somewhere.

If, on the other hand, that is the case, and you are open to abandoning your minor children for the sake of your love life, then please don’t change a thing on your profile. Because these are the things we like to know up front.




Photo gallery

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  1. Jen-1089912 February 15, 2015 Reply

    When guys answer no to premarital sex and no to contraception, I tend to run the other way. That type of mentality has greatly hurt me in the past… Whether or not he intends it or not, I feel he is just looking for sex. If he truly loved me, he wouldn’t be trying to sleep w me before marriage or trying to pressure me. And if he truly loved me, he wouldn’t be wanting to “fix” my fertility as if its a terrible thing or “protect” himself from our children. Once married, he would be wanting 2 to become 1 flesh: a child, 1 person from 2 people. He would value our children as his gold… Right? And I’m not a car to test out before marriage. When you have sex, you are giving your who self, your body to that other person. It is the most beautiful and precious gift you could possibly give someone, why should it be shared with men who may or not make a commitment to love with all their hearts and take the vow?

    I have been hurt by men in the past and I truly understand why God has the rules He does, not to take away freedom, but to protect from very painful situations.

    My children are the best thing to happen to me, but I would never want them to be as hurt as I was.

    Secondly, if a man has children, but is willing to move away from them to be with myself and my children, I do not think that is fair to his children, that he would be spending so much time with mine. Big turn off. All children are precious and need both a mother and a father!

  2. Paula-943738 October 5, 2013 Reply

    Since I am post retirement age and not retired, I am thinking of different red flags. Maybe I should write the next article for “us.” My red flags are those who say they are Catholic and “enjoy Mass” but rarely if ever attend. Another is the one who posts bare-chested photos of himself next to a yacht labeled “Honeybunch” (already in a relationship!!), or who posts unidentified group photos of several men pals leaving me to wonder who’s who. And I am still trying to figure out what a “social smoker” is. I guess that tells you who I am looking for. Oh well. The dog photos don’t concern me so much as long as they are not too hairy and are friendly-looking!

  3. Richard-595743 June 11, 2013 Reply

    This looking for red flags of the “subtle” kind the author discusses is just a weak excuse to avoid genuinely getting to know someone. The article supports the approach to life and relationships driven by reading too much into something, making a mountain out of a molehill, missing the forest for the trees, and judging a book by its cover. Shallow.

  4. Rebecca-773438 February 5, 2012 Reply

    I agree with Julie and Mary Beth that detecting red flags is a crucial aspect to beginning any relationship and even in business interactions. For a store owner: is this person who is wearing shades and carrying an empty sac into my store looking to steal something? Or is he/she trying to hide a black eye and happens to be against plastic bags and wants to buy a VCR? Truth is, you never know until you question further. Just as it would be jumping the gun to call the police, it would be equally foolish to assume this person’s innocence and decide to leave this customer alone while you do inventory in the backroom. Either you could lose valuable merchandise, or you could lose a great sale, by jumping the gun either way.

    It is the same with relationships, especially online. Trust cannot be faked. Respect must be earned. We are dealing with complete strangers and red flags must be payed attention to. However, red flags are not always an indication to run away in the other direction. Instead, we should ask the right questions. I doubt most people want to display their complicated drama or reasoning for every check box on their profile. This is because they assume, as they should, that someone will actually try to get to know them by asking them questions.

    I personally know single mothers AND fathers whose child is compelled by law to visit with a parent who has joint custody (hence the part-time) but who is very bad for the child and may be neglectful or abusive. In some cases, moving the child to another state is the best thing for the child, because a new lawsuit for custody (involving new evidence of abuse) may finally prove in the child’s favor. So, before you judge someone, ask them directly. If they are offended at your sincere desire to get to know them, now that is a REAL red flag.

  5. Julie-727902 January 23, 2012 Reply

    Have to admit……I really do agree with this article. Because I’ve seen similar red flags in people’s profiles that have made me want to keep looking instead for communicating with them. I really don’t think people realize it either.

    For instance, the big red flag for me comes from men that believe pre-marital sex is ok, but are against contraception?? I’m pretty sure any reasonable woman who also thinks pre-marital sex is ok, would probably not be ok with getting pregnant because her partner won’t use contraception. I’m mean unless that’s the idea……you really don’t know. But, it does look bad, because then you face the awkward first message……..uh….what do you say to that? But, obviously would be a deal breaker for most.

    I guess the bottom line is that…’s true. You really should try to look at your profile as if someone else who doesn’t know you at all is reading it….does it make sense? Does this say anything other than what I want it too? It’s a good point.

  6. Aimee-212693 January 19, 2012 Reply

    The author is assuming that “yes- at home part-time” means that the kids are with them on a regular basis. There is no option on the site for “yes – at home only on holidays” or “yes – at home 80% of the time”, etc.. Therefore, “yes – at home part time” is going to encompass the majority of the people who ar not married and have kids. Catholic Match is a website, and like all websites, is a work in progress. User experience always has room for improvement and this just happens to be one of those areas.

    If a person is truly interested in you, but choses this one and only question to move on without gathering just a little more information, then I think you’re better off without that person. Consider it one of the thousands of blessings that are showered on us each day without even knowing it has happened.

  7. Apra-749845 January 18, 2012 Reply

    In my profile I do state that I’m willing to move anywhere but as you read into the profile I clearly let everyone know that my daughter is 15 years of age. However, I don’t think a realtionship will develop so quickly before she graduates from high school. By the way, I’m looking for friendship/long-term and later marriage. I’m pleased with my profile information. Thus,I do understand and agree with the author on numerous points she has brought to the tablet regarding the article. Sometimes, I think we need to sit back and practice deep,deep exhaling methods before jumping over the bridge. RELAX!!!!

  8. Ramona-652361 January 18, 2012 Reply

    hmmmmmmm now this was a tv show, and the relationship came later but didn’t Tony on Who’s The Boss move from NY, Brooklyn or the Bronx & head to CT? Ok grant that it was for a job but he also thought that it would be a better environment for Samantha. She had a better school & turned out great. So if a person started a relationship and felt that it could be serious and moved closer to that person with children in tow imho don’t think that it is a bad idea. There are things to take into consideration, what was life like in the old neighborhood, was there family? maybe, maybe not, is this person the right person for the parent? should parents put their happiness on hold or miss out forever because that other person may be in another city, state or country? What if the move turns to marriage. And I’m speaking of a move near, not a shacking up. Oh yeah and other movies Sleepless in Seattle, Mermaids, Everyone and anyone can voice an opinion in a blog. Don’t give up with your internet dating. That profile that is not right for you may be just right for someone else.

  9. James-233916 January 17, 2012 Reply

    I think the most reasonable explanation for the comment that the author mentions is that the men in question are thinking a little ways into the future, and not about the present moment. In other words, perhaps a man has children that are close to adulthood, and he’s thinking that by the time he would meet, court, and go through an engagement period with a lady, his kids would be adults, and then he would be free to relocate. I don’t doubt that some men out there are willing to move far away from their kids for a relationship, but I would hope that they are in the minority of the members on this site.

  10. Cheryl-184939 January 17, 2012 Reply

    Hi Stephen,

    I think the author’s observation was qualified by the following statement “Incredibly, I sometimes see grown men (perhaps women too – I don’t see a lot of female profiles)…”. As a woman she mostly views the male profiles, but she includes women if they have the same indicators in their profiles.


  11. Stephen-725391 January 16, 2012 Reply

    And when you all go to my profile to see you it was the wrote the above, Don’t get offended because I put as much as I could to answer all those questions and guess what …

    • Michaela-426347 January 17, 2012 Reply

      I am pretty sure that the authoress, would be just as concerned if it were a mother that was free to move away from her own children. I don’t think this was aimed to “hurt men”. I think she was trying to point out an area of concern, for either sex.

      • Stephen-725391 January 17, 2012 Reply

        Well, if that is so, why are the photos at the end of MEN with children and not the other way around?

        There is an ANTI-male bias in this society and apparently Catholic women are NOT immune!

  12. Stephen-725391 January 16, 2012 Reply

    I am offended and disgusted at the insinuations made in this article.

    Not one word condemnation directed at the women that caused those men into this situation.

    My advice to women looking for a man, you better read Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s books – “The Proper Care & Feeding of Marriage” and “The Proper Care & Feeding of Husbands”.

    Of all the articles I’ve read here, this is not MOST demeaning, offensive attack on men I’ve seen.

    • Naomi-698107 January 17, 2012 Reply

      The author’s a woman, Stephen, of course she’s going to be writing from a position where she’s reflecting more against men then women. She also made significant comment about the various variables which an individual could have found themselvs in that situation.

      Stop being so sensitive.

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