Health & Wellness

Going on a date? 10 red flags and other secrets women need to know

When Michael Lockwood was a single divorced dad, he'd often write down dating advice that he planned to give to his daughters when they grew up. Years later, he's turned those thoughts and advice into a book "Women Have All the Power, Too Bad They Don't Know It." It's a wake-up call to women who make mistakes in the dating game. Here's an excerpt.

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Just Because it Glitters Doesn’t Mean It’s Gold

Don’t be impressed by the unimpressive. Too many women sell themselves short by settling for a man with an attractive exterior. A man who is overly concerned with himself and his material things has no room to value you. This is a dynamic that has always baffled me. Just because a man is good-looking, wears a shiny new suit, sports some Now and Later gators, drives a shiny new car, and profiles a new Rolex on his wrist does not mean he is a good man. As a matter of fact, that’s usually the joker who can’t rub two nickels together. What’s wrong with the guy in jeans and a T-shirt, driving a Camry, checking his Timex to see exactly when his check is going to hit the bank? You’re tripping over dollars to get to pennies. Never allow yourself to be impressed by a man’s depreciating assets (cars, clothes, expensive rental apartment). That’s just a reflection of his debt. If you’re going to be impressed with material things, at least be smart enough to start with his net worth.

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Watch out for men who spend money frivolously. I had a woman tell me how flattered she was when her boyfriend booked her a posh hotel room, filled it from corner to corner with freshly cut roses, and had an expensive dress lying across the bed just as a surprise to show her how much he cared about her. Granted, I’d have to give the brother an “A” for style and originality, but when I said to her, “Wow, he must be paid!” she said, with a glowing smile, “No, not at all. He’s living with his mother right now, but he just really likes me.” All I could think was, 'This fool must have fallen and bumped her head. I understand it may have been a flattering gesture, but don’t reward a man with attention and praise for foolishness.' Now, if he has no problem affording lavish gifts, that’s another story. But if the brother is broke, you have to question his motivations (and his sanity). He must use whatever tactics are at his disposal to get the go-ahead for intimacy from a woman. Applaud your man when he exercises good judgment. Don’t reward foolishness. This brings me to my next point: red flags.

Don’t ignore the red flags. Some women are notorious for turning a blind eye to the warning signs, even if they’re staring them right in the face. Instead of those flags just sitting there while you ignore them, let me wave a few of them for you.

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1. If your man is living in his mother’s house for more than a couple of months — I give a small grace period — RED FLAG.

2. If he drives an expensive car, but rents an apartment — RED FLAG.

3. If he overaccessorizes — RED FLAG.

4. If your man wears more than one ring per hand, more than one bracelet per wrist, and more than one necklace per neck — RED FLAG.

5. If he is always the one who’s overdressed for the occasion — RED FLAG.

6. If your man is constantly spending money on you without regard to price (i.e., clothes, trips, jewelry) and he can’t afford it — RED FLAG.

7. If your man constantly asks to “hold” some money or expect you to pay while on dates — RED FLAG.

8. If he approaches you with a flattering, yet rehearsed line — RED FLAG.

9. If he says he has a job but can’t articulate exactly what it is he does for a living— RED FLAG.

10. If he talks about himself more than he inquires about you — RED FLAG.

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The Thrill of the Hunt

Relationships will always frustrate you until you understand this very important concept: Men need to be challenged. Men are aggressive by nature, and once we devour our prey, we’re off on the next hunt. This means that once a man feels he has you effectively under control, he will move on to the next prey that presents a greater challenge. As a rule, you should be elusive enough to keep the hunter hunting and accessible enough for him not to quit.

That means for you should to continue to live your life. Don’t drop everything to be at his beck and call. Continue to spend time with friends and family. Demonstrate that you have a fulfilling life. Men look forward to sharing the excitement of your world, but that’s impossible if you’ve made the man you’re dating your world.

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Society basically dictates that a woman should have a man on her arm. This additional pressure has changed some rules of the game. Once a woman passes the age of thirty or so, she is expected to be married and have a couple of crumb snatchers. What society thinks of you can best be revealed by the dumb questions people ask.

I’ve heard people say things like, “What’s wrong? Why aren’t you married yet? What are you waiting for? You’re so pretty. Why can’t you find a husband?” I cringe every time I hear those types of questions. Don’t let this pressure lead you to become the type of prey that lies at the hunter’s feet. Better alone than poorly accompanied.

Do you remember me talking about how men had to court women in order to gain their good graces? Well, it’s tough for men to do the courting if women are pursuing them with pit-bull tenacity. I know the word court is very old-fashioned and not necessarily hip, but it’s what you should require before you give him your seal of approval. A woman’s aggression works against a man’s basic blueprint. Again, men are aggressive by nature, with animal-like instincts — they are hunters. What’s a hunter to do when his prey basically walks up and lies down at his feet?

It’s the same thing that happens in the wild. Let’s say we take a lion out of his natural habitat and every day we bring his food to him. Now, years later, we put him back in the wild. Check out what happens: He can no longer hunt. He has become lazy and apathetic, and patiently dies because he is no longer accustomed to hunting for his own food. The same is true for men. They are so accustomed to women chasing them that they have become lazy and unwilling to hunt. Now, who created this monster? Women. And it’s going to take women to fix it. Ladies, always maintain your dignity. A man will never respect you when he senses you’ll stop at nothing to gain his heart.

I would love to leave that point right there, but I know I’ve got to go a little deeper. Never make life-changing decisions in order to be with a man you’re not married to. By that I mean don’t move to another city, change jobs, or change universities. Keep him hunting. I can’t begin to tell you how many women have done this and come up empty-handed. This type of aggression rarely, if ever, wins a man’s heart. “Just keep on living,” as my mother used to say. If he is serious about you, he will do what it takes. He should start by putting a ring on your finger.

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As a hunter hunts, he is very observant of everything around him. Therefore, it’s great to show your man you have a variety of skills, but don’t overdo it. Show him you can cook and clean and you can be the breadwinner if need be and that you can meet his needs both in the home and out. Just don’t do it to the point that he comes to expect it. What you’re ultimately trying to accomplish is to show him that you’re a very enterprising woman, which reveals to him that you’re more of a benefit to his life than a liability. You want him to crave those qualities you possess by not receiving them all of the time. Let him know, for instance, that you’ll only cook every day for your husband. Show him you’re willing to stand by his side — to a point.

When he feels completely comfortable and content, you’ve lost him. You must keep some of the cookies in the jar. You want him to see the benefits of marrying you rather than keeping you merely as a girlfriend. These are the things that keep a hunter hunting. He can think you’re the finest thing walking the earth, but if you become the aggressor, taking his rightful place, he will divert his attention elsewhere. A hunter will hunt a prey who hides, one who runs, even one who bites, but hunters never hunt something that’s hunting them back.

You’re probably saying to yourself, I would never do such a thing, but I am willing to bet you’ve done it or you’re in the process of doing it right now. Here are ten tips that will help you keep the hunt alive:

  1. Don’t invite yourself to activities or complain that you weren’t invited. If he had wanted you to go along, he would have asked.
  2. Don’t invest in a man by moving to another city to be with him unless he invests in you first by putting a ring on your finger. Now, how often have you heard of one of your girlfriends doing this one?
  3. Don’t use shameful attempts to pressure him into marrying you. For example, don’t suggest going to look at engagement rings, don’t introduce him as your future husband, don’t put your friends up to questioning him about when he’s going to pop the question, and never try to trap him by getting pregnant. When a hunter sees what he wants, he will go after it.
  4. Eliminate the following phrases from your vocabulary: “Where is this going?” “I’m not going to date you forever.” “When are we getting married?” “I might be pregnant.”
  5. If you’ve chosen to abstain from sex until you’re married, don’t change your mind for fear of losing him. Stick to your morals and values. If he truly wants you, he will stay.
  6. Don’t abandon your friends, hobbies, or goals in an effort to be with him all the time. Keep a healthy lifestyle. Many women find the man they think is the one and they drop everything to pursue the relationship. Don’t do that.
  7. Don’t attempt to accommodate his every need. Leave something for marriage.
  8. If you choose to make sex a part of your relationship, don’t give up all the goods. Again, leave something for him after marriage.
  9. Don’t agree with everything he says. Freely voice your opinion. It’s better to find out you’re not compatible sooner than later. Besides, it’s obvious when you’re doing this.
  10. Never start doing anything you can’t continue doing for the duration of the relationship.

One more attempt to drive this point home: Men are not content to acquire “the low-lying fruit.” A friend of mine once told me that “Men can have hundreds of suitable apples all around their feet, but they’re not happy unless they go for that big, shiny apple on the highest branch.”

Always keep the hunter hunting.

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Understanding the Playa

Some hunters hunt to survive; others hunt as a hobby. The playa hunts for the sheer sport of it. As the saying goes, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” Well, the same goes for men. Women are often cautious of the infamous playas, but these are the men you want to keep close. A man can’t be a playa unless he has something women want. It could come in the form of money, power, fame, or just game in general. Keep these guys close. Study them carefully. Be mindful not to get caught up, now, because these are the very men who are capable of selling ice to an Eskimo and breaking down the most defiant woman.

Befriend a playa or two. Your goal is to gain knowledge. Observe his actions. Chances are, you won’t get much more than surface information out of him if he isn’t comfortable with you. Be patient because he will be more focused on getting to know you better than allowing you to get to know him. A true playa never completely rules you out. You are always fair game. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been friends forever or even if you’re married. When you gain his trust, he will share more information than you ever cared to know. Take the time to pick his brain. Most playas are proud of their tactics and are more than willing to hip you to the game.

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Playas have a way of derailing a woman’s mental, emotional, and physical state. They know just what to say and do in order to obtain their objective. Contrary to popular belief, a playa’s objective isn’t always about having sex with a multitude of women; it’s about knowing he could if he wanted to—the thrill of the hunt. Ultimately, a playa’s MO is about control. He wants his kryptonite to beat down your God-given power. He wants to get you to do the things he wants you to do, when he wants you to do them. I’ve seen women buying men everything from cars to jewelry to clothes. I’ve seen some of the most successful, beautiful, and strong women be completely dumbfounded as to how they became so blinded by a man.

He arms himself with charm, charisma, and a huge dose of confidence. Many women get caught off guard because they expect him to be easily identifiable—tall, dark, and handsome with a body like LL Cool J. However, playas come in all shapes and sizes. You can spot one by his charm that attempts to disarm. Be careful not to fall into his trap. Just observe. Your goal is to understand the man you’re working with and to make good decisions once you’ve learned what you’ve got. The sooner you acknowledge your zebra’s stripes, the quicker you can stop treating him like your prized black stallion.

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Here are a few playa secrets every woman should know. I know a few men who are going to hate me for revealing these, but my daughters have a right to know.

1. The playa’s cell phone rings while the two of you are in the car. He looks at the caller ID and realizes it’s one of the women he’s been hanging out with on the side. What’s a playa to do? He knows he’s going to have to answer or it’s going to look fishy, so he picks up the cell phone as if he really answered it but he actually sends the call to voice mail. While the phone is up “What’s to his ear he says, up? Ah, man, I ain’t doing a thing, just hangin’ with my baby.” Simple, but it works. You’ve got to be alert.

2. If you allow yourself to indulge in sloppy seconds by dating a married man, don’t fall for the age-old trick of him expressing how miserable he is and him promising he’s going to get a divorce. Yes, married men have mad game too. He wants to get you in bed without putting his family in jeopardy, so this playa attempts to find a woman who has just as much to lose as he does, which is what makes this strategy work. He wants to know you’re just as motivated to keep things on the low-low as he is. If you’re married too, that’s a plus; if you’re successful, that’s a plus. Anything that makes him think that he can get some without you showing up on his family’s doorstep is a plus. Don’t be a sucker — just wait until he’s actually divorced. But I suggest finding someone else before you end up just like his wife — cheated on.

3. This is the silver bullet used to slay the woman who truly thinks she’s “all that.” This playa secret works best for men who possess a huge amount of confidence and have a bit of a swagger about themselves. Here’s how it works: The playa targets you as his prey. He knows you’re a woman who might be a little hard to get just by the classy way you carry yourself. All that does is increase his desire to conquer. He approaches you with sheer charm and genuine interest—no lines, no looking you up and down, no crap. His goal here is to subtly show interest without you fully understanding he is crazy about you. Time is of the essence on this one — whether you meet on the telephone, meet at the office, or are introduced by a friend, it doesn’t matter.

He must show he is kind, charming, successful (i.e., he’s got it going on), and most importantly unimpressed with your beauty. Sounds simple, right? Well, here is where he gets you. He plays your competitive nature against you. After he makes you think he’s got it all going on in his world, he then proceeds to completely ignore you and act as if he is totally not interested in anything more than a platonic relationship. Bam! Now a woman’s competitive nature starts to kick in, and she wonders why he’s not interested in her. Beautiful and successful women are so used to men badgering them to death to show their interest that when a man doesn’t beg, grovel, or drool all over himself, it’s a blow to their confidence. Don’t fall for this one either. If he really wants you, he’ll come back to make a more concerted effort.

Now, when you find out that your stallion is a zebra after all, it is critical not to raise a whole lot of sand about it. The playa will be the playa, regardless of how upset you get with the fact that you’re not his only woman. Displaying your anger will do nothing more than get your own blood pressure up. He will always have an excuse, so why go to battle? Juggling women is just what a playa does. This is exactly why you don’t want to get intimately involved too soon. The right decision is just to move on. Never waste your time trying to change him, or any man for that matter. It drives me completely crazy when a woman is given all of the clues but chooses to stick around because she feels that she can heal a man of his playa ways. Again I say, move on. It goes back to that old saying, “Don’t hate the playa, hate the game.”

Excerpted from "Women Have All the Power: Too Bad They Don’t Know It!" by Michael J. Lockwood Copyright © 2010 by Michael J. Lockwood. Excerpted by permission of The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. All rights reserved.

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