How To Spot A Serial Dater Before You Waste Your Precious Time

by Team Scary Mommy
Originally Published: 
serial dater, Couple standing and watching fireworks
Matt Popvich/Unsplash

If you’re someone who is out there dating (and by “out there,” we mean virtually or on socially distanced dates) right now, allow us to extend our deepest condolences. No matter how fun and quirky rom-coms make dating seem, more often than not, that’s not the case. For every magical first kiss, there are hours of anxiety analyzing the punctuation marks in text messages. (You get the picture.) As you probably know, there are many (many) red flags in dating to help you weed out the bad ones. This includes serial daters. Being a serial dater doesn’t just mean someone goes out on a lot of dates; it’s what happens (or more accurately, doesn’t happen) after those dates that’s the issue.

We’re talking about confusing and poor communicators who want you and everyone else (in the words of Drake) “for a good time, not a long time.” We’ve all dealt with that person before and we know how frustrating and heartbreaking the whole experience can be. It leaves you with a heavily guarded heart future suitors will have to melt to reach. All that time and energy— wasted. They knew they weren’t sticking around, but you were the last to know. Fortunately, there are several ways you can spot this kind of dater so you can save your breath and your sanity.

Here’s what you need to know about how to spot a serial dater, and why people end up becoming one in the first place.

Want to read more? Check out our package on dating and love, including the best cities for single women, online dating tips for single moms, how to break up with someone you live with, how to handle a breakup, questions to ask a guy, the different stages of love, and so much more.

What is a serial dater?

First of all, let’s start with talking about what a serial dater actually is. According to a blog post on the dating website eHarmony, a serial dater is “someone who refuses to play by the rules that we’ve all silently laid down as good conduct when dating.” These are things like being clear about your intentions, not leading people on, and then disappearing — that kind of fun stuff. Specifically, serial daters are really just out there for the thrill of the chase, and the excitement of a first date (or first few days), but quickly lose interest after that.

In an April 2020 article in the New York Times, writer Brianna Holt — herself a former serial dater — provides a helpful description of what her dating patterns looked like: “In the beginning, the exchanges felt freeing. But the more first dates I went on, the more obsessed I became with meeting new people, and the less I enjoyed dating the same people over and over again. Little did I know, my dating habits were quickly turning into more of a selfish hobby than my original intentions.” Yikes.

How can you spot a serial dater?

You probably want to avoid serial daters, so here’s how to spot them in the wild. Familiarize yourself with the following red flags:

  • They’re all about the fun. In the same New York Times article referenced above, Holt spoke with Dr. Paulette Sherman, a New York psychologist and author of Dating From the Inside Out, who said that serial daters “can be charming and smooth, but they are only into things as long as they stay fun.”
  • They keep things brief. Not only that, but Sherman said that they tend to “have a history of shorter relationships and are usually the one to break things off.” Essentially, Sherman sums it up this way: “They’re basically addicted to the romance of early dating.”
  • They try to push up the schedule. According to the experts at eHarmony, if they want to rush things — whether it’s scheduling the first date or having sex — it’s a sign that they’re looking to get in, have fun, and then disappear ASAP.
  • They’re oglers. Serial daters also tend to have wandering eyes, say eHarmony’s experts. So, if you spot your date scanning the room for other attractive people while on a date with you, that does not bode well for any hopes of a “relationship” with this person you may have.
  • You can’t keep their attention. If your date seems bored when you communicate with them, it’s probably because they have no interest in building an actual relationship with you. You know the type: They won’t ask you questions about yourself or background or try to actually get to know you at all because, guess what? They don’t care and are not interested in actually dating you.
  • They have a ghosting pattern. Not only do serial daters tend to go off-the-grid, but they also tend to have over-the-top excuses when they (finally) decide to circle back around. So, you won’t see or hear from them in a month, and when they get back they might say something like, “My car got towed, and then I lost my keys and couldn’t pick it up until I had a new set made.” Remember, you want to be with someone who WANTS to be with you. It is that simple and when someone makes dating you feel like rock science, or worst— a bunch of excuses, it’s time to cut them loose.
  • They go all-in for early dates. A serial dater wants to hook you upfront so you’ll stick around long enough to meet their needs. So, those early dates might be hours-long. They might pull out all the stops, wining, dining, and wooing you. And while those dates will be lovely, they aren’t likely to continue for too long with a serial dater.

Who are some famous celebrity serial daters?

So, you have a general description of what serial daters do. But could you spot one in real life? Perhaps a few real-life Hollywood examples will help put this concept into context. The following stars are often referred to as serial daters:

  • Leonardo DiCaprio
  • Cameron Diaz (pre-Benji Madden!)
  • Bradley Cooper
  • John Mayer
  • Madonna
  • George Clooney (pre-Amal Clooney)

Why do people become serial daters?

Basically, because they can. For a more psychological reason, Sherman says that serial daters are “basically addicted to the romance of early dating, but they get bored easily and move on.” They love the thrill of the chase but have no interest in committing. Sherman also provides this helpful roundup of other reasons why people end up becoming serial daters:

  • They fear commitment but also fear loneliness.
  • They have attachment issues.
  • They actually enjoy the glamour of the single lifestyle.
  • They date to get narcissistic needs fulfilled.
  • They are confused and don’t really know what they want.

Let that all sink in for a minute. It probably explains why so many (or at least some) of your previous dates seemed to go well and then you never heard from the person again. Of course, these do not excuse bad behavior, but at least they’re something to watch for the next time you swipe right and find a match.

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