How to Spot a Serial Dater


If you’re looking for a serious relationship, getting involved with a serial dater can be a serious waste of time. What’s a serial dater? Simply put, it’s someone who dates many people, but manages to steer clear of long-term commitments. Serial daters can be charming and a lot of fun to be with, but they will probably leave you feeling alone and unhappy. You can recognize serial daters early on, before you get too involved, by knowing what they tend to avoid and what they tend to prioritize.

Serial daters avoid:

  • Getting to know you: They are happy to have lots of fun with you, but they don’t ask much about your personal thoughts, feelings, experiences, or life history.
  • Sharing personal details: They tend to keep it all light. They might tell a good story or even have rare moments of some personal revelation, but they don’t really open up. They avoid making themselves vulnerable.
  • Talking about your relationship: Couples who are developing an increasingly more intimate relationship will sometimes talk about that relationship. They check in with each other, ensuring that they are feeling similarly about each other. Serial daters don’t like to talk about their relationship. This would require a level of intimacy that they would prefer not to have. So, they refuse to talk about the relationship at all, hint at feelings they never directly express, or they remain vague with comments about not being sure how they feel or not being ready yet for any commitment.

Serial daters prioritize:

  • Being a bachelor or bachelorette: They send the message that they are happy being single. Fitting with this, they have a history of only brief relationships – the longest one being at most only a year or two (and if they share information about it, you’ll probably find that the intimacy in that relationship was strained). When serial daters do express a desire for a committed relationship, they are focused on finding nothing short of the perfect partner – which, of course, does not exist.
  • Social approval and material riches: Serial daters often focus on earning money, showing off success, or dating someone who can bring them such rewards. While embracing these priorities, they try to avoid the emotional entanglements that accompany intimate relationships.
  • Fun: Serial daters want to have fun while keeping the relationship “light”, without any emotional commitment.
  • Sex: Serial daters are more interested in pursuing sexual pleasure than in nurturing an emotional intimacy that includes sex.
  • Anything but relationship: While serial daters might at first seem to give your relationship a lot of attention, this will disappear after the initial excitement phase. They will fail to follow through on promises to call or arrange to get together – other people or activities always seem to be more important.

When you feel attracted to someone, keep these warning signs in mind. Then if you see that the person is a serial dater, smile politely and move on – even if you are feeling charmed and interested. Yes, you will probably be passing on some good times. But remind yourself that what you really want is a close, loving relationship; and remain true to that goal.

Entries for the Relationships blog are for general educational purposes only. They may or may not be relevant for your particular situation; and they should not be relied upon as a substitute for individual professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need help for an emotional or behavioral problem, please seek the assistance of a psychologist or other qualified mental health professional.

by Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD