Ever been played by a player? Here’s how to recognize a player so you don’t get played again.
One of my favorite Maya Angelou quotes is “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Ah, if only we’d all heed Ms. Angelou’s wise advice, there would be fewer broken hearts. I believe the best time to see a person’s true character is when you’re first getting to know them, before you have sex, before those bonding hormones cloud your judgment. There are usually signs on a first phone call or a first date that indicate a person’s values and character (or lack thereof).
On a first date, you’re both hopefully on your best behavior, and unless you’re a psychopath who’s really good at concealing your true character, you will reveal a lot about yourself. It leaks out, whether you’re aware of it or not.
So, pay close attention to a person’s actions and words. Do they line up? One of the advantages to dating after 50 is that I no longer go into a relationship with my eyes shut to the true nature of a man. No more wishful thinking or projecting what I hope lies beneath the surface. I’ve learned to accept the men I date for who they are today, not who they might become if only…
Still, sometimes even a dating coach can get fooled by a player. But not for long.
How I Ended Up Dating a Player
A few years ago, I met a man online who was smart, interesting, and very, very sexy. He lived about an hour away so after a few phone calls, we decided to Skype to get a better sense of each other. It was a great conversation. He told me he found me to be very attractive and sexy. That was nice to hear. I felt the same about him. We seemed to have many similar values, and I felt a spark for the first time in a long time. I was looking forward to meeting him that Saturday night.
On Friday, he called on his way home from work. I brought up something that made him uncomfortable, and he abruptly cancelled the date.
Wow! I had no idea what happened. I was trying to be kind and helpful, and he overreacted. Oh well. If he was that reactive and didn’t have the decency to talk about his concerns, he wasn’t the right guy for me. I was a bit shaken, but I felt I had dodged a bullet.
About two years later, he contacted me on another dating site.
I recognized him immediately, and remembered the good and the bad. I believe that people have the potential to grow and change negative behaviors, and I decided to discover who he was today. I was open to seeing if he was less reactive. After all, I believed he had so many redeeming qualities, why not give him another chance?
So, we began communicating again. The attraction was still there, and after a wonderful first phone call, he began texting. And texting. And texting.
The texting soon morphed into sexting—no surprise there. I let him know that I wanted to be seen as a whole woman, not objectified as a sex object. We hadn’t even met yet! He promised that he did see and appreciate all of me, and I really wanted to believe him.
We had our first “meet date” in a park, where we sat on the grass under a tree for an hour talking about our lives, our kids, and our favorite foods. No mention of sex. I thought to myself, “He’s less reactive. Easy to be with. Maybe he’s not just trying to get me into bed. Perhaps he has changed for the better.”
Our first date…
A few weeks later, we had our first real date. He drove an hour to meet me on my turf. I always appreciate when a man makes the effort to drive a distance to see me. He greeted me warmly with a kiss. We went out for drinks at a local restaurant. He held my hands throughout the evening.
We spoke openly about what we learned from our past relationships. We talked about the big challenges we had overcome in our lives. It was intense, and a little voice in my head said, “This is a very intimate conversation, and you just met. Keep your eyes wide open and slow things down a little. Make sure you can trust him.”
When we got back to his car, he became very passionate and aggressively sexual. He wanted to take me back to his apartment that night.
It was time to let him know my policy about sex. I told him I was very attracted to him, and I don’t have sex until I’m in an exclusive relationship and we’ve exchanged STD test results. He seemed to be okay with that—at least that’s what he said that night.
His actions proved otherwise. His subsequent texts were devoid of sexiness and urgency. Instead of several texts a day, I now heard from him every few days. When I asked if he was okay because he seemed to be pulling away, he assured me that all was fine. He was just busy with work and life.
A few days later, after texting, “Let’s chat later”, he disappeared. Poof!
I reviewed the 100 texts exchanged over the preceding few weeks (yes, 100!), and I saw a pattern that echoed our very first encounter two years earlier. He misinterpreted my words several times. When I sensed a misunderstanding, I’d let him know that he seemed to be drawing the wrong conclusion. I’d ask to chat by phone to clear things up. Would he please call when he had the time? He promised he would. He didn’t. That’s because he was a player disguised as a good guy. He liked me when things went his way. When I shared my needs and they didn’t align with his, he walked away.
6 Lessons I Learned from Dating a Player
1. Believe a person when they show you their character the first time.
Forgive mistakes. Don’t forgive bad character. Recognize a player early on. Especially when actions and words don’t line up.
2. Don’t text anything of emotional significance.
A relationship that begins with incessant texting is bound to lead to misunderstandings. Don’t text anything of emotional significance. Pick up the phone to discuss instead. If he or she is unwilling to talk by phone, this is not a relationship worth pursuing.
3. Accountability is one of the cornerstones in a healthy relationship.
If they continually promise they’ll call and don’t, walk away. If they make plans and don’t keep them, they are not worthy of your heart.
4. Leave a person who doesn’t respect your sexual boundaries.
If they push for sex before you’re ready and react negatively when you express your needs, they’re only in it for the booty call. They will never value you for who you are.
5. It’s important to feel good when you’re with them AND especially when you’re NOT.
I felt great when I was with this guy. But when we were apart, I felt anxious and untrusting. That’s a big fat red flag. A good person will show you that they like you by staying in touch between dates. You will not feel anxious and worry that they’re not into you.
6. If they disappear, let them go.
Don’t call or text and curse them out. They’re done with you, and they don’t want to hear it. They are cowardly, not willing to talk things out, and certainly not worthy of your time. Years ago, I would have given a man like this a “piece of my mind”. I thought that was the dignified thing to do. It’s not. Especially this early in the game. We had just met. He did me a favor by showing his character so quickly. Instead of contacting him, I got back to living my fabulous life without him.
Yes, I let myself be taken in by his sexiness, intelligence, and our seemingly shared values. But not for long. Attraction is hard-wired into our brains. It’s hard to change who you’re attracted to, but you can change who you let into your heart.
That’s been the major shift for me as I do the inner work on my journey to find love after divorce. Now my eyes are wide open. I date with dignity and self-respect. And each man is my teacher. I know how to cut the players loose before my heart takes over. I can balance my head and my heart.
I’ve learned to have self-compassion and not expect to always get things right the first time around. Dating is complex, and the more you learn about yourself, the better the outcome of your relationships.
Which brings me to another great Maya Angelou quote:
“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”
― Maya Angelou
This is the same process I take my clients through. Love yourself first. Love your life. Live your best life. Let go of the anger and hurt from past relationships. Learn from them and move on. Be open to new experiences and new types of partners. Keep your eyes open to the red flags that show up early on.
Understand that a good person wants to escalate the relationship and takes an active interest in you. They don’t hide behind texts. They know how to pick up the phone and call. They makes dates in advance and respect your time.
Know your relationship must-haves and make sure he/she has all of them. And walk away from a person who doesn’t respect you and your boundaries.
Have you ever dated a player who fooled you at first? What happened? I’d love to hear your story.
Photo: Drew Hayes on Unsplash
A version of this article first appeared in the Last First Date Blog.