How to Recognize a Player So You Don’t Get Played

Posted by in dating a dangerous man, dating in midlife, red flags in relationships | 11 comments


He’s behaving like your boyfriend, but you just met. Keep your eyes wide open. Here’s how to recognize a player early on.

One of my favorite Maya Angelou quotes is “When someone shows you who they are believe them the first time.” The best time to recognize a man’s true character is when you first meet. On a first date, you’re both hopefully on your best behavior, but your true character leaks out. Pay close attention to his 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 man I date for who he is today, not who he might become if only… But sometimes, even I can get fooled. But not for long.

How to Recognize a Player So You Don’t Get Played

Two years ago, I met a man online who was smart, attentive, and very sexy. He lived about an hour away so after a few phone calls, we decided to Skype to get a physical/energetic sense of each other. It was a fun conversation. He told me he found me to be very attractive and sexy. I enjoyed his compliments, but was a little concerned that “sexy” was the first thing on his mind. Nevertheless, it seemed as if we had many similar values, and I felt a kinship and connection 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 told him something that made him uncomfortable, and he abruptly shut down and cancelled the date. I couldn’t believe it. From my point of view, what I shared with him was intended to be kind and helpful, certainly not offensive. Oh well, if he was that reactive and didn’t have the decency to talk about his feelings, he wasn’t the right guy for me. Even though I was a bit shaken, I felt I had dodged a bullet.

A few months ago, he contacted me on another dating site. I recognized him immediately, and remembered the good and the bad. I’m a big believer in a person’s ability to grow and change, and I decided to discover who he was today. I was open to seeing if he was less reactive. 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 got sexy – no surprise here. I was playful but let him know that I wanted to be seen as a whole woman, not objectified as a sex object. 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! Maybe he had changed for the better.

Our first date

A few weeks later, we had our first real date. He drove to my neighborhood – 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 and transparently about what we learned from our past relationships. We talked about the big challenges we had overcome in our lives. It was all very sweet, but a little voice in my head said, “He’s behaving like your boyfriend, and you just met. Keep your eyes wide open and slow things down.”

When we got back to his car, he became very passionate and persistent. He wanted to take me back to his apartment that night, and it was time to let him know my policy about sex in a relationship. 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 told me.

His actions proved otherwise. His subsequent texts lost their 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 shutting down, 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!

When I reviewed the 100 texts exchanged over the preceding few weeks, 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 making assumptions and drawing the wrong conclusion, and I wanted 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.

What I learned

Believe a man when he shows you his character the first time. Forgive mistakes. Don’t forgive bad character. Recognize a player early on. He’s the guy whose actions and words don’t line up.

Don’t text anything of emotional significance. A relationship that begins with incessant texts is bound to lead to misunderstandings. Don’t text anything of emotional significance. Pick up the phone to discuss instead. If he’s unwilling to talk by phone, dump him.

Accountability is one of the cornerstones in a relationship. If he continually says he’ll call and he doesn’t, dump him. If he makes plans and doesn’t keep them, dump him.

Leave a man who doesn’t respect your sexual boundaries. If he pushes for sex before you’re ready and reacts negatively when you slow him down, he’s only in it for the booty call. He will never value you for who you are.

It’s important to feel good when you’re with him AND especially when you’re NOT with him. 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 guy will show you that he likes you by staying in touch between dates.

If he disappears, let him go. Don’t call or text and tell him what an a*hole he is. He doesn’t want to hear it. He’s a coward and 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 manliness, sexiness, intelligence, and seemingly shared values. But not for long. That’s been the major shift for me as I do the inner work on my journey to find love. 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.

“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 past relationships and learn from them. Be open to new experiences and new types of men. Keep your eyes open to the red flags that show up early on. Understand that a good guy wants to escalate the relationship and takes an active interest in you. He doesn’t hide behind texts. He knows how to pick up the phone and call. He makes dates in advance and respects your time.

Know your relationship must-haves and make sure he has all of them. And walk away from a man who doesn’t respect you and your boundaries.

Have you ever dated a player who was disguised as a good guy? What happened? I’d love to hear your story.

If you’re feeling stuck in dating and relationships and would like to find love this year, sign up for a complimentary 1/2 hour breakthrough session with Sandy

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  1. Great article Sandy…. One of your bests. Brilliant And right on. I’m in my mid fifties, divorced almost 20 years ago, and have recently seen a big change in men ( online dating) that really makes me want to just forget this whole dating thing and seeking out a life partner. It’s all a bunch of games and I’m really feeling like I can’t be bothered. Players, sex addicts and psychopaths. Or men looking to latch on to my financial security. I can spot them a mile away and I run. But really … Where are the good guys?

  2. Annabell,

    I’m glad you enjoyed this article. The good guys are out there. The point of this article is that you can learn to spot the players right away so you don’t get involved with the wrong men. But the right men, the good guys, are everywhere if you know how to spot them. I’ve written about how to find the good ones here

    Best of luck to you!

  3. I just got played. I am 54 ,female. My last b/f was 4 years ago. This player I met was soooo good at the game. I NEVER thought I would get played. First, he was very attractive. he knew how to act and what to say. We spent the weekend together, deleted our profiles. He introduced me to his sister and, daughter and nephews. I thought I met my man. We had sex Sun. Mon morning he left for work. I called, texted and emailed him. He responded to the email saying he wasn’t interested in anything serious. WHAT!!!… Not what he told me! I felt like I was in high school again. I think being lonely for so long played a part in my fog. I have learned now to keep my eyes more than open. Also, feeling stupid to admit this we had unprotected sex…2 weeks later I got tested and all is fine. I do have to go again in 3 mths for an HIV test. What a fool I was. Ladies please do not let this happen to you. My defenses were down mainly due to the fact that I was so attracted to him. Next time, I will tell the guy that I want to be in a committed relationship and want STD tests done. Lets see how long they stay around for that one.

  4. Ann,

    Players are good at their game. That’s why they’re called players 🙂
    It’s painful to be played, but the important thing is to recognize the signs early on. If you think back to the beginning of your ‘relationship’ with this guy, were there any signs you pushed away?

    Attraction and sex can deeply affect your ability to think straight. The good thing is that you recognize why this happened and you are sharing your story so others don’t have unprotected sex, or lose themselves because of chemistry.

    This guy was a jerk. You are not with him anymore. That’s something to celebrate!

    BTW, a good guy will get tested before sex. That’s how you know he’s a good guy.

  5. I’m so sorry you went through this experience, Ann.

    I know it’s painful. These players are good at their game. That’s why they’re called players 🙂

    Sex and strong chemistry make your brain fuzzy. So please don’t beat yourself up. The good news is that you’ve learned from this experience. That means you’ll do better next time, and you won’t sleep with a man who doesn’t get tested for STDs.

    A good man sticks around after you tell him your dating/relationship needs. A player runs the other way. And that’s good, because you don’t want to be with someone like that ever again.

    Thank you for sharing your story and helping other women avert the lures of a player.

  6. Thank you Sandy, it’s good to get female support here. I have learned a lesson.I won’t let loneliness cloud my judgement next time. After all, isn’t that what life is about, lesson learning. Kind of like being in a cosmic school. The key is to evolve emotionally and spiritually. If reincarnation is true, I do NOT want to come back here because of a guy. Thanks for sharing. Ann

  7. Ann,

    You’ve learned so many important lessons from this experience. You’re a good student of life, or as you say, the Cosmic School. I love that.

    If you’d like more support, why don’t you join my new Facebook group? It’s a place of support for single women over 40. We’d love to have you.

  8. Dating sites should not be taken more seriously than talking to a stranger without any cyberspace involved.
    The problem discussed here starts before any first contact. It is treating dating sites as your friend, rather than a cynical business exploiting people’s longings. Treat dating sites and contacts from them with a pinch of salt.
    If you’re going in with the attitude “I’ll write a profile and someone will email me and we’ll end up getting married” then know you’re vulnerable and back off to “I’ll write a profile and someone will email me and maybe we’ll have a laugh, but I hardly think it’s going to end in marriage!!”

  9. Alan,

    Thanks for sharing your opinion. I disagree with you about online dating being a ‘cynical business exploiting people’s longings’. As in anything in life, it is what you make it to be. If you date with your expectations in check, write an outstanding profile and post pics that truly represent you, online dating is one of the best ways to find love, especially after 40. Almost every client I have worked with has found love online.

  10. When I start seeing red flags, I just start acting extremely clingy, they disappear fast. I like this method to get rid of them because it’s like the trash takes itself out.

  11. Karen,

    Whatever works for you…
    I would recommend a more deliberate and assertive approach to life and love. If you spot red flags, why not address them (if you’re already involved), and if you’ve just met and the red flags are glaring, just walk away.

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