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5 Reasons to Call It Quits When Dating

Relationship deal-breakers — it's not about his mother anymore. It's much worse!

One of the good things about dating again several decades after the prom is that we are clear — or clearer, at any rate — about what we can and cannot tolerate. His refusal to set foot inside a museum? No longer an issue! (The same goes for his mother's ridiculous fashion sense.) Ah, but his character quirks: Those just grow larger as the years roll on.

Woman tearing red paper heart, Reasons to breakup dating relationship

At 50+, we're quick to recognize relationship deal-breakers and call it quits. — Istockphoto

The five defects noted below can easily become deal-breakers. How many have you encountered in your own dating life? (Me, I'm 5 for 5!)

1. He suffers from selective hearing

During my first phone conversation with Rick, he mentioned he was taking a poetry course at the college where I teach nonfiction.

"I'll bring you some poems to read and critique when we meet," he said.

"Uh, better hold off on that," I responded. "I teach four courses, so I stopped reading my friends' and relatives' writing ages ago. I barely have time to read my students' work these days."

When I arrived at the restaurant, Rick sat at a table piled high with poetry — 200 pages of the stuff.

Did I throw them in his face? Did I "accidentally" drench them in water or ketchup? No, I did not. I merely (and calmly, I like to think) reminded him what I'd said on the phone.

"Just read the one on top," he pleaded.

I read the one on top. It was about his dog. His dead dog. I praised my date's dead-dog poem. Then I chugged my drink, told Rod McKuen I wasn't feeling well and hurried home.

Imagine what a turn-on it was, months later, to encounter this as the first line in my (eventual) husband's profile: "I am a good listener."

2. He is spoken for

I met a man on vacation. We clicked. He lived an hour away. He started visiting me, usually for half a weekend. Whenever I suggested returning the favor, he put me off. Finally I asked why.

"There's something in my house you might not like," he said.

"Termites?" I hazarded.

He laughed but said nothing.

"Another woman?" I asked next. Of course. He started to explain. "Don't bother," I told him. I may not have known exactly what I wanted in a relationship, but I knew a triangle wasn't it.

3. He doesn't understand kids

Many years ago, when my daughter was about 10 years old, I dated a calligrapher. He presented her with a set of calligraphy pens. Promising, right? She grabbed one and eagerly began drawing. The artist went berserk, shouting that she was "doing it all wrong." She flinched; I bridled. "Don't you dare talk to my daughter like that ever again," I told him.

He and I were wrong together for reasons I'd been able to ignore until then. But raising my daughter was the most important part of my life, and I realized I wanted to be with a man who had experienced parenting too. After that episode, I steered clear of partners who did not have children.

Next page: 2 more scenarios where you should break it off and never look back. »

4. He has no sense of humor

Humor was my family's religion. We had big problems, but even bigger laughs. The men with whom I've connected since then aren't exactly stand-up comics, but they have all had a finely honed sense of the ridiculous.

I won't cite specific men here, but I think they know which camp they fall into. Those who never learned how to laugh quickly revealed that flaw — and were dubbed The Kiss of Dating Death.

5. He's a substance abuser

Sometimes it's in the eyes, sometimes in the lies. I once dated a man who was still taking Percocet for a root canal he'd had five months before. Having grown up in a family that would not go on vacation until we had polished off the milk in the fridge, I thought little of it at first: Might he simply have the same Waste-Not-Want-Not mentality?

Wasted he was: On our second date he left the movie theater for the men's room four times.

"Did you like the parts of the movie you saw?" I asked him afterward.

He sniffed and nodded.

"As much as the white stuff under your nose?" I said it loud enough for everyone in Cinemas 1 through 6 to hear. "Your coke is showing."

He smiled. "It offsets the Percocet. Wanna do a line?"

I did not. I left him standing in the lobby next to the popcorn, and never looked back.

Nancy Davidoff Kelton writes about dating after 50 for AARP.

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