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Turn Offs

I got a fantastic email from a reader saying, “Hey Ryan, what are some turn-offs that I should be aware of when I think about the other person? What can I do to make sure that I’m not sending out the wrong signal?” Great question, I said!

Finding a suitable partner is no walk in the park, as we all know. Many people find it challenging to meet someone that shares their lifestyle choices.

On top of that, once you find that person, approaching them may be tricky. So, if you’re struggling with this issue, you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, we’ll talk about most of the turn-offs that’ll send a partner running for the hills. We’ll cover what traits men and women can sometimes find off-putting.

Let’s jump into the habits you should try to avoid.

Turn-Offs Everyone Should Know About

—Biggest turn-offs to know about

A turn-off may be a habit or a trait that leaves your partner with a negative emotion. This can be anger, jealousy, or even sadness.

Depending on your age and gender, your turn-offs may change. So, without further ado, let’s look at features that can cause a partner to flee.

Teenage girl not finding the other guy very attractive! Uh oh!
Teenage girl not finding the other guy very attractive! Uh oh!

Biggest Turn-Offs for Teenage Girls

—Biggest turn-offs to know about for girls

In this section, we’ll dive into some of the traits that girls under the age of 18 find off-putting.

1. Bad Breath

It should come as no surprise that bad breath is at the top of our list. That’s because it’s one of the first aspects people notice when they meet someone new.

Having poor oral hygiene is a major deal breaker for many people. Not only does it take kissing off the menu, but it makes holding a conversation challenging.

It’s difficult to focus on the topic at hand when you spend most of the time avoiding face-to-face contact.

This isn’t just a turn-off for girls. Most people on the planet will have an issue with severe halitosis.

That’s why you should always brush your teeth and floss before a date. It may also be a good idea to pop in a breath mint a few minutes prior to the meeting.

2. Poor Personal Hygiene

Some teenagers struggle with maintaining proper personal hygiene. This is especially true for adolescent boys, between the ages of 12 and 18.

With all the hormonal changes and the hair growing in unexpected places, it can be tricky to stay fresh.

Sadly, this may be one of the biggest turn-offs for girls. For that reason, a daily shower is crucial. This way, you ensure that you smell great all the time.

Deodorant and perfume are also great tools that can help with this issue. Although, you have to be careful not to overdo it with the scents.

Wearing a particularly strong fragrance can be just as off-putting as poor hygiene.

3. Being Insecure

Being a teenager is no easy feat. There’s a constant societal pressure to fit in while you’re trying to figure out who you are as a person.

Because of that, girls and boys alike wrestle with low self-esteem. They can feel insecure about their appearance or behavior around other people.

Unfortunately, that means they’ll have a hard time expressing their opinions. This makes it extra difficult to shine while having a conversation.

Luckily, there’s an easy fix. We’ve all heard the saying “fake it till you make it”, but few of us use it in our dating lives.

All you have to do is present as confident, and your attitude will follow your lead.

4. Poor Styling Choices

Your outfit choices can have a significant impact on your dating life. This may seem a little vain, but there’s a reason behind it.

When you’re in school, there are few opportunities to stand out from the crowd. All the students have to follow the same rules and guidelines.

This helps everyone feel like they’re a part of the group. Sadly, that makes finding a romantic partner tough.

So, you’ll need to find a way to grab people’s attention. The fastest way to do that is through your wardrobe.

However, it’s best to steer clear of overly flashy clothing. It can signal that someone is trying too hard to shine.

5. Being a Bad Student

As a student, you should spend a good chunk of your time worrying about how well you’re doing in class. While focusing on your grades may seem a bit uncool, it can help you find a significant other.

That’s because acing your tests shows that you care about your future. This signals that you can be a reliable and trustworthy partner.

Other than that, it’s a good idea to avoid getting in trouble as best you can. You have to remember, getting told off by a teacher or an adult is never a good look.

6. Poor Social Skills

Many of us struggle to find the right words when we’re in the middle of a conversation. This is even more apparent when you’re talking to someone that you like.

Regrettably, this makes it more difficult to establish a romantic connection with someone. So, having poor social skills can put a damper on your dating life.

This can be a little tricky to overcome, but there are tips you can use. For starters, try leading with a smile.

That will help disarm the person in front of you and help them relax. Besides that, be sure to utilize body language and eye contact.

Biggest Turn-Offs for Teenage Boys

—Biggest turn-offs to know about for guys

In this section, we’ll cover the biggest turn-offs for teenage boys.

1. Not Being Able to Take a Compliment

As we mentioned, conversations can be difficult, especially for teenage boys. It’s so easy for them to choke on their words and twist their tongues.

That’s why they have trouble expressing their feelings and thoughts. So, when they muster up the courage to compliment you, be ready to receive it with a smile.

Typically, it’s best to praise them back, yet you don’t have to. A simple thank you and a twinkle in your eyes should do the trick.

This will help you avoid any awkward silences. On top of that, it’ll show that you’re interested in carrying on the conversation.

2. Being Too Needy

Meeting someone new can be an incredibly exciting experience. You want to spend as much time together as possible. Sadly, too much of a good thing can turn sour quickly.

Boys can have a hard time with responsibilities. For that reason, if you seem too dependent on them, they may run for the hills.

Add to that the pressures of a relationship, and you won’t be able to stay together long.

You have to remember that everyone needs some alone time every once in a while. So, being too clingy can spell disaster for a relationship.

3. Saying I’m Fine

Relationships at a young age can be especially stressful. Both parties are figuring themselves out while maintaining someone else’s happiness.

For that reason, communication is crucial in the early stages of a new partnership. That’s why saying “I’m fine” instead of addressing an issue may become a major obstacle.

It builds a wall between you and your significant other. Aside from that, it may signal that you don’t want their help. This may lead to them feeling a bit left out.

On top of that, people have a tough enough time trying to organize their own thoughts. So, reading your partner’s mind is usually out of the question.

It’s always best to face a problem head-on and fix it straight away.

4. Pet Names in Public

Pet names are an excellent way of developing a bond with a significant other. They can help you feel more comfortable around each other.

Plus, they’re a great method of showing affection. Although pet names may be a double-edged sword.

Boys may enjoy the odd nickname at home, but not in public. Some people have an issue with the cute terms of endearment.

They can be a tad emasculating, mainly when hanging out with friends. To avoid awkward moments in public, make sure to have a talk about pet names first.

5. Negative Attitude

Navigating your feelings as a teenager is no cakewalk. With all the hormones in your system, keeping a lid on your emotions is almost impossible.

Even though boys are less likely to share their feelings, the emotions are still there. So, you have to take them into account.

Thankfully, when you’re in a relationship, you’ll have someone else there to help. Your significant other can make it easier for you to filter and express your thoughts.

When you’re looking for a partner, you want someone to build you up, not tear you down. For that reason, a constant negative attitude can be a turn-off.

Related: What is the friendzone?

6. Canceling Last Minute

We’ve all had that moment when we needed to cancel a date last minute. While it happens often, it can still be a major blow.

Generally, boys will spend a long time planning for the event. They’ll work on their outfits and organize a fun date for the two of you.

So, calling off the plans abruptly may lead to them feeling a tad miserable. On top of that, they’ll hear a tiny voice in their head screaming they’re not good enough.

Other than that, as students, they don’t have that much free time. Because of studying and other obligations, they may not have the opportunity for a rain check. 

If you have to cancel, make sure to do so as early as possible. Plus, remember to mention a specific reason for calling off the date.

A woman not finding the guy very attractive!
A woman not finding the guy very attractive!

Turn-Offs for Women

As girls grow older, their turn-offs can change to reflect where they stand in life.

1. Smoking

Smoking can make a person seem aloof and rebellious. As kids, there’s a certain allure to the action. However, as we grow older, this fades away quickly.

First off, the smell can be unpleasant and stuffy. Many people find it difficult to hang out in an area with plenty of smoke.

So, to guarantee your date isn’t cut short, it’s best to stay away from cigarettes.

Other than that, secondhand smoke is also incredibly harmful. Every year, there are new studies about the negative effects of inhaling smoke.

For that reason, it should come as no surprise that some people like to avoid smokers altogether.

2. Lack of Respect

In today’s world, women are still fighting for equality. They have to work twice as hard as men for people to take them seriously.

Thus, women tend to feel overlooked and underappreciated. This can create an imbalance in the relationship, which may lead to resentment.

For that reason, it’s important for a significant other to be extra supportive. You should be respectful of their personal and professional wants and needs.

Beyond that, you must be appreciative of their efforts. Compliment any of their achievements and celebrate them when you can.

Finally, it’s key that you respect them as human beings. That means minding your manners and choosing your words carefully.

3. Untrimmed Fingernails or Hair

As adults, we’re expected to maintain a certain level of hygiene. Although, as we get older, it’ll take a lot more than a shower to look our best.

When you go out on a date with a woman, she’ll take her time to assess your overall appearance. That includes checking your grooming habits.

Two of the biggest red flags are uneven, jagged nails or untrimmed nose hairs. Both can signal that the person isn’t great at taking care of themselves.

This can plant seeds of doubt as to whether they’re able to take care of anyone else.

Before your date, it may be best to stop by the barbershop and ask them for a full grooming session.

4. Being Too Judgy

We all have insecurities in one form or another. For example, some struggle with finding confidence in the way they look or behave.

Because of that, these topics will be particularly sensitive to discuss. You want to make sure that the person in front of you is comfortable and relaxed.

This can be tough to do with a judgy attitude. It can come off as a little rude and inconsiderate. That’ll make it next to impossible to form bonds with new people.

As a general rule, it’s best to be as supportive as you can. That means avoiding touchy subjects, like judging what your partner eats.

5. Being Rude to the Waiter

It’s easy to be nice to someone that you’re romantically interested in. You’ll put your best foot forward to impress them during the date.

Because of that, you can’t always trust the first impression you get. However, a quick way to assess their behavior is to pay attention to how they treat the staff.

You can tell a lot about a person from the way they handle an attendant or waiter.

Being rude or dismissive can make people appear pompous and elitist. Both traits can lead to them going home alone after the date.

6. Not Paying Attention to the Conversation

Men and women can sometimes have different ideas of what makes an interesting topic. Unfortunately, this can cause quite a few problems on a date.

If you’re not paying attention to the conversation, your partner may feel like they’re boring you. They assume you don’t care about their problems or helping them solve their issues.

Because of that, they’ll be less likely to share their feelings with you in the future. This, in turn, will cause the relationship to crumble in a flash.

7. Outdated Sense of Style

Going out on a successful date is all about nailing the first impression. The easiest way to do that is with your outfit.

A woman will dissect your clothing choices to help her figure out if you’re the right match. It’s not about how expensive your clothes are, but more about how you put yourself together.

She’ll check to see that you have a nice sense of style and that you’re presentable. That way, she won’t have to think twice about introducing you to her friends or family.

Turn offs for men in a relationship
Turn offs for men

Turn-Offs for Men

In this section, we’ll jump into the traits that men can find off-putting on a date.

1. Lack of Enthusiasm

Even though men are terrible at showing it, they can be extremely sensitive. So, when their partner seems disinterested, the experience can be disheartening.

They’ll find it difficult to keep the conversation going and smile throughout the night.

For that reason, you have to express your enthusiasm for going out with them. That means avoiding looking at your watch or phone as much as possible.

On top of that, don’t wait for them to lead the entire conversation. Try asking them about their career or life.

This will make it clear that you’re interested in continuing the date.

2. Being Too Talkative

There’s nothing worse than awkward silence during a date. Although, this doesn’t mean that you need to fill every moment with a conversation.

Talking too much is one of the major turn-offs for men. First off, this exhibits that a person isn’t great at understanding social cues.

That means it’ll be a burden to spend a lot of time together.

Other than that, it makes it difficult to connect on a personal level. Remember, if you’re talking, you’re not listening, so it’ll be impossible to build a rapport.

Related: Topics to talk about with your significant other

3. Talking About an Ex Excessively

When you go out on a date with someone new, chances are your exes will come up. For the most part, this is completely normal and usually harmless.

However, talking about a previous significant other too much can lead to a few issues.

For starters, it’ll cause a sense of unease. The guy may think you’re too caught up on your ex to begin a new journey.

Besides that, you may make him feel insecure. Mentioning past relationships can lead to uncomfortable comparisons.

Because of that, maybe wait until the third or fourth date before you talk about your exes in detail.

4. Arriving Late

Over the years, the trend of arriving “fashionably late” has gained a lot of popularity. People like to show up to dates a bit later than agreed upon to make a dramatic entrance.

While this may seem like a good idea, it can easily backfire. Arriving late can signal that you don’t think their time is as valuable as yours.

That’ll kick off the date to a bad start, and may lead to it crumbling altogether.

Instead, if you’re running a few minutes behind, make sure to call ahead. This will show them that you’re respectful of their time and that you’re interested in the date.

Biggest Ones for a Relationship

Just because you’re in a relationship doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. There are a few turn-offs that’ll make it challenging to stay with a partner.

Let’s take a look at what some of these traits are.

1. Lack of Boundaries

When people date for a long time, they tend to share most aspects of their lives. As they get closer in a relationship, some boundaries disappear.

However, that doesn’t mean all limitations are off the table.

It’s healthy for you and your partner to set some boundaries for your relationship. For example, ask permission before you use the other person’s toothbrush.

This may seem arbitrary, but it’s a great way of building trust. That way, neither party will feel uncomfortable or that they’re taken for granted.

The best way to approach this subject is to have an honest conversation. Discuss all of your boundaries and ask them to set their own.

2. Being Selfish

Being in a romantic relationship requires a lot of selfless hard work. You’ll need to consider your partner’s feelings and life when making decisions.

This is a delicate balancing act that takes a lot of time and practice to master. Although, it’s only possible when everyone involved is considerate.

Both partners will need to compromise from time to time to keep the relationship going.

3. Controlling Attitude

Communication is one of the key aspects of being in a healthy relationship. Unfortunately, if one party is controlling, an honest dialogue is next to impossible.

That person will be too worried about getting their way to check on their partner’s needs.

As you can imagine, this doesn’t make for a great environment for relationships to thrive. Instead, it’ll cause trust issues and may even lead to resentment.

4. Lack of Eye Contact

Most people know the saying “the eyes are the window to the soul” all too well. We grew up hearing about how important eye contact is. Well, it’s even more crucial in romantic relationships.

There are three main reasons behind this. First off, eye contact can help with reading facial expressions.

It’ll be much easier to communicate non-verbally if you’re looking into each other’s eyes.

Other than that, it’s a sign of focus. It’s an excellent way to show your partner that you’re invested in what they have to say.

Finally, the lack of eye contact may signal that you have something to hide.

5. Dishonesty

For any relationship to work, romantic or otherwise, you need a foundation of trust. This is only possible if both parties practice honesty.

For that reason, avoid saying what you think the other person wants to hear. Instead, focus on trying to convey your true self.

While the truth can sometimes hurt, it’ll be less painful in the long run.

Turn offs in a relationship
Turn offs in a relationship

Wrapping Up

We all want a special someone to share our lives with, but it isn’t always easy. To make sure you impress your partner on your next date, you can take a look at our list of turn-offs.

Depending on your age and gender, these can change. However, there are a few characteristics that put off the majority of the population.

These include poor personal hygiene, being too needy, or a lack of boundaries. Others may revolve around being selfish or arriving late to your date.

Avoiding these traits will make it much easier to land a second date or keep your relationship going.


Vlassoff, Carol. “Gender Differences in Determinants and Consequences of Health and Illness.” Journal of Health, Population, and Nutrition, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Mar. 2007, NIH.gov

Goddings, Anne-Lise, et al. “The Relationship between Puberty and Social Emotion Processing.” Developmental Science, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Nov. 2012, NIH.gov.

Mann, Douglas L. “Fake It till You Make It: What Every Translational Investigator Can Learn from the Rise and Fall of Theranos.” JACC. Basic to Translational Science, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 5 Jan. 2022, NIH.gov.

Fact checked:
Board reviewed by Marianne Tomlinson, LCSW (Couples and Family Therapy). Content is rigorously reviewed by a team of qualified and experienced fact checkers. Learn more.

About the author

Ryan Sanderson (LCSW) Ryan is a game and relationship enthusiast who enjoys all things quizzes, games, fun, love, relationships, and family. He's a licensed social worker and helps families, couples, and children in need. He's spoken about love and relationships on Salon.com, Forbes, and Mirror, to name a few.

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