Illustration of woman's leg chained to heart inside a bear trap

Break up advice: forget The One – spotting Not-The-Ones is a much more valuable skill

All relationships start on a good note, but how do you figure out whether someone is actually right for you? Here, Nell Frizzell reveals the clear indicators you’re dating the wrong person that can help you decide it’s time to move on. 

From glass slippers to coma-reversing kisses, airport chases to diamond jewellery, there are a lot of fairy-tales, pantomimes and Christmas films predicated on knowing – simply knowing – that you’ve found The One. You look into their eyes, the bells begin to ring, the clouds part, chests heave and, suddenly, you just know: it’s true love.

Fewer songs and movie plots are sold on that other, but equally important realisation; that they’re not The One. That this person who leaves their teabags on top of rather than in the bin, who forgets to brush their teeth, who says ‘momentarily’ when they just mean ‘soon’, who never puts the milk away, who wants to ‘focus more on the band’, who just confessed to sleeping with your sister in a Little Chef, may not be the person you are going to spend the rest of your life with. But you need to know. And preferably before you’ve spent £25 on a new blender and set of socks to put under their tree.

So this Christmas, like some beneficent festive fairy in a pair of sports socks, I am to guide you through just some of the wonderful ways to realise that you’ve backed a wrong’un. Ship out. Move on.

1) They won’t meet your friends

Commitment phobes – much like raw onions, blisters and leaf blowers – are everywhere and they ruin everything. Everything. Please learn from the mistakes of the millions of us who have gone before and do not waste your life on people who treat their partners as sexual vacuum cleaners; useful when you need them but might as well be kept in a cupboard the rest of the time. 

Bridget Jones
“In most films about heartbreak, the lead character spends a few days in bed crying with ice cream. Suddenly she’s okay again.”

If someone doesn’t want to admit that you are an individual, with friends, relatives, a past, an internal life, a job, other things in your life that make you who you are, then they are stupid, pointless and dangerous. If you are seeing someone who claims to be busy every time you invite them out, round to your flat or along to something with your mates, they are a plank, pure and simple. If they actually go so far as to admit that they ‘can’t handle the whole friends and family thing’ please, shove a mince pie up their hole and walk away.

2) What lies beneath?

I don’t mean frilly suspenders on a sports field or a propensity to pad your bra with cheese slices – if that’s their deal and you’re into it then more power to you. I mean hidden secrets, unchallenged ticks and underwear neurosis.

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I spent an unhealthy amount of my time at university trying to make it work with a baby-faced, sexually-reluctant bore who couldn’t leave the house unless his socks, vest and pants all matched. The one time I went to his house he bought me a takeaway, farted on my leg and slept in until 11am while I sat downstairs trying to find something to read that wasn’t a 1964 edition of Playboy

Honestly, sometimes the signs really are there right from the beginning, if you’d only notice them.

3) No sense of humour

Mariah Carey talks a lot of sense. Not so much the ‘Santa won’t you bring me the one I really need,’ begging of All I Want for Christmas; I’m talking about the bit in Fantasy where she sings ‘I’m in heaven with my boyfriend, my laughing boyfriend.’ 

Whatever your sexuality, someone who enjoys your company, laughs at your jokes and doesn’t take themselves too seriously is a must. I once dated someone – they loved crosswords, could fix bikes and wore the same size jeans as me – who told me that I made ‘too many puns’. They also, I would like to point out, answered about one message in every four, stuck their own poetry on his bedroom walls and was scared of all dogs. In the balance of whether to keep trying, it was the puns thing that really got me. 

Laugh at my jokes or delete my number. Thank you.

4) Bad eggs

In this, what I’ll call the Fairytale of New York section, I want to detail all the scumbags, maggots, bums and chancers that will try to slip into your stockings this season. The people who ignore your calls all week and then text at 2am on a Saturday asking ‘U still up?’ with a winky-face emoji. The people who call you ‘chicken’. The people who explain at length their ‘shelving system’. The people who tell you the ‘right way’ to eat crumpets. The people who mistake taking cocaine for having friends. The people who aren’t in touch with a single person they’ve known longer than a year. The people who tell you they’re ill/ working/ going to bed early and then post selfies from very flattering bar toilets an hour later. People who lie. People who treat adult communication as a drag. People who refuse to make plans. People who are scared of vulnerability or hungry for power.

Love is a year-round game. It takes care, time and attention. It might involve compromise and it will rely on good communication. But love, when it really is love, can also be very simple. If someone is ruining your Christmas this year, do not be afraid of letting them go. I’d rather eat a baked potato on my mother’s sofa on Christmas Day than slog through a photogenic but unpleasant pantomime of what I think the holiday season should look like. 

Better to be single than with a rotter. Better to jingle your own bells than pull the wrong sleigh.

The Panic Years: Dates, Doubts and the Mother of all Decisions by Nell Frizzell (£14.99, Transworld) is out now

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