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Bar Etiquette: How to Spot a Bad Lover

Published: OCTOBER 29, 2015
Getting someone interested isn't about forcing your attention on to them. Watch for signs that show you that the other person is interested.

Can you make a snap judgment about whether someone would be a good lover? Normally, I would say no - it’s all about chemistry and mutual expectations. But sometimes, you can spot the not-so-good ones.


I was in New York recently to give a presentation. After my talk, I sought out a nearby restaurant for a drink and a light dinner. Seated at the bar, I saw him approach from the corner of my eye. He sat down with a seat between us and tried to get my attention. Eventually, I looked over and smiled. I knew immediately that he wasn’t my type - the gold chain cinched it. He asked what I was doing in town so I told him I was there on business. That led to the next question, what do you do for a living?

The answer? I write and speak about sexuality for adults over the age of 40.

Men always perk up a bit at that answer. Some of them assume that means I have lots of sex. I could see this guy getting his hopes up.

Mr. Gold Chain started trying to impress me by talking non-stop and telling me why Donald Trump would save America. After a few minutes, it became clear that I might need to engage the couple to my left in conversation. They had already summed up the situation and were prepared to help me out. When they got ready to leave, they offered to drop me off near my hotel. Mr. Gold Chain, hearing that offer, moved quickly over to the bar stool next to me, put his arm around the back of my chair, and insisted he could take me to my hotel. With a quick no thanks, I rushed out before he had a chance to respond.

Even though I had been avoiding conversation with him and turned my back to him, he failed to realize I wasn’t interested. With my apologies, I’m going to use him as an example of how to spot a lousy love. (I’m writing this from my point of view, which I think reflects what many of us want.)

  • He talked at me, not to me. I want a man who values what I have to say. He needs to engage me in conversation and show an interest, not just carry on a one-sided conversation.
  • He touched me on my arm almost immediately, and on a repeated basis. I want a man to be mindful of how and when he touches me, and whether it’s well received. His touch felt designed to "shush" me so he could keep talking. I can’t imagine him understanding the importance of intimate touch. He seemed like a shove it in and pump vigorously kind of guy.
  • He was boastful and bragging. Mr. Gold Chain was a little macho, trying to tell me how the world really was. He was condescending. It would be a mistake to automatically assume that a woman who works in the field of sexuality is just waiting for her caveman to enter and drag her to the bed. We’re typically all about mutuality and respect.

How to Not Turn Her Off at the Bar

A good lover is one who listens and responds to their partner. They are interested in intimacy that involves both people taking an active role in what will come next. They’re not pushing their agenda, literally or figuratively. Touch is consensual.


You can’t always tell what qualities make a good lover, but you can get an idea of how someone will behave and their ability to respect you as an individual. The person who is loud, dismissive, and overbearing with a person he’s presumably seducing is probably going to be worse in a private setting. A person who demonstrates a disregard for basic courtesies probably isn’t interested in, or even capable of, pleasing a partner.

How should a guy approach me, or any potential partner, in a bar?

  • First, he asks if he can sit next to me.
  • He asks questions and seeks to engage me. He engages in conversation. He does not lecture me.
  • He waits to touch me. He checks to see if the touch is well received and reciprocated. He looks for body language and facial gestures to determine if I’m interested. If he’s oblivious, he might technically be a decent lover, but he lacks the kind of sensitivity that translates into an awareness of a partner’s sexual responses.
  • He follows my cues. If I turn away or stop talking to him, he might back off a little or he might engage again, but try and establish some rapport. He doesn’t become more insistent or put his arm around me.

You can’t always spot the good lovers, but you can usually pick out the bad ones. Seduction contains an element of the unknown, so we want to be open to all the possibilities. But we also have to be aware of how people behave, and how that's likely to translate to their behavior in an intimate setting. Obviously, Mr. Gold Chain didn't go home with me that night, but had he been a little more receptive to the cues I was giving, I think we both could have had a better evening. Here's to hoping you fare better the next time someone makes a move on you - or at least that you're aware of some of the big red flags of a potentially bad lover.

Photo for Walker Thornton
Walker Thornton

Walker Thornton is a 61-year-old sex writer, educator and public speaker. She has ranked in the Kinkly Sex Blogging Superheroes for the last three years. Walker has spoken at national sexuality conferences, speaking on midlife sexuality. She is a member of the Leadership Committee of the Sexuality and Aging Consortium at Widener University. Walker writes for Midlife Boulevard, Senior Planet and other websites and online magazines. You can connect with her on Facebook and Twitter. Website: www.walkerthornton.com