When Essence asked me to write this story, I thought it would be the end of my love–love relationship with readers and the beginning of a love–hate one. Who wants to hear about the mistakes they make? My Lil’ Mama told me, “This might be one to pass on.” But my real Mama told me, “Mitchells don’t pass up no paycheck.” So be gentle with me, ladies. I’ve got your best interest at heart.

Mistake 1

Asking him to carry your baggage

A few months ago, I introduced my girl Keisha* to a pro athlete friend of mine. I asked them both how the date went. She said my boy was a good listener and love was in the air. He said the pain Keisha’s ex put her through and the bitterness she felt were the only topics they discussed all night. He had never heard so much complaining, and at the end of the date he sympathized more with Keisha’s ex. Meanwhile, Keisha keeps asking me if I’ve heard from my boy lately.

Attention, women: It doesn’t matter if your baggage is Louis Vuitton or that five-piece set from the L.A. Swap Meet—do not take it on your date. No dude you just met wants to hear about how your ex cheated on you in your own house or how your worthless baby daddy never stepped up to the plate. Most men date with the hopes of getting to know you. That’s very hard to do if you keep talking about your worst experience with the previous guy. It makes your date think, Why should I pay for the last guy’s mistakes?

What should you do if a man asks why a pretty girl like you is single? Don’t answer. It’s a trick question. We want to hear why the last relationship didn’t work out and how you handled the breakup. Inquiring minds (and their unkeyed car doors) need to know how you deal with anger. So give a short response like, “I’ve been focusing on my career and getting some things paid off.” Great answer! She is employed and pays her bills.

Mistake 2

Thinking, I can work with this

You go out on a date or two with Mr. Maybe, figure out what you don’t like about him, and then say those fateful words: I can change him. You’re not entirely wrong. There are small things a guy will switch up for a woman. For example, a man will change his wardrobe, maybe buy a few more of those shirts you said looked “sexy” on him. But if you’re looking for a major transformation, don’t waste your date nights. Raheem isn’t going to convert from Islam. DJ Talk-a-Lot isn’t going to quit his job working the mic at the strip club. And a dude who was having sex before he met you isn’t going to suddenly become abstinent while dating you. “My sex drive is pretty high,” admits my friend Dave. “If I’m dating a woman who puts me through a long waiting period, she is forcing me to lie about my needs and who I am.” A guy may like you enough not to press you about it for a couple of months (and that’s stretching it), but he definitely has some women on speed dial who don’t mind hooking up.

Bottom line: If a number of things about a guy bother you in the beginning, don’t waste time remodeling a distressed home. Keep checking out the real estate section.

Mistake 3

Moving too fast

Men get a bad rep for trying to race toward the bedroom, but women are just as guilty of trying to race down the aisle. As soon as you start dishing out questions we don’t have the answer to (“So where is this going?”), we start sweating. You make a brother feel like he’s auditioning for a role in your new movie called The One. Space the serious questions out over a number of dates.

And know that even though a guy might not be sure where the relationship is going after four dates, that doesn’t mean he’s not interested in finding out. But if you pressure a guy about it, he’ll likely give you the right answer, even if it’s not the real one. “It’s a no-win situation,” says my brother Chris. “If you say you’re dating around, you’re a player. If you say you don’t know about a relationship yet, you’re confused or not that interested.”

Let the relationship evolve (or dissolve) at its own pace. If a couple months of great dates, gifts and (maybe) sex don’t get you any closer to a strong monogamous relationship, let him know he has competition. Or start going out without him. A lot.

Mistake 4

Reading into the sex

When Tasha met my boy Blair, she made it clear that she wasn’t into casual sex. Blair told her he didn’t want to be in a monogamous relationship with anyone, but really liked hanging out with her and wouldn’t mind taking the relationship to a sexual level. A month went by and Tasha really liked Blair a lot. They were damn near inseparable. And then one night, things got heated and they had sex. “It was great,” Tasha told me. “Mind-blowing.” Then she began wondering where that put their “relationship.” Unfortunately, it didn’t put it anywhere. Tasha had just had casual sex with Blair, but she didn’t realize it. In scenarios like this, eight times out of ten, the woman thinks that her man must be ready for commitment and the stakes have changed. And nine times out of ten, the guy wipes his forehead, thinking, Thank goodness I told her how I feel about monogamy.

For men, sex before a monogamous relationship is established never means that we are now an item. It only means we have officially started having sex. I’m not telling you to hold out until your wedding day. I’m just saying that if you do give in, don’t assume it means you’ve moved up.

Thankfully, Tasha didn’t voice her thoughts to Blair. “I was glad, too, because I didn’t want it to be like, Now I gotta make a decision or else,” explains Blair. “But I was pretty much all about Tasha after that month.” Tasha and Blair are married now with four kids. Four!