I’ve been in my fair share of relationships. Relationships that, for one reason or another, are now over. And while my relationships have ended for a number of reasons, when it comes time for parting words there is one send-off I dread more than any—the all-too-common “I’m not ready for a relationship” breakup speech.
“I need to find myself first.”
“Things got very serious, very fast.”
“It’s not you; it’s me.”
“I prefer being alone.”
“I’m not sure I’m capable of love.”
You get the idea.
Rejection is a tough pill to swallow but most especially when the reason is that he simply doesn’t do relationships. Seems like something to mention on the first date, right? While I don’t regret any of my past relationships—they have, after all, taught me what I desire and deserve in a relationship—I still can’t help but wonder: Was there a point when I should have called it quits myself instead of choosing to stick things out?
Debra K. Fileta, M.A., LPC, author of the book and blog True Love Dates, helps shed light on five important questions you should ask yourself. Once you’ve begun dating seriously, ask yourself these questions—and if you can’t answer yes, it might be time to cut bait.
01. Do you share the same dating goals?
Shared intention is a basic foundation for relationships. If you desire something long-term, be honest about that.
“What does a date mean to you, and what does a date mean to him?” Fileta asks. “Is dating a series of casual get-togethers for dinner and drinks, or is it an interaction that’s moving toward the goal of commitment? If you’re not on the same page, someone will inevitably get hurt.”
Now, this doesn’t mean you need to tell him your desire to get married on date one. (In fact, you probably shouldn’t.) But a man who is interested in a serious relationship will be happy to hear that you are not just looking for a good time, and a conversation about your intentions will hopefully prevent confusion in the relationship moving forward.
02. Does he initiate spending time with you?
Another mark of a commitment-ready man is his ability to reach out to you. He should enjoy spending time with you and initiate it. If a guy is sitting back waiting for you to make all the plans, he may not see you as a priority. Pay attention to whether he makes you part of his life. A mature man is confident in the life he lives and will include you. Many women give too much without expecting much in return, Fileta says. A healthy relationship is one of equal give-and-take. Consider whether he gives you the time, attention, and energy that you need to feel cared for and prioritized.
03. Does he handle conflict well?
You can tell a lot about someone’s emotional maturity by the way he or she handles conflict. “Couples who tell me they never have disagreements are couples that actually scare me because someone is holding something in,” Fileta says. “Holding things in and keeping feelings to himself might make for a peaceful relationship yet one that will eventually blow up in your face. A healthy guy knows how to interact, listen, work through conflict and even disagree while still maintaining respect.” A recent study from Baylor University found that withdrawal from conflict harms a relationship and is associated with lower overall satisfaction in the relationship.
Think about how he handles even the smallest of conflicts, like when the two of you disagree on where to eat dinner. Does he get upset or defensive? Does he bring up past conflicts? Do these arguments play out via texting instead of face-to-face? If you answered yes to any of these, you might be dating a man who is not up for the rigors (or deserving of the rewards) of a real relationship.
04. Does he respect you?
Respect goes a long way. Does he respect your boundaries? Your body? Your feelings? Your career? A man who is pursuing a meaningful relationship with you should accept you and respect your values. “A relationship exudes respect when you feel that you are being heard—and not only heard but listened to,” Fileta says. “What you say matters, and he shows you that by responding to your words.”
If the man you’re with is not interested in the things that are important to you, he likely isn’t interested in a long-term relationship.
05. Does he express his feelings openly and honestly?
Sure, not all men (or women) are super attuned to their feelings, but a guy who is looking for a real relationship will be eager to find someone he feels comfortable opening up to. A man wants to connect with his partner, too, so he will at least make an effort—even if it is a struggle—to be vulnerable with you.
Fileta explains: “There are three levels of conversations: facts, ideas/opinions, and feelings. It’s important to be able to interact on each of the three levels in order to have healthy communication and interactions. Some people didn’t grow up speaking on the deep level of emotions, but it’s something that can and needs to be learned along the way in order for the potential of a nourishing relationship.”
If you’re dating a guy who wants to keep emotions to a minimum, beware. Communication is a necessary ingredient in a healthy relationship.
Take heart, ladies: Relationship-ready men are out there, and finding one will be very rewarding. Keeping these five questions in mind as you embark on your next relationship will help protect your heart and keep you from wasting your time.