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I’ll be the first to admit that I have been guilty of dating several women at a time, not terribly invested in any, hoping that something sticks or someone better comes along. There are other times when I’m sincere about my pursuit of a particular woman, even though I’m not sure myself how much I actually like her. If I don’t even know how I feel, I can only imagine how challenging it would be for her to be trying to interpret what signs I’m giving off (or not).

The good news is, a man does act differently when he really likes a woman. So, to make amends for my own contribution to the confusion, here’s one man’s perspective on how to tell the contenders from the pretenders.

01. He puts in a little extra effort.

It is my observation that men generally like to exert as little effort as possible when it comes to matters they aren't personally invested in. That goes for everything from studying for exams to cleaning his apartment to, yes, dating a woman. And I’m not even saying this is a conscious thing, but it’s still a thing. So when a man really likes a woman, things change. He “shows some intentionality,” as my buddy Jeff says.

Something as simple as effort in conversation is a perfect example. The way a man converses can show his interest level. “He's not only initiating a conversation, he's sustaining it,” my buddy Teddy explains. “It's not just a hit and run to get some ego boost from the girl's interest.” Taylor puts it well in her article about whether the guy you are messaging deserves a chance. “Guys who don’t ask questions aren’t worth going out with right now,” Taylor says. “. . . When it comes down to it, if he can’t message like an interested, engaging person, he certainly won’t date like one, either.” As a man, I can attest to this.

02. He remembers details.

Another telltale sign is what he remembers (or doesn’t remember) from conversation to conversation. Let’s be honest, if you’re seeing several people at the same time, you can’t keep every important detail straight from date to date. As a result, you’re basically having to have the same introductory conversations over and over—or, you’re making sure to avoid references to family, specific friends, etc. But a man who’s really interested makes a point to remember the important details that you’ve already talked about, because he was actively listening and wanting to remember.

03. He prioritizes you.

Speaking of, I have a good buddy who would make a point to tell a woman when he had stopped talking to other women, as a way of showing her his interest. He would even say something like, “I’m not telling you that you can or can’t, but I just wanted to let you know that I’m not seeing anybody else.” It was a simple way of saying, “You’re a priority for me.”

But investment reveals itself in other ways, too, particularly when it comes to time. If I like a woman, I want her to know that I want to see her again, and I don’t want to leave it ambiguous. I want to put something on the calendar. Why would I wait until the day of or even the day before to ask her out and risk that she has other plans lined up—or worse, risk that she thinks I’m not making her a priority? And not all time is created equal: if I’m inviting her to do something on a Friday or Saturday night, that means I’m giving her prime time, and I’m not thinking about who else I could meet instead.

Take, for instance, the open-ended invite. There’s something different about “Hey what are you doing rn” compared to, “Hey, when can I see you again?” He’s not just looking for a woman to hang out with because his plans fell through or he just got lonely (or horny). He’s conveying something different: I want to see you, and I’m willing to work around your schedule if need be.

04. He does stupid things . . . like call you to ask you on a date.

It never ceases to amaze me how I seem to lose my most basic faculties when I’m around a beautiful woman. And I’m not alone. This is everything from just basic nervousness (”We get nervous and stumble on words,” as my buddy John puts it) to forgetting to follow beginner’s dating protocol, such as not over-sharing. ”The rational faculty that should tell a man that ‘more is less’ or to ‘play it cool’ can go a bit haywire when he is really into a girl,” Teddy says.

But this concept also extends to intentional vulnerability. Take, for instance, the man who picks up the phone and actually calls a woman. There is no backspace when you’re actually speaking to a woman. You can’t type out a message and then read it over a few times to see if it really is the message you’re trying to convey. Calling is a bit of a lost art, and dare I even say an under-appreciated one. But if nothing else, there’s an undeniable risk associated with it, and men typically don’t risk much for women they don’t care about.

05. He’s forward-thinking.

It’s true: A man who’s interested in a woman can hardly wait to see her again. But not only that, he doesn’t want the current date to end, he’s dreading the moment he has to say goodbye, and he’s bummed when he has to leave a woman he’s excited about, even if it’s just for the night.

But there’s a strange paradox that comes into play here, too: When a man is really into a woman, he sets boundaries. It’s counter-intuitive, for sure. But I’ve definitely experienced a relationship or two that burned too hot too fast, and ended up burning out not too long after. And I’m determined not to let that happen again.

Sometimes, the last thing either of you want is to take it slow, but sometimes that’s what’s in both of your best interest—and any relationship that would ensue. So if you meet a man who is showing signs of interest while simultaneously being deliberate about the pace of the relationship, he might just be seeing what he can do to keep things on the right track, with the future in mind.

06. He’s straightforward.

One nice thing about guys is that they are typically pretty straightforward. That is, If he seems like he’s into you—and better yet, says as much—you can trust that he is. In fact, I got some funny looks when I asked guys how a woman would know that a guy is interested in her. “Ummm . . . he asks her out?” Zeb says, wondering if there’s a catch (there isn’t).

Sure there are some exceptions, some dudes who over-complicate things or give mixed messages. But for most guys, mixed messages are typically just “no” messages. “If he REALLY likes a girl, he won't play games,” Tyler says. “He'll be more straightforward because that's how most guys are.”

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Wells