Men, though they think they're simple, are not always so easy to read. Often, without knowing it, they send mixed signals. And when you're dating early on, it's confusing to know where his real intentions lay. You may wonder if he is taking it slow and getting to know you—or if he is dragging you along and not even thinking about a relationship.
So, what are the signs that a man is just trying to pace the relationship, but has serious intent? And what are the signals that he is really not particularly interested and just sees the relationship as something to fill time?
Based on what I hear from countless men in my therapy practice, there are a few key signals that reveal how "into it" a guy really is. Here are 5 tips to help you figure out what might be going on.
01. Remember, pacing and commitment are two different things.
A person can approach love in a committed way but still take the process slowly. But it's here where so much misunderstanding happens! Depending on his personality, he might be adjusting to finding love, or seeing if he can be himself in the relationship. Or he might be recovering from old relationship wounds and wanting to be sure that he doesn’t get hurt again.
Also, many men often fear that they will lose themselves in a relationship. There is a sort of dread that they can experience when they start to feel close to someone because their sense of self is usually derived from being separate or apart from others. Hence, the one foot in and one foot out stance serves a lot of men in that they can connect with the person they are dating, but not face their fears of being engulfed by the relationship.
While this ambivalent stance might seem to serve them in the short term—it often leaves them dissatisfied and disconnected overall. So if enough time has passed, and your man seems to be perpetually stuck in this limbo, don't be afraid to address it.
02. Measure progress day to day, not by milestones.
Typically, people will use certain milestones to gauge their partner’s level of commitment. They measure when they had the conversation about being exclusive, the first time they say “I love you,” or discussing next steps, like traveling together or marriage. But this is not necessarily a good indicator of another’s commitment level. People can have very different timelines in terms of how they want to pace the relationship. Some men would have no problem taking a week's vacation with a new girlfriend, whereas other men would want to be married or engaged first.
Instead of measuring progress via your perceived milestones, it might be more helpful to track the day-to-day signs of commitment. A man that is committed but moving at a slow pace still shows up on time. He still makes plans for another date, or texts to see how your day is going. The basic qualities of reliability, trustworthiness, and loyalty are still there in his makeup even if he is not ready to spend an entire getaway weekend with you after three months. Measuring his ability to stay present might indicate where his heart is.
03. Consider how he communicates with you.
His willingness to talk with you about the relationship is also a good sign that he is more serious. Conversely, the most common tell-tale sign of dragging you along is marked by avoidance or silencing you when you try to broach a conversation about where the relationship is going. There may or may not be a right or wrong way to have a conversation about the relationship, but if someone won’t have the conversation at all, or becomes angry when you broach it, it is a likely indication that with this relationship he may just be filling time.
04. Give the guy (and yourself) a month or so to feel things out.
In the early stages of dating people are often most anxious about finding clarity, mostly because there are just still so many moving parts at play. But, instead of investing all that angst and energy trying to decide "where this is going," perhaps it would be better to first decide if this is something that even warrants pursuing a commitment.
Rather than hoping that he "picks" you, your energy is best focused on discerning if this is someone you even want to spend time with. As Jodee Virgo, MFT relates on Verily, "Take the focus off of yourself, and pay attention to how he makes you feel." Instead of hoping that he's interested, this is a good time to discern whether (a) there is a connection and (b) if you feel good about yourself when you are with him. Depending on your own dating patterns, this can be easier said than done, though—as it involves real self-awareness.
05. Try to keep it simple and follow your intuition.
For a lot of couples that I see in counseling, they report that when the relationship is right, it’s really not that complicated. There are less confusing questions or lack of clarity about relationship intentions. These couples report that keeping it simple has helped them feel more secure in the relationship. And a relationship that feels more secure, will naturally progress and deepen.
But in the end, it's up to both parties to be ready for love. I have worked with individuals that have had failed relationship after failed relationship. Yet after looking inside themselves and making better dating choices, they find themselves in healthy, loving relationships—and they go all in. They don’t hold back. The relationship flows. It’s beautiful to watch.
So take a step back, and consider how the relationship makes you feel. If you give the relationship the space and time to really reflect where things stand, you'll know intuitively if he's intentionally taking it slow, or if your relationship is just another thing to do.