Let me preface this by saying that dating just for the fun of dating without any intention of committing is not wrong or bad. In fact, I think it’s becoming more and more common amongst both genders. Where it becomes and issue is when one party wants something more exclusive and the other doesn’t.
So the question is, how do you determine what the other person can or can’t offer?
Let’s start with some basics.
1. They don’t make concrete plans with you too far in advance - Somebody who wants to make sure they get to spend time with you is going to lock you down for a date AT LEAST 48 hours in advance if not more. If the person you’re seeing can’t make plans or confirm plans less than 24 hours before, and don’t offer up some sort of reason why they can’t solidify plans like they have a pressing job related project or other obligation, it’s probably because they’re weighing their options. Which could mean someone else is on the roster or they have other plans that are more interesting to them, like tickets to a game or whatnot. Whatever that other thing might be, it means you are not high on the priority list.
2. They make a lot of last minute plans – The occasional last minute thing isn’t that big of an issue. It happens. But if this is a common occurrence, there are two possible reasons. 1. Other plans fell through or 2. Whomever else they’re seeing is not around. Yes. That’s right. Meaning you are a side dish, not the main course. Accept the plans once or twice without saying you prefer to have more advanced notice or without sharing that you have other plans around which you need to schedule and they’ll think you’re always going to be available. Flexible is great. But if you frequently find yourself at the other end of the 8pm or 9pm phone call asking you to meet them for a drink, or waiting by the phone on Thursday wondering if you’ll see them that weekend, you’re being taken advantage of.
3. Everything is fun and light, and you two never talk about the future or where things are going. – This conversation is unlikely if you’ve only had a smattering of dates. But if you’ve been consistently seeing each other beyond, say, 5 dates, and you’re sleeping together, and you are both looking for something solid..this conversation needs to be had. I don’t care if they’ve talked about future vacations or weddings or other such nonsense. Talk is cheap, baby. If someone want to be sure that you’ll be in their future, they’re going to lock you down in the present. If they’re avoiding that conversation, it’s because they don’t want to be committed. As long as you say nothing, they’re fine. But speak up and you can bet you’ll have your answer based on how they react. If their behavior changes, that’s your answer.
4. You see each other no more than once a week - I don’t care if they text you every day, or call, or email you and say the most delicious of things….if, after 4 or 5 dates, you’re not seeing them more than once every 5-8 days, you are casual dating material at best. This will not change. The email conversations and cutesy things are just due diligence, something they’re doing to keep you on the roster. That sounds manipulative and malicious, but it’s really not. They like you. They’re having fun. They’re just either do not want anything more or don’t think you’re the person with which they could have it.
5. You’re not consistently spending an extended period of time with them. – I’m talking full days or weekends here. The infrequent dinner into a sleepover and then breakfast in the morning does not count. It’s acceptable that someone might not be able to stay over during the week, especially if they work odd hours or a regular 9-5. Although, after a while (say maybe a couple of months) you and they should have worked out some sort of schedule. During the week they don’t stay over, weekends they do. If they’re looking for a serious relationship, they’re going to spend more and more time with you on a regular basis.
6. You don’t often see them in their natural habitat. – How often do they bring you to their place? Have you met their friends? Co-workers? Do you ever meet them at the office? Do they take you to places they frequent…or to places they’ve “always wanted to try?” This could be me being paranoid but…someone who is always taking you to “new” places, meaning new to them or not in their neighborhood, who also doesn’t incorporate you into their lives to some degree scream “married” or at least “taken.” They’re avoiding the possibility of being caught or seen by someone who knows them. Don’t be fooled just because they meet your friends, either. You want them to integrate you in to their lives. Re: Meeting the family…I don’t think not meeting someone’s family in the first 6 months or so is necessarily a deal breaker. So many of us come from what we lovingly call dysfunctional families. Sometimes we think we’re protecting them by not introducing them to our relatives.
7.You’re not getting a lot of weekend dates. – We’ve discussed this one before. I still stand by my assertion that, after 3-5 dates, if you’re not regularly getting the full Friday night or Saturday night, you are merely an option on their playlist. The whole point of getting the Friday or Saturday is to spend more time together the next day. In fact, the whole point of dating someone when you’re looking for a serious relationship is to spend as much time with them as possible to determine compatibility. A few hours here and there, with the occasional sleepover, is casual dating territory. Acceptable in the beginning. Not acceptable if it’s been going on for a couple of months or longer and you’re looking for something serious.
8. They don’t have a recent history of committing. - If you ask someone the last time they had a serious relationship, meaning longer than a year, and they haven’t had one of those in a few years, it’s highly unlikely you’re going to be the one to tame that horse. If they’re divorced, that’s one thing. A lot of people are too thrown through a loop after a divorce and, depending on how long they were married, need significant time to re-adjust. But if this is someone who has never been married and they’re in their late thirties or over then they probably either aren’t anxious to commit because they don’t want to or have to, or they’re just not ready for/are capable of a real relationship. If they are ready/capable and don’t have much recent serious relationship experience, they’ll show you by making themselves available, literally and figuratively.
9. They don’t really commit to themselves. - A lot of people work hard to work out their stuff. Just because someone is of a certain age and not settled down doesn’t mean they’re not good candidates. Someone who has quit drinking or smoking, or lost weight, or taken up exercise, or gotten their finances in order, or gone to therapy, or gone back to school…That’s a form of commitment. To themselves. That counts, too. That’s a good thing. You want to see that in a person.You want to know that they are clear about what they want and truly open to having it. No games, no drama, no inconsistent behavior, no excuses. Plenty of people see the error of their ways and decide enough is enough. They decide that they’re ready for something healthy and real and do the work necessary to attain that. They make changes. If someone is of a certain age and doesn’t really seem to be very settled, and doesn’t appear to be working on getting settled, hasn’t committed to themselves. Which means they probably won’t commit to you.
And I know. Some of you will say that there are exceptions and no dating rules. I agree. But there are some basic guidelines that are typically adhered to that help people determine where they stand.