Are They Relationship Material?

Maybe you’re new to dating or maybe you’ve been around the (performing) ring a few too many times and you’re looking to find a person who fits your shape as you spoon, kisses just right and presses all your (good) buttons exactly the way you like it.

Not everyone reaches this stage but, in my experience, most people online want to stop the endless dating dance and build something meaningful with their chosen person/people.

Today I read this article by Debatably Datable and found it an excellent summary of qualities that really show a person is genuinely interested in melding their life with yours. Together with their daily actions, these show that they might be there when the honeymoon phase wears off.

Over to DD and I’ll elaborate with my own experience alongside her suggestions. I’m going to make this gender neutral because all these signs and behaviours work for anyone, not just women looking for men.

You’ve been seeing someone for a few weeks or months and things are going great! You’re hanging out together regularly and you’ve talked about the relationship progressing from exclusive to fully committed and official. There are some telltale signs to show that your lover is really ready and good relationship material.

Communicates

They’re communicating about their feelings and thoughts, your feelings or thoughts, or just about the weekend plans together. They’re asking about your day and filling you in on theirs.

Eve says: This might sound really obvious but most people will happily talk to you about their lives if they are not hiding secrets or nurturing a conscious or unconscious desire to keep you at arms’ length. Not everyone has a high EQ but if someone has feelings for you, they will certainly try to communicate their feelings and show an interest in yours. Where you can be sure it’s one-sided – to a degree or fully unrequited – is when someone shows limited interest in your stories, your feelings and your text messages. They may never ask you about your life, your day or your memories. A pet peeve of mine is when, by text, you ask questions that go unanswered or make comments that are ignored. Worse still are the people who just drop off the radar for hours or days. If this pattern continues you can be sure you are not their first priority, and unless they have a very unusual and demanding job, they are probably seeing other people as well.

Makes plans for the future

They’re looking past just the next few days with you and plans into the future. They’re thinking about concerts, festivals, and gatherings with close ones that are weeks and months into the future. They see you in that future, not just a present short-term relationship.

Eve says: Anyone who plans beyond the next week or so and factoring you into that picture is at least interested in imagining a future together. Not everything has to be long-term and written in stone with vows exchanged in a public gathering. If this is what you want, however, make it clear from the start and look for signs that your lover is open to those ideas. One of the first conversations my beloved had with me concerned his annual leave booked over a year in advance and his desire to cancel his holiday plans so that he could be with me instead. We’d only been seeing each other for three weeks and he was having to make decisions about flights and an overseas holiday he needed to either book, or wait. He chose to wait and instead we began planning our own overseas getaway. It really did demonstrate to me in a concrete way that he saw me as part of his future and was very serious in his intentions. He also shared his shiftwork roster so that we could plan his time off together, which also spoke volumes about his willingness to commit not only emotionally, but his time.

They factor you into their future

When they’re thinking about their future they’re including you and considering how it will work for the two of you together. This may come a bit further along but when considering school, work, or big financial decisions, they’re factoring in how it will affect the relationship and how to make the future work cohesively.

Eve says: Big decisions can either scare someone off or consolidate the relationship. In the scenario I outlined above, it could have freaked me out and made me run a mile – if I wasn’t ready for that kind of statement of emotional intent. If I was someone unsure about my feelings, or unwilling to take a risk, it could have been a dud move on his part to lay it all on the line and declare his feelings from the get-go. However in our case, we found each other at the right time, and I’ve always been an emotional risk taker anyway. I was prepared to back this horse and I’m happy to say it was a bet worth taking. I made it clear to him that he didn’t need to cancel his holiday plans or change them to suit me, but underneath, I appreciated that he cared enough about me to know that he couldn’t cope with five weeks away in the mountains without even mobile phone coverage. But it doesn’t have to be a big decision that shows someone is planning ahead their time with you. If they show an openness to talk about the next week or month, or ask for a next date when you’re together, it usually means you’re important to them.

Improving themselves

They’re improving themselves for their future, with your support and motivation. They want to make sure they’re the person you want.

Eve says: An objective eye to how they come across is a positive sign that someone wants to fight for you, even if it only means they’ll work out, exercise or indulge in your favourite things to demonstrate their affection. We all want to feel attractive to our partner, and taking care of yourself through your appearance, clothing, eating and exercise habits are all signs that someone is seeking to hold your interest. Although DD didn’t comment on this specifically, taking an interest in the things you like is a very strong message of intent and authenticity. Very early on my beloved and I discovered a shared interest in dystopian-themed movies, and I’ve appreciated his willingness to spend time exploring my tastes as well as his own. This gets back to communicating – I’ve met so many men who give only a tiny slither of themselves when it comes to sharing their likes, dislikes, ideas and feelings. To me, this is a total turn-off. I like a man who knows how to talk and behave like an adult.

They try to connect with your friends and family

They know your friends and family are an important part of your life and they want work on integrating into your social world. The relationship doesn’t need the added pressure of your friends or family not approving of them so they’ll work to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Eve says: How your friends and family perceive your beloved does matter, though we might like to believe that it’s enough to be ‘two against the world’. The reality is that life chugs along so much more smoothly when people are harmonious, and that takes time and some effort. In my last two serious relationships during my dating period post-long-term marriage, both men never introduced me to their families or friends. One didn’t actually seem to have any friends, which is also something of a warning sign. I’d take this up a notch from DD’s point and add that wanting you to meet their family and friends is also just as important as wanting to meet yours. It’s an investment and usually a signal that they take you seriously. It was a big step for me to introduce my beloved to my birth family, which came some months after meeting my kids. I took both steps slowly, and I appreciated his show of support for me and his very obvious affection. I’m sure he felt the same way about my willingness to meet his kin, especially the fact that I’ve made a lot of effort to bond with his young children. By our actions we show our feelings and our values – something that, in the online dating world, so many people forget.

Thanks to Debatably Datable again for giving me the idea to add to her article. I’d love to know your signs that someone is genuinely into you beyond a casual fling, especially if we’ve missed any.

Relationship Accountability

Ghosting, icing, simmering and other names for bastardry

Past generations did not have so many names for shitful behaviour. Maybe ghosting existed, but without smartphones and the expectations around keeping in touch 24/7, it was more of a slow fade.

These days we have a veritable tsunami of names of how to behave badly when it comes to our interpersonal, ‘romantic’ relationships. This is my shorthand way of saying relationships that involve ‘more than friendship’, although friends can choose the slow fade as well, but it’s not as pervasive.

In my Glossary, I have a useful collection of terms in case you want to brush up on your online dating lingo. Of course, these behaviours are not limited to dating that originated from an online dating source (eg most modern dating), but they are extremely common behaviours where there aren’t other connections like mutual friendships, community, work or family to help keep people accountable.

This post was inspired by one from Confessions of a Reformed Cad, which reminded me that modern dating behaviours need to come with a users’ manual and a regular, no-kid-gloves reminder of what they mean. Stories that people tell about their dating experiences are littered with these unethical and abusive behaviours.

Some of the names for these modern-day behaviours, in addition to the ones I’ve already mentioned, are benching, bread-crumbing, catch and release, monkeying, layby, and zombie-ing.

At their heart, each of these behaviours is a form of emotional cowardice. Some might call it a dislike of hurting someone else or being the bearer of bad news, but the other – less palatable side – is a lack of empathy or consideration for someone else’s feelings or lived experience. Some people just don’t care about the effects of their behaviour. They can justify it as ‘being too busy’, ‘not really being into them’, or it being ‘all too hard’.

As Esther Perel says, “In this relationship culture, expectations and trust are in constant question. The state of stable ambiguity inevitably creates an atmosphere where at least one person feels lingering uncertainty, and neither person feels truly appreciated or nurtured. We do this at the expense of our emotional health, and the emotional health of others.”

If you consider the row in the table that gives examples of typical text messages according to relationship accountability I’m certain that you’ll have experienced all of these if you’re seriously giving online dating a go. Just reading those examples brings back uncomfortable memories of when this has been done to me, not because I was necessarily emotionally invested in the person, but because it’s game playing and dishonest. It leaves you ‘not really knowing’ where you stand; it sucks your confidence and if, like me, you’re a generous person who believes in giving people the benefit of the doubt, it leaves you feeling tricked or abused.

More than once I’ve walked away from ‘textationships’  that repeat patterns of building and then dashing hopes  – plans for meeting, plans for sex, plans for dating … plans that involve actual commitment to a time and place. Making a decision and sticking to it seems to be a rare combination sometimes!

Cad says, “I’ve come to realize nearly everything that goes wrong in a relationship can be addressed simply with vulnerability and a change in the angle of approach. I firmly believe now, that if I had better skills when I was younger, I would still have a loving marriage with my ex-wife.”

Wise words indeed from someone who is not afraid to ‘do the work’ and take a good, hard look at their own behaviour and culpability – something so many of us are afraid to do.

Esther Perel believes that ghosting and behaviours of the same ilk are “manifestations of the decline of empathy in our society — the promoting of one’s selfishness, without regard for the consequences of others. There is a person on the other end of our text messages (or lack thereof), and the ability to communicate virtually doesn’t give us the right to treat others poorly.”

Wherever you may sit on the spectrum of relationship accountability, acting passively (or passive-aggressively) and hoping someone will ‘get the hint’ is not a responsible or ethical choice. It’s not easy sometimes, and I know I haven’t always been perfect in the past, but it’s the right thing to do. By recognising others as worthy of the same honesty and compassion that we ourselves seek, we are acting true to our own moral frameworks as well as ‘creating positive vibes’ in the world around us. If you want to read any of my past stories about ghosting, these are a good place to start.

Whatever your relationship status...

Expectations in online dating and the risks of addiction

Another online dating adventure – Ian the octopus

Digital landmines – people don’t treat people like humans anymore

What should I do when the guy I like ghosts on me?

Solstice or festive greetings to you all!