Dating often seems really confusing to millennials â€¦ and it is. Never has there been a generation dealt with so many â€œoptions,â€ so many buzzwords (â€œghostingâ€ was just the beginning), or so many ways to miscommunicate.
One of the toughest parts of dating is that â€œbeing on the same pageâ€ is never a given. Women often date for a potential relationship â€” but theyâ€™re also often dating men who are socialized to play the field instead of settle down, and donâ€™t have a biological clock to contend with. This can ultimately lead to romantic mayhem. Youâ€™re open to a relationship, meanwhile your date is just bored on a Thursday night, trying to get laid, looking to get over an ex with some new company, etc. The list of different intentions can go on and on.
The very essence of compatibility is figuring out if youâ€™re looking for the same things. However, lots of women fail to take the appropriate steps to figure it out.
Iâ€™m not suggesting you show up to a first date asking whether the person wants to get married (in fact, please donâ€™t). But I am suggesting you listen closely, donâ€™t let connection blind you, and know what youâ€™re comfortable with before you graduate into deeper levels of intimacy.
If youâ€™re dating for a relationship, then youâ€™re probably the person most invested in the outcome of every date and every prospect. With that, there are a few tactics I want you to employ as you meet up with your potential future plus-ones.
Watch his language.
Most men tell you everything you need to know about them. If a guyâ€™s not looking for a real relationship, or even open to one, hereâ€™s the best news ever: He will tell you. Is he going to say the words directly? Nope, probably not. But he will still tell you.
Guys who arenâ€™t looking for a relationship will present those barriers to you. â€œItâ€™s a really busy time right now,â€ â€œmy career is taking a lot out of me,â€ â€œI just got out of a relationship,â€ or â€œIâ€™m applying to grad programsâ€ are cues that theyâ€™ve got other stuff on their plates.
Likewise, guys will hint at their history. Iâ€™ve been on many dates where men have professed to leave a bunch of womenâ€™s hearts in their wake (whoa). Watch for them to slide their flaws into their speech. â€œIâ€™ve never been great at commitment,â€ â€œMy communication skills arenâ€™t great,â€ or â€œMy exes are all crazyâ€ are indeed forewarnings. If he was really concerned about scaring you off, heâ€™d probably not say such things. Heâ€™s setting an expectation: Donâ€™t expect this to end well.
The major problem with dating for a relationship is that you are blinded by connection and chemistry, because thatâ€™s what youâ€™re looking for first. In the presence of sparks, you may tend to brush off comments you should consider â€” literally everything just shy of, â€œIâ€™m bad news, sweetheartâ€ â€” and start projecting your hopes and wishes onto a prospect you really like. However, if you only took a teensy step back, you could see the whole situation for what it is: Risky, and probably not what you want long-term.
So, listen to his words. Be discerning. One red flag is normal; weâ€™ve all got baggage, weâ€™ve all said some questionable things. A bunch of red flags is cause for concern. I would not tell a grown woman, â€œDonâ€™t date him.â€ But I am definitely saying, â€œDate him with eyes wide open,â€ â€œheâ€™s very possibly preoccupied,â€ and/or, â€œhe doesnâ€™t exactly have a good track record in relationships.â€
Look for â€œopenâ€ signals.
Men (or women) arenâ€™t necessarily always â€œlookingâ€ for a relationship. However, if someone is â€œopenâ€ to one, itâ€™ll be obvious for one simple reason: They are putting their best foot forward, and they donâ€™t want to give you reason to question their motives.
A person whoâ€™s open should be self-aware enough to care about the implications. Staying in consistent touch shows he wants you to know heâ€™s thinking about you. Planning dates in advance instead of last-minute shows he wants time in your schedule. Explaining himself shows heâ€™s thinking of what might give you pause, like â€œSorry I didnâ€™t call at six; I got held up in a meetingâ€ or, â€œIâ€™ve been looking at grad programs out of state â€” unless, of course, I have reason to stay here.â€
Remember the obvious: When we want to make a good impression on someone, we are aware of what might come off poorly and what we need to do to garner their good opinion. If a guy isnâ€™t sending you positive signals through his actions, and giving you the appropriate explanations for mistakes or disappointments, heâ€™s basically telling you that a relationship with you is not on his list of short-term priorities.
Anyone who is intentionally vague or evasive is playing you or doesnâ€™t know what he wants atthat very moment. Be aware of both possible scenarios, and understand that a general vibe of â€œopennessâ€ is the best kind of relationship material.
Be as direct as possible.
Everyone is afraid to ask the tough questions while dating â€” and I agree, you shouldnâ€™t come to a first date with guns a-blazinâ€™. You do not need to know what his five-year plan is, when his last relationship was, how he views commitment, or what heâ€™s looking for in a life partner. (Thatâ€™s the literal definition of a buzzkill.) Just have fun, while keeping your eyes and ears open for him to indirectly reveal crucial information.
At the same time, itâ€™s important to recognize what your dating goals are and what youâ€™re ultimately comfortable with (or not). Then, you need to lay out your boundary lines when the moment comes. We are a generation of mixed signals and poor communication, making direct questions all the more rare â€” but all the more necessary.
If you are ever in doubt about a personâ€™s headspace or intentions, ask point-blank questionsbefore forward movement is about to happen â€” or when you feel it should be happening, but isnâ€™t. If youâ€™re feeling antsy because you donâ€™t know how a guy feels about the growing relationship, you need to ask, â€œAre we exclusive?â€ or, â€œAre you seeing other people?â€
Likewise, before you sleep with a guy, you need to determine what youâ€™re okay with ahead of time. If you want a relationship with the man in question, you need to say, â€œDo you see a relationship with me?â€ You could also use very direct statements like, â€œI donâ€™t sleep with guys Iâ€™m not exclusive with,â€ or, â€œI donâ€™t do casual.â€ (I lifted that last line from super-smart dating expert Susan Walsh.)
Bottom Line: Goals > Guy
When youâ€™re looking for love, I want you to lose your fear of scaring off incompatible partners. To get what you ultimately want, independent from any one guy, you need to lay it out there when the right time comes. Iâ€™ve found men will evade, but usually donâ€™t lie. Theyâ€™ll try to avoid confronting issues theyâ€™d rather not consider, but they will do so if you bring it up.
So, bring it up. Itâ€™s better to be honest with yourself and get the answers you need, rather than regret the time and emotion you spent on a person who was never compatible with your desires.