Maybe the worst part of early dating is that phase where both people are assessing what they want from the relationship. You know how it goes — you don’t want to DTR yet, but you’re also unsure what your new bae is even looking for. The dating behaviors that mean a fling can clue you in that the relationship won’t get serious. If you’re catching feelings, it might be time to guard your heart.
Not everyone wants a committed relationship, and that’s totally OK. It only becomes a problem when both partners aren’t on the same page. And in these scenarios, it’s usually best to talk out your feelings so you both know what to expect. “Be direct. Say what you’re looking for,” urges Dr. Darcy Sterling, licensed clinical social worker and relationship expert. “There’s no need to work out a spin here.” By simply stating what you want, and asking the other person the same, you can avoid the headache of trying to guess what they’re expecting.
But if talking doesn’t help, or if you truly feel like it’s too early to have that conversation, there are subtle signs that might signal they’re not dating for the long haul. Pay attention to your partner’s behavior to gain some insight into what they might be thinking.
1. They won’t introduce you to their friends and family.
Getting to know your partner’s friends and family is an important step in any long term relationship. If your boo seems hesitant to let you meet the people they’re close to, it probably means they don’t see a future with you. “[If] you haven’t met many of their friends — and none of their colleagues,” Sterling explains that they might not want to entwine your life with theirs. This way, it’ll be a cleaner break when the relationship ends.
2. They’re not really trying to get to know your life.
Another red flag? “They don’t ask about your life,” Sterling says. Compatibility is defined by how well you communicate and understand one another, as well as how much your lifestyles mesh. If your partner doesn’t seem interested in learning what makes you “you,” they’re probably not invested in a relationship with you.
3. They don’t use “relationship talk” with you.
“When someone is looking for a fling, it's essential to watch and listen to the words they use when they're communicating with you,” explains dating expert Julie Spira. If they give you strictly physical compliments, or always frame your time together in terms of hooking up, they aren’t really focused on building an emotional connection.
4. They’re not straightforward about what they want.
One way of avoiding the DTR talk is by being intentionally vague — and if someone is doing that to you, it likely means they don’t want to put a label on the situationship. “Playing detective [is a] miserable position to be in,” Sterling notes. “It’s way too heavy a burden, and it’ll make you feel paranoid because you’ll forever be looking for subtext and hidden meaning behind everything they say.” If someone wants to be with you, they’ll tell you, point blank. You shouldn’t have to second guess every interaction.
5. They tell you they’re not looking for anything serious.
Alternatively, your boo might tell you straight up that they don’t want a relationship. In this case, they’re probably telling the truth. “When someone says they're not looking for anything serious, I tell my dating coaching clients to believe them,” Spira explains. “That means they're playing the field, won't take the profile down, and you can be sure the conversation about defining the relationship won't be on the table.”
Trying to change their mind will only lead to a lot of stress on your end, and potentially hurt feelings down the road. “It doesn’t matter how fabulous you are,” Sterling says. “If your partner doesn’t want a relationship, they’re not going to change for you.” Spira echoes this. “If you go into the relationship with the hope of changing someone's mind, you're setting yourself up for disappointment,” she warns. “Resentment will build in your relationship, and at some point, there will be a blow up.”
If you discover that your partner only wants a fling, and you’re looking for something more committed, your best bet is to cut things off before you get too invested. Have a conversation about it first, but once you’ve made your interests known, don’t push the issue further. Instead, think of it as dodging a potential heartbreak later on. “You've just saved yourself months and years of time, where you can find someone who wants the same type of relationship that you do,” Spira says. And once you find that someone, the relationship will feel natural — and you won’t be left constantly guessing when it might end.