So you’re seeing someone new and it’s going well. How soon should you sit him down for a define-the-relationship talk and get on the same page? No matter how charming he’s been as you’ve gotten to know each other, make sure to get a few things out of the way before you commit to a relationship. Don’t think of this list as a series of tests – there’s no better way to take the fun out of dating – but do look at it as a kind of to-do list before you officially get into a relationship with the person you’ve been seeing. It’s really common to fall into relationships, and a lot of people prefer it – but if you take the time to consider whether this is a person you really want to be with, you can head off all sorts of problems. If all of this goes well, you have a pretty good chance at being half of a happy couple:
1. Meet her friends (and have her meet yours)
When you’re with someone and you’re in the throes of infatuation, it’s tempting to make sure all the time you spend together is solo. After all, no one tells you to stop gazing into one another’s eyes for an uncomfortable amount of time when it’s just the two of you.
Resist this temptation. Your friends are important for your date to meet for a long list of reasons. First of all, if you’re going to be a couple, you’ll naturally spend time around each other’s friends, and you don’t want that time to be awkward or hostile to sit through. That’s a good recipe either for a failed relationship or a really isolated one.
Your friends are also a vital part of the dating process for you because they’re not biased. You’re right in the middle of attraction, desire, and longing, maybe even planning a future with this person in your mind already. These aren’t ideal conditions for your judgment. Your friends aren’t hampered here, though, and you should make a point of listening to what they think of your date. Of course, some people just don’t get along, but if your date meets plenty of your friends and none of them particularly likes him, it might be time to sit down and think seriously about why that is before you move ahead.
Similarly, meet your date’s friends. Who she is around them is a pretty good indication of what she’s like when she’s comfortable with someone, which is how she’ll presumably be with you sooner or later. And while it’s not fair to judge someone exclusively on the company she keeps, if there’s not a single friend of hers you like, that may be a warning sign. The people your date chooses to associate with are going to be a part of your life too if you go on to have a relationship.
2. Talk about what you want
When you’re dating someone, it’s very common to imagine everyone is looking for the same things. It makes sense, right? Meet someone, date them, get exclusive, see whether that works out – then move in, pop the question and marry. This is how a lot of relationships end up going if they don’t hit unexpected roadblocks, and it might be exactly what you want right now.
However, if you’re considering a relationship with someone who is totally uninterested in marriage or who don’t ever want to move away from his tiny apartment, you might run up against some disappointment in the future. There are other things you might want to know too – does he have any plans for relocation, even if they’re tentative and vague? What about further education or a career change? Each of these things can throw a wrench in your relationship if you’re not expecting them.
There are ways to talk about this stuff without sounding clingy or too attached too soon, by the way. Instead of asking point-blank, open up conversations about your date’s future wishes in general if that makes you feel more comfortable. But keep in mind open communication will only make your whole dating life easier, and see whether you can’t start the conversation in real-world terms instead.
3. Listen to him
Believe it or not, people will generally be very honest with you about who they are. Unfortunately, it’s easy to ignore what someone says if you don’t want to hear it, especially if you’re infatuated and floating on clouds. If your date jokingly describes himself as jealous, he probably is, and if he flirts by saying you’re too good for him – well, you might be. Don’t write off things your date says as jokes or poor timing, especially if they’re things you don’t want to hear? Instead, take them seriously and think about them. You get to decide what you can handle, but don’t leave valuable information alone just because you would like to think it isn’t true.
This goes for everything, by the way – from what he thinks of his friends to the way she feels about relationships. If you notice that you keep being an exception to the rule – maybe he doesn’t have fond feelings for women with careers, but you’re different – this is a warning sign. You can’t stay a special case forever, and when the shine wears off you might both regret it.
4. Try to witness something frustrating
If you’ve never seen your sweetie upset, it’s hard to say how she’ll react to stress and conflict later. Don’t set up a test to freak her out, but see whether you end up in less-than-ideal circumstances together and how she reacts. Whether it’s getting stuck in traffic or watching him lose a game, keep an eye on what your date does when things aren’t going well. This is important to know if you’re going to be in a relationship, so keep an eye on it and don’t brush off any worrying habits you might find.
If you’ve hit all the points on this list and you still want to be with this person, go for it! You’ll be starting a new relationship with open eyes and a clear desire to see where it goes for the right reasons.