Am I in a Relationship?

By Elizabeth Cobb, LCSW

The process of transitioning from dating to being “in a relationship” is often complicated and confusing. Gone are the days of boy meets girl, the two become exclusive after a few dates, soon they marry, and they live happily ever after. That may have worked for our grandparents, but our dating culture is very different today. These days it’s hard to know where we stand with a potential partner. The word “dating” can mean very different things to different people, leaving us with unclear expectations and hurt feelings. Facebook even has an “it’s complicated” relationship status.

This lack of clarity often leads to obsessive checking of text messages, overanalyzing every word/action on your last date, going through a play by play with friends and even sleepless nights. Often, when we want something really badly, we ignore signs that don’t support what we want desperately to believe. Below are some signs you can use to determine if you’re “in a relationship” or not. 

Signs that you're "in a relationship"

  • He always makes time for you. No matter how busy his schedule you will always get a call or text. He goes out of his way to see you, even if you live far away. If a guy really wants to be in a relationship, nothing will stop him from connecting and spending time with you. If you’re “in a relationship” you will be seeing each other frequently and consistently. 
  • You’ve met his friends.  He includes you in his life whether it’s going out with friends, to a basketball game or to a work event.  He gets bonus points if his friends know all about you!
  • He lets you into his space. If you’re “in a relationship” he will feel comfortable having you at his place. He will try to make you feel at ease and even ask you to leave things there. He will be excited to have you over and try to see you as much as possible. 
  • He’s considerate. He goes out of his way for you. He remembers your favorite flowers, makes reservations at your favorite restaurant, cooks dinner for you. 
  • You’ve had “the talk”. Many people tell me “we aren’t in grade school. I don’t need a talk.” I think you do need one. If a guy really likes you, he’ll be eager to have “the talk”. He will want to lock you down and make sure you don’t have any other suitors.

Signs that you probably aren't "in a relationship"

  • Everything is on his terms. You find yourself waiting around for him to make plans at the last minute. When he does make plans, they are convenient for him, with no thought given to your needs or convenience. For example, if a guy consistently invites you over to his house for takeout or always insists on going to the restaurant next to his place, it’s likely you’re not “in a relationship.” 
  • He states that you’re not in a relationship. Often men we date are very direct about what their intentions are. When a man makes statements like “I’m not ready to be in a relationship right now”, “I’m just having fun,”or “let’s keep this casual,” take these words at face value! So often we think, “I’ll be the one to change him” or “he says he doesn’t want a relationship, but I’m the perfect girl and he will change his mind.” The reality is, most likely he won’t change his mind. When people are this direct about their intentions, they are actually doing you a favor. They are giving you the choice to stay and have fun or leave if you want something more. 
  • Communication is sporadic. If you aren’t hearing from him consistently and often, you likely aren’t “in a relationship.” Often people won’t hear from the person they’re dating for several days or a week. Common excuses include “I was busy at work” or “I was traveling.” People believe these excuses because they don’t want to believe they aren’t “in a relationship.” Keep in mind, it takes less than 30 seconds to send a simple text. 
  • He promises you the world and never delivers.  Often guys talk a big game and then don’t follow through. Men know that women are romantic, and they exploit that. When a man makes statements such as, “you’re the perfect girl,” “wouldn’t we have beautiful children,” “I could fall in love with you,”  “my parents would love you” or “let’s go on vacation,” it’s often too much too soon. Sometimes relationships do happen quickly and the guy is smitten. However, if that’s the case, the guy will follow through on all his promises to show you how much he cares. The guys who aren’t looking for a relationship won’t. When a man makes lots of promises, women usually let down their defenses and may end up sleeping with the person too quickly and without the true commitment they want. Unfortunately, once he gets what he wants, all of the promises evaporate. The smooth talker stops calling, and you’ll never go on another date with him again. 
  • He is on a dating app. If your friends find the guy you are dating on a dating app, like Tinder or Match you are not“in a relationship.”  He is checking out his other options. 
  • He’s stingy. Men who are stingy with their wallets are generally stingy with their hearts. No matter what his budget is, if he really likes you, he will “treat “ you on the first few dates. For a guy on a budget it doesn’t have to be something extravagant. But if you find yourself on a date and he’s splitting the bill to the penny, you are not “in a relationship.”

Instead of driving yourself crazy overanalyzing a potential candidate for a relationship, use these tips to weed out the guys who aren’t going to commit. 

Elizabeth Cobb, LCSW is a therapist in private practice in New York City. If you need help dealing with relationship issues, self esteem, anxiety or depression please visit cobbpsychotherapy.com to learn more.