Part of the fun and the frustration of dating is that it isn’t always easy to quickly discover someone with the qualities that make them a good relationship bet. There are a lot of people who are fun, attractive and can talk a good story, but when it comes to building a lasting relationship, they just don’t measure up.
So, if you’re hoping for dates to result in a relationship, what sorts of things should you be looking for?
1. Mutual attraction
This one is essential. Without it, there’s no point wasting your time. Nonetheless, far too many people spend months, sometimes years, trying to get a satisfying relationship out of someone who just isn’t into them. While it’s fine- even desirable- to let attraction grow as you get to know each other, cut your losses if it just isn’t happening for one of you.
This can be frustrating. Sometimes we see someone and think, “Oooh, he’s perfect for me!” and proceed to try to make a relationship happen. Or we go on dozens of dates without finding that mutual attraction. Just trust that it will happen, and it’s more likely to happen when you don’t waste time with people who aren’t that interested in you.
If it seems that you are only attracted to people who are bad for you, start going out with those who aren’t necessarily your type. Keep an open mind, look for the positive, and realize that a lot of the excitement you’ve associated with past relationships is dysfunctional. Insecurity can give you butterflies, but there’s nothing better than the warm, comforting feeling that you get when you know someone really cares about you.
When your date says he’ll do something, does he end up doing it? It’s hard to build a meaningful relationship with someone who is all talk and no action. This is one of the best ways to determine if someone is a keeper. Actions always speak louder than words, so if you are the recipient of sweet nothings that never turn into anything concrete, it’s time to move on.
The problem is, a lot of the most attractive people are accustome to getting away with being flakey. That makes it harder to let them go, because you’d really like for it to work out. Nevertheless, you have to work with what is, not what you wish could be. A relationship is not about potential; it’s about reality.
In the long run, you want to be with someone who does what she says she’ll do.
3. Good communication
One of the most basic tests of compatibility is how well you communicate. If that’s something that doesn’t come easy early on, it’s going to be hard to sustain a relationship.
Maybe it sounds like a cliche, but someone you can’t talk to isn’t a keeper. It’s amazing how many people are able to jump into bed with someone but can’t have a basic conversation with them. Chemistry and attraction are nice, but keep in mind that you want to be able to still enjoy each other’s company in ten years, and that means you have to be able to talk about everything without constant conflict.
4. Mutual support
We see far too many people in relationships with someone who is constantly putting them down. This should be a deal-breaker, no matter how great everything else is. A loving relationship means that you build each other up and encourage each other to grow. If you’re with someone who has little to no interest in what you’re doing and what you’re passionate about, it probably won’t last.
Even worse, you might be involved with someone who is trying to “improve” you or make you feel inferior. Someone who loves you should love you as you are; relationships are not improvement projects. Growth should happen because you each are trying to improve for yourselves and the health of the relationship, not because one of you feels (or is constantly told you are) inferior.
5. Integrated into each other’s lives
This doesn’t have to happen instantly, but in a healthy relationship there will be regular and steady progress towards being part of each other’s lives. Even with busy scehdules, you’ll make time for each other. You won’t keep the relationship a secret; neither will you be kept as a secret. You’ll get to know the other’s friends and family in a reasonable amount of time.
Some who have children might want to take a few months before introducing a new love interest, and there’s nothing wrong with that. What you need to guard against is someone who needs to keep you a secret from everyone in his or her life indefintiely. Someone who has to do this simply isn’t available for a real relationship.
Quite often, someone who needs to keep you a secret or resists having you know much about where they live and work are involved with someone else. If it’s because they’re recently separated and need to keep things on the down-low until the divorce is final, they’re not ready for a relationship either.
A good relationship progresses, and the two of you are on the same page about the pace. This is where good communication is important. If you are unsure about where things are going, or are uncomfortable with anything, you need to be able to bring it up without worrying about your partner blowing up. If everything is on the up-and-up, having a discussion won’t be a problem.
In the excitement of a relationship’s early days, it’s easy to get caught up in the chemistry and fun. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but keep in mind that things should also be easy and smooth in those early days. If you’re already seeing problems with any of the above factors, expect things to get worse, not better.
If any of the five things above are missing, it’s time to pause and consider if this really is turning into something you want, or if you should start looking for a better match sooner rather than later.
Notice how none of the above have much to do with looks, money, success or educational level. While all of those things can be a factor in overall compatibility, taken on their own, they mean very little if you are with someone who isn’t excited about you, who is unreliable, a poor communicator, unsupportive, or isn’t proud to show you off in public.