By Kate Richlin-Zack
I can assure you I’m not a complete idiot.
Well, I’m fairly certain I’m not a complete idiot. Judging by my past relationships, you might think I was the dumbest person on the face of the planet. What the hell were you thinking? WERE you thinking?
Aside from the glaring red flags that I simply chose to ignore, many of my relationships lasted longer than they should have because I missed some of the more subtle warning signs that things were not as good as they seemed. So subtle, that they went unnoticed for months—sometimes years—until I finally woke up and realized I’d been in a bad relationship for too long.
Since hindsight is always 20/20, I’m hoping you can potentially benefit from some of the harsh lessons I learned along the way
#1: You find yourself thinking, “Is this really what I want?”
When you first start dating someone, you ask yourself LOTS of questions: Is he a good person? Is he financially stable? Is he good in bed? Is he an axe murderer?
Over time you get to know each other and most of those are answered. But the one question you should never, under any circumstances, have to ask is, “Do you really want to do this?” It doesn’t matter if you’re asking your boyfriend this question or if you’re asking yourself. The only time it ever comes up is when he’s said or done something to make you think either he doesn’t want to be in the relationship, or to make you think that you might want out.
Guys are surprisingly, and sometimes frustratingly, simple. Generally they will act on exactly what they think or feel. If he likes you, he’ll call. If he doesn’t, he won’t. Thanks, Captain Obvious. It sounds really simple, but most of the time, it’s not that straightforward. Maybe he’s calling but not as often as you’d like. Maybe things aren’t progressing as quickly as you think they should (see #5 for more specific examples). Maybe something just doesn’t seem right to you, but you can’t quite put your finger on it. Trust your instincts. If he’s saying and/or doing things that make you ask yourself “does he really want to date me?” stop asking questions, and start seeing other people.
#2: You find yourself saying, “But you don’t know him like I do!”
When The King of Inappropriate Comments sat down to dinner with my parents and asked, “Where’s the dago going to sit?” it was an obvious sign our relationship wasn’t lasting much longer. I would have broken up with him immediately but I had no idea what he was referring to. According to my father, “We didn’t raise you to speak that way.”
Most of the time, things aren’t so obvious. If you find yourself explaining to your best friend why your current boyfriend isn’t as irritating as he seems or, during a conversation with your mother, you actually utter the words, “He’s just misunderstood,” it’s time to reevaluate your relationship. You should never have to convince the people who know you best and love you most that the person you’re dating is good enough for you
#3: You find yourself wishing that pigs would fly.
Things will be perfect if only he… had a job… left his wife… stopped making meth in his basement…
I could go on AND ON but I think you get the idea. The success of your relationship should never be dependent upon things that have yet to happen. Trust me. My relationship with Office Supply Closet Carl could have progressed from making out in the closet to an amazing relationship, but he wasn’t leaving his girlfriend any time soon. Thankfully I figured that out pretty quickly; Cokehead Hank was another story. For months he had me convinced that as soon as he moved out of his parents’ house, got a job, and kicked his cocaine habit, things would be great. All of these goals seemed completely realistic, right? Ha. Not for Hank. Meanwhile, my life was on hold waiting for him to get his shit together until I finally accepted that he would never change. I cut my losses, like his best friend suggested.
#4: You worry he’s crossed the line between “friendly” and “flirty.”
If he grabs your best friend’s ass at your birthday party or hits on the waitress while you’re out for dinner, you can easily conclude this guy is a dirtbag. But what about more subtle interactions? You want to incorporate him into your life and encourage him to get to know your friends (see #5), but you certainly don’t want to come home one day to find them getting to know each other naked … on your couch. Suede is really hard to clean and the whole situation is just really awkward.
How can you avoid this happening? Well first of all, don’t be friends with backstabbing whores. Secondly, be on the lookout for suspicious communication that can easily be explained away. There is no reason for your boyfriend to call your sister to “say hi.” If he’s not calling for advice on your birthday gift, he’s trying to sleep with her. He should not be making lunch plans with your best friend while you’re out of town on business or suggesting they “grab drinks” when she’s “in the area” until he’s solidified his relationship with you and forged a relationship with your friend under your supervision.
#5: You realize that while it feels like you’re dating, you really aren’t.
You’ve been dating for a few months. Things seem great. You see each other fairly often and spend a lot of quality time together. Be careful. Meathead Tony was notorious for calling me at the last minute. Hey what are you up to tonight? Come meet me. And we never went anywhere. He’d invite me to either watch a movie at his place or have drinks at a local bar and then watch a movie at his place. I figured we were spending quality time together just the two of us—and yes, I think we’re all aware that “watch a movie” means “let’s make out.” Sadly, in reality, he wasn’t serious about me and I should have recognized that. And I should have disqualified him as soon as I saw his own name tattooed across his bicep … spelled backwards. I’m an idiot.
Maybe he IS taking you out on real dates, but you haven’t met his friends or family. The man is not an island. He does not live in a vacuum. If he’s not incorporating you into the life he has beyond your relationship, he’s not that serious about you. That, or he’s incapable of maintaining any kind of relationship at all and you should cut your losses before you end up duct taped in his shed.
If only I’d known then what I know now…
On the bright side, at least I never ended up in a shed.
Kate’s Dates is a column that runs every other Wednesday at noon on Kate-book.com. It is written by the lovely Kate Richlin-Zack, who majored in engineering to meet guys. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.