“I just think that I need to wait it out a little while longer.”
My friend shifted in her chair as she nervously ran her fingers along her coffee cup. She was one of my close friends and, as occasionally happened, asked to get coffee to talk about a guy she was interested in.
I paused to think about how to respond. It broke my heart that she felt she needed to wait longer for this guy to decide if he wanted a relationship or not. He made a lot of promises he didn’t keep, and it really looked like he had no interest in pursuing a deeper relationship. My heart broke for her. Catching feelings for someone can be confusing, but when that person keeps sending mixed signals, it becomes exhausting.
As a man, I like to think that we are pretty straightforward creatures. Unfortunately, my own lived experience watching my friends engage in romantic relationships, listening to my female friends talk about their relationships and dating myself, proves otherwise.
The truth is this: Men are pretty straightforward in what they want out of a relationship — if you know the language we are using. There are some basics that can help you know when to “wait around” and when to walk away in a relationship with a guy. Walking away, even from something that seems like a good thing (or something you hope could turn into a good thing), is critical — you are worth more than being strung along, kept waiting or even used. There are a lot of guys that want to invest in a relationship; don’t settle for one that you think just might work out. Here is how you will know it is time to walk away from Mr. “Canceled on coffee again”:
1. HE SAYS HE DOESN’T LIKE TITLES OR DOESN’T WANT TO LABEL YOUR RELATIONSHIP.
It sounds so modern. “Yeah, he doesn’t want to give what we are a title. He says it’s because he feels like it is like claiming ownership on me or something.” It sounds more to me like someone was reading a couple of blogs as he tried to figure out how to stay out of a committed relationship. The title “girlfriend” or “boyfriend” isn’t about property; it is about being proud of the person you are pursuing. You want to be with someone that is excited to introduce you as “his girlfriend.” It is a simple way of saying, “See this girl right here? I’m pursuing her heart.” And, speaking of pursuit…
2. HE STOPS TRYING TO WIN YOUR HEART.
This can happen inside or outside of a committed relationship. Maybe things started off like a Disney movie — you went on picnics under the stars, danced by the ocean and tiny birds sang to you as you walked along a moonlit path. OK, so maybe that last part doesn’t happen, but there probably was a time when this man tried to really sweep you off your feet. But maybe now it is rare to come by a creative date idea beyond, “I don’t know — want to get some carry-out and binge watch a show?” I’m not saying that your guy has to keep up the intense pursuit that often marks the first few months of a new relationship, but he should be taking steps to actively pursue you. This means that he is learning your “love language” and acting on it. He stops by randomly to bring you lunch, hides little cards to say he is thinking of you in your books or is willing to put on a nice shirt and tie and take you to a respectable restaurant for dinner once in a while. A man that feels like he has you “all locked up” and stops chasing your heart needs to be dropped real fast.
3. YOU STILL DON’T KNOW HIS FAMILY OR FRIENDS.
I had a female friend that was seeing a guy for several months, and in that entire time, never met his friends or family. Maybe not super weird, except his family all lived in town, and he lived in an apartment with four other guys. If he is keeping you a secret, then something is not right. Guys only keep girls a secret for two reasons — either they are dating other girls or they just aren’t proud to be dating you. Both are terrible things, and both are reasons for you to walk away ASAP. If he only wants to see you at odd times, never wants to hang out with his friends and you together and doesn’t mention you to his mother when he is talking to her on the phone, then he is keeping you a secret. Don’t make it a secret that you are walking away.
4. HE WON’T RESPECT YOUR FAITH OR YOUR BOUNDARIES.
It is one thing to date someone with a different religious belief system than you, but he needs to respect what you believe. He needs to be open to having positive conversations about big things, like faith, morals and what your personal convictions are. If he isn’t open to that, or sometimes mocks what you believe, then you need to walk away. If he respects you, he will respect your religious convictions and any boundaries you set in the relationship (especially related to sex, intimacy, etc.); if he isn’t respecting those things or, minimally, always complaining about them, then you deserve something better.
5. HE WOULD RATHER DO SOMETHING ELSE THAN BE WITH YOU.
My roommate in college dated a girl that would sit quietly and watch him play video games…for hours. It was mind blowing — he didn’t talk to her, really, and she was just present. This isn’t to say that a guy only needs to be interested in you — that isn’t healthy, either. It does mean that if you are habitually at the bottom of his list, then he needs to get dropped off yours.
Dating is discernment for marriage, and maybe you have really strong feelings for the guy you are with, whether or not you are officially dating. Do you really want to waste time with someone that isn’t willing to respect you or acknowledge your relationship with others? You may think that time will change things or change him, but it won’t. He may seem like “Mr. Right,” but to him you may be “Ms. Right Now,” and you don’t need to fill that spot.
Joel Stepanek is a Catholic evangelist and speaker, author of “True North: A Roadmap to Discernment,” and “Greatest Job on Earth,” and serves as the Director of Resource Development for Life Teen. He is married to his best friend, Colleen, and has two wild and hilarious children, Elijah and Sophia. Joel is a dedicated Green Bay Packer fan and enjoys Crossfit, cooking, and a good book.