Over the past years, I have seen clients who appear not to know what good dating looks like. I have been struck by many who never saw a good, healthy, happy relationship growing up. Many from broken homes with varying degrees of emotional or physical abuse and neglect.
I had a client one day, who was sharing their dating experiences and was confused about why they never seemed to meet the right person and was always feeling hurt and disappointed. They had essentially given up on finding love. As I learned more about the situation it dawned on me that this person did not know what good relationships looks like. It struck me that many of my clients have indeed not experienced good role models in their lives, and came to me simply because they didn’t know what good looks like and were accepting what I would call poor dating behaviour – late night (bootie) calls, last minute dates, sporadic contact, inconsistent signals, ghosting, benching and more.
So I reached out to my network, which I discovered to my delight, is full people in good long-term relationships – either engaged, cohabiting or happily married. I spoke to about 20 different people (12 ladies and 8 gents), ranging in age between mid 20’s to early 60’s. The relationship length ranged from handful of years to a couple of decades, averaging 15 years.
So this blog post is about highlighting what successful and good dating looks like. The question I asked my network of good “relationshipers” was, “what things did your partner do that helped you know they wanted a committed relationship with you?”
Before I start though, the romantic sucker in me wants to share this little aside.…The people involved in this mini study found pleasure in answering me. It brought a smile to their faces, as reminiscing over the beginning of their relationship made them feel appreciative of it. This is my most favourite quote:
“aww this is making me smile so much Mads, I might cry in the minute, making me feel so lucky”
Right, ok, so what did they say? While those who had been together for a couple of decades struggled to remember the details, a trend still emerged. I would say five common indicators became apparent when I went through their responses: Availability, Affection, Support, Acceptance and Commitment.
The most common indicator, as in the most mentioned, was availability. Their partner was always available to them for dates and ultimately spending a lot of time together.
Some examples were:
’He was never late, we travelled together’
‘She replied to messages on time and found time to hangout without the usual I’m busy that day excuse’
‘She would email me all the time and check in’
‘We would talk for hours on the phone’
‘He made excuses to spend time with me, like wanting to look after my cat’
Another common indicator was support. Both giving and receiving support made people feel that their date cared for them. My relationshipers said things like:
‘He put my needs and wants before his own’
‘She always backed me up’
‘He would call me just to get in on his banter with his boys…I was his back up and no.1 fan!’
‘He offered his help to my parents like meeting and greeting them at the airport’
One that struck me as really important was giving affection, making one another feel special. If you think about it, when someone makes you feel special you are more likely to warm to them. It feels good, you are also likely to reciprocate and this helps grow the relationship.
‘He would wake up earlier than me and message me straight away’
‘We gave each other nicknames’
‘He would always hold my hand or give me random kisses, or be close to me like keep his hand on my knee or arm when we were out, always really attentive’
‘She did little things, thoughtful stuff like getting my favourite food or tickets to a movie I’d really like to see’
‘He made me feel like the only girl in the world’
As a reflection of spending time together, people get to know one another, acceptance emerges. When you are able to see through the less glamorous parts of each other and still hold them in high regard, there is a good chance you will make it as a couple.
The respondents said:
‘I guess it was things like I was able to be comfortable around her so even when doing silly stuff or showing my flaws, she was still happy and enjoyed being with me’
‘He was proud to show me off’
‘I could tell he is the only one who has truly loved me, like they say with warts and all, no matter what I look like or how I act his actions don’t change towards me and he genuinely wants the best for me’
‘We’re best friends and actually didn’t need anyone else to enjoy life (apart from the kids) our company was enough’
A final important indicator was commitment, with a willingness to work things out. Relationships are no dance on roses, dating is the same. If you and your date are willing to work things out, talk about disappointments and disagreements, flag things up when they are going off course, you have a good indication that the relationship will work out.
Some of the responses included:
‘I knew he loved me because I would do something stupid and he would forgive me and we would sort it out’
‘We did things we didn’t think we ever would…. we went beyond our comfort zone and explored a new way of life’
‘She flew over and proposed to me, we were both scared, but we did it and never looked back’
So in summary, good indicators for whether somebody is ‘into you’ are:
- They want to spend time with you – you are not left waiting for message replies and date confirmations
- They show affection towards you that they don’t do to others, making you feel special – holding hands, small gestures, giving nicknames etc.
- They go out of their way to support you – thinking of your needs and interests, anything from sending you an article link relevant to your work, to helping you out, CV checking, job hunt, house move, pet minding etc.
- You feel accepted ‘warts and all’ – you feel relaxed and can be yourself in their company.
- A willingness to work through issues, misunderstandings and insecurities as the relationship progresses – you both talk about things and are willing to forgive one another.
- Eventually (and ultimately) having the conversation and actually agreeing about commitment – anything from we are dating exclusively to ‘will you marry me?’!
I know the sample size is relatively small and this is not a rigorous scientific study, but I do think the themes that emerged were pretty easy to spot and that the presence of these indicators in your dating life is very likely to be good indicators of what ‘good dating’ looks like.
What I find interesting about this exercise is what is not said. Nobody reported feeling ‘love at first sight’, having fantasies about ‘just knowing’, mentioned sex or having any sort of infatuation as an indicator. Nearly all responses had an element of building a friendship first, with effort and willingness to commit over time. That is, both parties seemed to want to work at getting to know each other, be accepting of each other as they are and trying to make each other happy. At least that was the feel of the responses. I could be wrong, either way, I think we have a few things here that helps us understand what a good start to a good relationship might look like
Now go out there and ‘date good’!
Thank you to everyone who contributed to this piece. You know who you are. May your love long continue.
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