When you first start dating someone, you might be on the lookout for signs that this might not be a great fit. It makes sense — we’ve all been hurt before, and we want to cut our losses before getting too invested. But often we’re so busy focusing on these red flags and putting our emotional guard up that we fail to pay attention to the good signs to keep an eye out for — other than a shared interest in “Game of Thrones,” that is.
“When you focus on all the bad things, you lose sight of what you actually want,” says Lucy Rowett, a certified intimacy and relationship coach and clinical sexologist.
That’s not to say that you should gloss over negative actions or traits, because if you do, you will likely end up brokenhearted or in a relationship that isn’t healthy for you. Still, there are also what I like to call green lights that we should look out for when finding and evaluating a potential partner. This is deeper than simply determining that “they’re nice” or “they’re great at picking restaurants.” It’s about emotional compatibility and the ways in which a person might be right for you, specifically.
“Reflect on what makes you feel special and cared for, both in your past relationships and friendships. Is it the way someone listens to you? The way they always know just what you need after a long day?” asks Pam Shaffer, MFT. “It’s also a good idea to tune into the ways that you show love to others, as that often provides good clues to how you like to be loved.” By answering these questions, you pinpoint exactly what you are looking for and become better equipped to choose a good partner. For many people, these five things signal it’s time to hit the gas.
1. They’re an open communicator.
If you’re going to spend a significant amount of time with someone, they need to be willing to tell you how they’re feeling and help you process your emotions, too.
“My ex was a closed book. I never knew what she was thinking,” says Mark, 28. “She’d get upset with me and ignore my texts for hours or days without ever telling me what I did or why it hurt her. It was a mess.”
Dating is hard enough without wondering what the heck is happening in someone’s head. A good indicator that someone is worth pursuing is that they can respectfully share their opinions or feelings about something and you, in turn, can offer the same back to them.
With poor or closed communicators, you often wind up feeling crappy and confused. “A good communicator will leave you walking away from an interaction feeling better about the situation or argument, not worse,” says Kristine D’Angelo, CSC. “This builds emotional intimacy, which is the backbone of all healthy and happy relationships.”
“Since [my relationship] ended, I’ve been really transparent with people I date about the need for communication. If you don’t want to talk about how you’re feeling with me, it’s a deal breaker,” Mark says
2. They encourage your other relationships.
Friends and family are a huge part of your life, and anyone you’re dating should see that. “While you may be [in a love haze with] someone [new], it’s important to maintain your other relationships, too,” Rowett says. “One of the first signs of abuse is a partner trying to isolate you from your friends and family.”
If you tell your new boo that you’re going to have a night with the gang, they should be happy for you. It shows that they’re secure in your relationship and are invested in building trust with you. “My boyfriend is always jazzed about my girls nights,” says Gabby, 23. “He loves my friends and is happy that I have a support net.” Girl, he sounds like a winner.
3. They’re supportive of your career and goals.
“A big problem with my ex was that he was incredibly threatened by my career. He didn’t feel like he was making enough of himself, so he’d try to drag me down to make himself feel better,” says Katia, 29. “My new partner makes me feel amazing. They come to all of my work events and constantly tell me how incredible I am. It’s such a game changer.”
Someone being generally supportive of you is a bright green light. They encourage your dreams, help you make plans for the future, and are genuinely happy for you when you succeed. “This is usually a sign of a secure partner [as opposed to] someone who is going to ‘compete’ with other people and things in your life,” Shaffer says. “It shows that you can be in a relationship with this person and keep thriving in other parts of your life, too.”
4. Your core beliefs are complementary.
When we say “core beliefs,” we mean the things you’re most passionate about, the guiding principles by which you live and believe in your bones. This can range from religious beliefs to a preference for monogamy (or non-monogamy) to a desire to have a long-term relationship (or a causal relationship) to whether or not you want children someday.
We often make concessions for people, hoping they’ll come around to our way of thinking. But, in most cases, this won’t happen. So when your core beliefs align with those of the person you’re dating, it’s a major positive.
“I was in an open relationship with my ex-boyfriend, because he wanted to be open,” says Michael, 25. “I thought I’d lose him if I didn’t agree to it. It totally tore us apart. I’m a monogamous person, and I shouldn’t have been with someone who didn’t believe in monogamy. I guess I somehow hoped he’d get over it or something. Never happened.”
“[Having] core essential beliefs is really important, because without sharing key values, the relationship may be unsustainable,” says CORST-accredited psychosexual therapist Cate Mackenzie.
5. They learn your love language.
Most of us give love the way we want to receive it. It’s just a natural thing. If being touched and snuggled makes you feel loved, you’ll likely want to touch and snuggle someone to show your love. The problem is that the people we date don’t always welcome love in the same ways we do. This is why love languages are so important.
The top five love languages are gift giving, quality time, physical touch, acts of service (devotion), and words of affirmation. (You can take the test to determine your love language here.) If someone either shares or is willing to learn your love language, it makes things simpler.
Perhaps more than anything else, you should feel good when you spend time with someone you’re dating. They should make you feel excited, happy, and positively about yourself. You don’t want to go into a relationship thinking that it might fall apart. We got 99 problems, but self-sabotage shouldn’t be one.