Dating: It’s the age-old romantic ritual during which two parties flaunt their best assets in hopes of finding the opposite party appealing enough to suggest spending a good deal of time together. More often than not, it’s an intentionally ambiguous labyrinth of mixed and missed signals, twisted in webs of confusing feelings and strangely worded text messages.
Did he just text “Hey” or was it “Heyy”? … “Wyd” or “What are you up to”? They’re different, of course. And in the 21st-century dating realm, one letter or punctuation mark carries more weight than it rationally and sensically should.
So don’t feel bad if the lad or lady you’re interested in is confusing the heck out of you. You’re not alone.
Unfortunately for all of us, there’s no well-worn singular path to love. It’s like trekking through a post-sandstorm desert and trying to find the blazed trail – the footprints have already been swept away. And those who’ve made it to Love Land can’t even tell you how they got there.
We’re all just wandering around, picking up hints along the way, and hoping to step on the key that opens the door to less confusion.
So here’s my contribution to curing your confusion: 20 definitive ways to tell if your new fling is even a fling at all, in his mind.
20 It's A Date: It's Thoughtfully Planned In Advance
Are you meeting him at his local watering hole for a few drinks and some bar food? Or is he taking you to his favorite small-town overlook for an evening picnic? These are obviously two very different scenarios – one of which takes significantly more effort to plan than the other.
Of course, the notion of qualifying or disqualifying a certain activity as a date is completely subjective. It can be based on any number of varying factors: budget, time, likes and dislikes, etc. But the teller here is not what you’re doing together; it’s why you’re doing what you’re doing and when you’re doing it.
If you can pull a strand of reasoning or intention from his planning, and he didn’t ask you out on the day of, then it’s likely a date.
And, again, the when matters.
Dr. Seth Meyers confirmed, writing on Psychology Today, “…if your date is truly interested in you, you will soon be scheduled during the highly coveted Friday and Saturday night slots. If you keep getting offers to meet him… during other periods of the week, it’s safe to say that your date doesn’t yet consider you prime-time material.”
And this doesn’t mean inviting you out with his friends. It means sacrificing his going-out time to have some one-on-one time with you. Consider not taking this lightly.
19 It's A Hangout: He Calls You 'Dude'
The Urban Dictionary defines “dude” as “a term meaning any male, human or otherwise. Sometimes it is used in reference to tom-girls.” Read: someone who is seeking a romantic relationship with you probably won’t use that word or any similar masculine vocative to address you.
If he’s a surfer or someone who uses the term “dude” incessantly in his speech for emphasis or as a way to express excitement, then he may not be implying anything by using the word in conversation. But the more likely explanation is that he thinks of you as a friend, and you are not, therefore, on a date.
One Manswers contributor, Bernard, had this to say about the matter on a Reality Chick forum: “…calling a girl ‘dude’ may seem, on the outside, like a term of endearment, but I reckon it’s a signal that he considers you one of the boys or just a cool mate to go on the piss with. Bottom line girls: if someone’s calling you dude, they’re just not that into you.”
Romance may rhyme with bromance, but it is in no way synonymous. So if your prospective date is giving you bromance vibes, I’d say it’s safe to assume his attraction to you is purely as a friend.
18 It's A Date: You Are The Center Of His Attention
If he invites you out and he’s looking at you, intimately engaged in the conversation from beginning to end, then you’re on a date. The key is to note whether he’s actually listening to you or if he’s just hearing you.
You can do this by judging his responses to your answers after he asks you a question and by being in tune with his body language.
An eHarmony.com article details what specific body language cues you should look for: “… things like good eye-contact – looking at you rather than over your shoulder or what is going on at the next table; nodding or making small verbal gestures encouraging you to carry on with what you are saying or to say more; open, welcoming body posture – chin up, arms and legs uncrossed, body facing you.”
“You [should] feel like you are being listened to and that what you are saying is interesting,” the article continues. “Their body will often reveal this before their mind consciously knows it.”
But it’s also of note, according to eHarmony, that many people are nervous on a first date, so “body language can be harder to read. [But] if after three or four dates you feel like the person isn’t engaging with you, listening to what you are saying or gives the impression they would rather be somewhere else, then they probably aren’t worth wasting any more of your time on.”
17 It's A Hangout: He Talks About Other Women
Picture this: He invites you to get ice cream at the local parlor. You dress accordingly and try to look your best.
You’re excited to get to know him and for him to get to know you. And while you’re talking, he says, “So I’ve been talking to this girl, maybe you can give me some advice.”
And no. He’s not trying to be smooth, asking about you. He’s talking about a completely different girl, and he genuinely wants your advice, friend. You are definitely and decidedly not on a date at that point.
Online Dating Expert and Digital Matchmaker, Julie Spira, told SheKnows.com, “If he sees you as a friend, there's a chance he'll ask for a female perspective on his dating life. If he sees you as a potential match, he won't want you to feel insecure by competition.”
But if he talks about his previous girlfriend(s), it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s not into you. It could mean a number of things. Maybe you asked him. Maybe he felt like he needed to be upfront about something in his past.
Either way, you should pay close attention to this, as well as how he talks about his exes. It will tell you a lot about how he is in a relationship and the level of respect he has for women.
16 It's A Date: He Picked You Up
If he offers to pick you up before an outing, it’s a sign of chivalry – like opening doors for you and pulling out your chair. It’s also a sign that he wants to spend as much time with you as possible. Oh, and it leaves room for a potential goodnight kiss when he drops you off. Oh, la la.
An article on HelloGiggles.com, an online community for women, explains, “There’s a big difference between a date coming to get you as opposed to them telling you to come over and then you’ll ‘figure it out.’ If there’s no plan, it’s not a date. It’s hanging out.”
Some women admit they prefer to drive themselves if it’s a first date with a guy they met online because they’re uncertain about the integrity and intentions of the guy they’re meeting.
But dating coach and blogger Evan Marc Katz wrote this about the matter on his website,
“By meeting out, you’ve taken all of the fun, excitement, chivalrousness, and romance out of dating. You’re going into the date, assuming failure and looking for an exit strategy…”
Of course, your own safety is your priority, so you should ensure that you wouldn’t be put in harm’s way beforehand. But, after that, if figuring out if it’s date or not is important to you, accept his offer to pick you up.
15 It's A Hangout: His Facial Hair Looks Unkept
Trimmed facial hair is to men what make-up is to women. If he’s not a prepubescent teen who isn’t quite sure how to manage his mini mustache yet, then he likely cares about the appearance of his facial hair and will use it as a tool to impress.
Of course, if the date ends up going well and you keep seeing him, you’ll eventually learn what he looks like with unshaven facial hair. But if it’s your first date together, he should put in the effort to look his best.
One guy responded to a Quora forum on the subject, writing, “It’s always good to make the best first impression…if she thinks you can’t even bother to shave before meeting her, she may wonder how little effort you’ll put out in other situations.”
It’s not that guys should get rid of their facial hair entirely before a date; it’s just that they should make it a point clean up a bit like women trim their eyebrows (and maybe pluck a few mustache hairs.)
After all, physical attraction is one of the most important variables in dating, especially when a potential relationship is in its infancy. First impressions matter and his facial hair-scaping choice should reflect that.
14 It's A Date: He Insists On Paying
If you’ve read this far and you’re checking off each item to find out if you’re really dating someone, then you must know, this is an important variable to check off.
On the surface, it might seem a little superficial to expect your date to pay for everything for you, but in the case of dating, it’s not really about the money.
It’s about much more than that, and it stems from the 1920's dating ideals.
According to an article on GoodGuySwag.com, before the 1920s, dating was at the discretion of the woman. It was called the “calling system,” and the date would always take place in the woman’s home, on her dime, after she gave permission for the man to come.
Women’s rights shifted during the ‘20s, thus allowing the men to invite the women out in public, and making them the hosts with the money responsibility. So the idea is that the host should cover the bill – it’s not necessarily based on gender.
Needless to say, this debate is not a new one, and the rules of dating may be a little outdated because of it. But a recent Money survey revealed that 86 percent of men still think they should pick up the check. So think of it as a mutually accepted civility.
13 It's A Hangout: You're Just Partying Together
Everyone knows it’s a bad sign if the guy they like only wants to spend time with them in a party setting.
Sure, you might meet at a party. But if his interest in you doesn’t go beyond half-hearing what you have to say over loud party music and in between shots, then it’s safe to assume he doesn’t want to date you.
Of course, going out for a few drinks at a restaurant is different than meeting at a nightclub, so be mindful of that. But if he doesn’t want to stay sober long enough to have a meaningful one-on-one conversation with you, that’s a sign that he’s not necessarily looking for romance.
However, there’s also the possibility that he’s too shy or nervous to invite you out somewhere more intimate.
In that case, you can try this tip from the dating website, SexyConfidence.com: “If you’re at a party, move away from the crowd that he’s in. Say you need to get a drink or something. Then don’t return. See if he catches your eye across the room, or, even better, follows you to where you are.”
If he doesn’t show any interest in your whereabouts at the party, then it’s definitely a hangout.
12 It's A Date: It’s Just The Two Of You
Yes. It’s possible for a guy who’s just your friend to want to spend time alone with you. But the alone time I’m talking about here is more intentional and should be noticeably more intimate.
Dating expert Neely Steinberg told She Knows: "If he wants alone time as opposed to asking you to meet up with him and his friends, it's a sign that he considers it a date.”
And Verily writer Justin Petrisek confirmed Steinberg’s assertion, saying,
“Romance requires one-on-one time together. Unless you plan on participating in an arranged marriage, this bonding time is essential.”
But then there’s the issue of him always wanting to be alone with you… like, maybe he doesn’t want to introduce you to his friends.
If after a few months of dating you still haven’t met any of his friends, it may be a red flag indicating he’s not interested in showing you off.
But for the first few dates, your concern should be getting to know one another and enjoying each other’s company. It shouldn’t be spent worrying about other people.
Being alone during the infancy stages of a potential relationship is crucial for engaging in undistracted conversation. And if he never wants to be alone during that time, then it’s just not a date.
11 It's A Hangout: He Never Makes Eye Contact
Okay. This one is important. But it can be difficult to assess in some people, based on their confidence level and comfort around women – or if they are someone who rarely makes eye contact in any situation.
Even so, a guy who is conscious of his body language will try to look you in the eyes at least a few times to communicate his interest in you.
An article on the Elite Daily explained, “It's very easy to tell if a guy is into you just by watching his eyes. Unlike other body parts that we can control, our eyes are different. If someone (male or female) is excited or has strong feelings about something, their pupils dilate. So, if you are talking to a guy and you see that his pupils are dilated it's quite evident that he likes you and is even turned on by you.”
And there’s no doubt that making eye contact with someone while you’re talking to them invites the possibility of a connection.
So, if he’s not at least making an effort to make eye contact with you for the purposes of seeing if there’s a connection, then he’s not interested, and you’re definitely not on a date.
10 It's A Date: He Brought You Flowers
A romantic gesture is a romantic gesture, and men don’t generally think to gift flowers to their friends. So if he brings you flowers on your first outing together, then it’s definitely a date.
Unless they’re sympathy flowers or the assortment of half-dead “I’m sorry” flowers he tried to give his now-ex-girlfriend, then his intentions are romantic.
Think of it as his way of avoiding any possibility of confusion about whether you two are, in fact, on a date.
Some women say being given flowers on a first date is premature and shows too much eagerness in a man. But if your main concern is figuring out if you’re on a date, then the flower-giving gesture will unequivocally rid you of uncertainty.
Paired Life writer Andrea Lawrence wrote about the matter in his article titled, “Signs That He’s Interested In You,” in which the first item is “He buys you flowers.”
Lawrence writes, “Why would a guy buy a girl flowers for any other reason? Guys will do this without asking, if they attach a pretty girl to a pretty flower. They've seen enough movies and had a mom or sister to know this is a smart move.”
And if it’s not flowers, maybe it’s a book you told him you wanted to read or something silly he picked up to make you laugh. Either way, it’s likely a romantic gesture and it should be pretty obvious.
9 It's A Hangout: He Talks About Gross 'Bro' Stuff
If he’s telling you about the time he and his friends went out and picked up girls at a bar or the time he farted and it smelled like rotten eggs, then you’re surely not on a date.
It’s true that some women don’t mind talking about bodily functions while on a date. But for most people, it’s not an accepted topic of conversation, especially on a first outing.
Plus, if he’s trying to impress you, he’s probably not going to talk about how much his feet smell, how he never washes his bed sheets – or anything else that would make you run in the opposite direction.
A Paired Life article titled, “Body Language Clues That He Isn’t Interested In What You Got,” advises women to be wary of their date if “he feels comfortable burping, farting, and saying crude things around you. And you haven't been dating forever to where these things are more acceptable.”
Again, it’s a known fact that most women aren’t open about bodily functions, especially when they’re meeting someone they’re romantically interested in.
So if a guy can’t hold back a burp or some crude comments for at least a few hours, then he’s just not worried about you liking him.
8 It's A Date: He Says 'Thank You' When It's Over
It should sound like this: “Thanks for going out with me tonight. I had so much fun.”
I know “thank you” can sound like he thinks you did him a favor by going out with him, but that’s not what you should deduce from this expression of gratitude.
Marie Claire writer Rich Santos wrote, "Hellos and goodbyes are so important in dating. Hellos dictate the ever-important first impression. And good-byes leave a lasting impression."
"Good-byes are as important as the first impression because they reflect what a person is thinking directly after parting."
Many dating experts suggest men should cement a second date before leaving the first date if they’re sure they want to see the woman again. And if they’re not sure, they should wait until they’ve had time to process their feelings to prompt (or not prompt) a second date.
So if, at the end of your outing, he says, “Thanks for coming out with me tonight. I was thinking of going for a hike one day this week. Would you want to come?”
Of course, that means that, yes, it was a date – and it also means the date went well in his eyes. Two of dating’s most burning questions answered in one farewell.
7 It's A Hangout: He Asks If His Friend(s) Can Join
So, let’s say you ask this guy if he wants to go out this weekend and you make plans for the two of you – because it’s 2018 and women can/should take the initiative in dating if they want to.
But then the guy with whom you thought you were going on a date asks if his friends can tag along.
Uh, oh. This is not a good sign. Because it means he’s not interested in being alone with you, which means he probably only likes you as a friend, and it’s just a hangout.
In a Bolde article, writer Holly Riordan put it this way: “A date should only involve two people. If he invited his friends, a few cousins, and some strangers off of the street to go bowling with you, then it’s just a casual hangout session. There’s no chance for romance when there are that many people around.”
And a Marie Claire article seconded that notion, writing that him asking you to meet up with him and his friends at the bar “says that [he doesn’t] really care to spend time with [you] alone, or that [he’s] too socially awkward to not roll with a posse when attempting to date.”
6 It's A Date: The Conversation Goes Deeper Than Small Talk
If the guy you’re just meeting for the first time over dinner is enthusiastically talking to you about your second cousin’s piano recital you went to last year and how much you loved it, then congratulations, you’re out of small talk territory, and you’re definitely on a date.
The bottom line is: if he likes you, he’ll want to know everything about you, and nothing you tell him will bore him to death because he’s already interested in you.
Matchmaker and dating coach Nora Dekeyser explained to Bustle, if your date is asking you personal questions, like “What is your ideal Saturday?” or “Where is your dream vacation?” then you’re in good shape.
“These types of questions keep the conversation going, playfully, while letting each other open up," Dekeyser said.
"If you find a topic that you both enjoy, dive into it and point out how similar you two are."
And even politics aren’t off limits for first date conversations, according to Dekeyser, who says “intellectual banter is extremely attractive.” Just try to keep it light, and maybe even flirtatious.
As long as he’s showing an active interest in getting to know you on a deep and intimate level (one that a guy friend wouldn’t want to go to), then it’s almost certainly a date.
5 It's A Hangout: He's On His Phone The Whole Time
It’s the 21st century, and we have a lot of distractions at our fingertips at any given moment. But if you’re on a date with someone you really care to engage, it’s expected that you’ll give him or her your full attention.
So if you’re out with a guy and he’s constantly checking his phone, texting his friends – or worse, checking social media – then you’re not on a date. You’re just hanging out.
One of the greatest things about being on a first date is that you’re meeting someone new. Almost everything you say about yourself should be new information to your date, and it should at least be interesting enough to keep his attention for the duration of the outing.
Psychology Today contributor, Dr. Suzanne Degges-White, wrote in an article, “His ability to focus on the potential relationship that the two of you are trying to establish on the first date can be a good indication of his future willingness to be emotionally present in the future.”
She continued, “There’s also research that suggests that constantly checking social media, email, texts, etc. are signs of process addiction. Addictive behavior patterns can be difficult to change – know what you’re in for before getting serious with this date.”
4 It's A Date: He Sends A Post-Date Text
Getting a text from a guy right after you went out together indicates he had a good time and he wants to keep the communication and the connection open. And it’s definitely a sign that you were on a date and not just hanging out.
Dating expert, Rich Santos, mentioned above, told Marie Claire, “A good sign that a date went *really* well is when someone giddily follows up after… to let you know they had a great time without waiting around.
‘If I'm not interested after the date, I'll head straight home and begin my process of fading out of this girl's life (following up is not part of that process).’
Of course, not hearing back right away isn't a definite rejection, but the excitement of a speedy follow-up message speaks for itself.”
If he likes you, he most likely won’t be afraid to let you know, especially if he’s sure the feeling is mutual.
An article on SexyConfidence.com explained, “... if he texts — or better yet calls — within a day of your date, winner winner, chicken dinner... Not every guy, even if he’s totally into you, will do this. Some try to play the game and make you wait before reaching out. Games are dumb, but sometimes you gotta play.”
3 It's A Hangout: He's Not Nervous
If he’s not nervous on your first outing together, that’s a sign that he may not care too deeply about your opinion of him. It’s also a sign that you’re not on a date.
Dating expert Neely Steinberg, quoted earlier, told She Knows: "Guys want to impress a woman on a date, and with that objective in mind often comes a bit of anxiety. If you can sense some anxiousness, you're probably on a date."
But don’t feel worried if you’re reading this and you realize your date didn’t seem nervous. Everyone exhibits different signs of nervousness, and not every guy will have these distinguishable first date nerves.
An article on EnkiRelations.com explained, “He’s nervous because he’s overwhelmed by his feelings for you. This is especially true for a guy you haven’t known for a long time. You should keep an eye out for signs like tapping his feet while sitting, [fidgeting] with his phone, drinking a lot of water, etc. He does all these to keep his mind allayed.”
Chances are, if you like him, you’re probably also nervous and aren’t focusing on his subtle hints of nervousness. But if you really want to know if you two are on a date, make a discreet effort to pay attention to his body language.
2 It's A Date: He Compliments Your Appearance
Your friends compliment you all the time; if you get a new outfit, new hairdo, have nice-smelling deodorant – whatever it may be.
But if a guy you’re out with alone for the first time tells you that you look beautiful, then he’s looking for romance, and you’re definitely on a date.
Dating and relationships coach, Jonathan Bennett, told Bustle: "If your partner never compliments your appearance, it could be a sign that your partner doesn’t find you very physically attractive. So, rather than giving insincere compliments, [they] will avoid saying anything on the topic and focus on other areas of attraction instead.
“But, it’s also possible your partner values other traits more, like personality, humor, and intelligence. Still, never receiving physical compliments from a romantic partner can be a blow to anyone’s self-worth."
Bennett continued, saying there’s really no justification for your date to not compliment your appearance if he’s attracted to you and doesn't want to hide it.
“…Compliments serve a more practical purpose: they're a form of positive reinforcement, making it more likely that, in the future, your partner will repeat the behavior (or showcase the trait) that you complimented,” he said to Bustle. “It's a win-win, so there's really no good reason not to make a habit of complimenting your partner…”
1 It's A Hang Out: He Shakes Your Hand Or Awkwardly Hugs You At The End
When you’re on a date that’s going well, the coveted goodnight kiss is almost certainly on the guy’s mind from beginning to end.
He’s thinking about how he’s going to make the move and he’s playing it out in his mind, trying to predict how you’ll react.
So, if he opts for a handshake or an awkward loose hug at the end of your date, it can mean a few things, but most likely it’s a sign that you’re just hanging out.
A Cosmopolitan article put it this way: “This one is tough because it so often means that he didn't feel a strong romantic connection (and let's face it, you probably didn't either), but occasionally it just means he's too shy to kiss you. Either way, the romantic vibe isn't strong enough to push past everything to get you to Kiss City…”
It’s also very possible that it wasn’t about his feelings at all. Maybe you were giving off “I’m not into you” vibes, and he wanted to save himself from potential rejection.
One user on GirlsAskGuys.com wrote, “Sometimes a man holds back if he isn't feeling your enthusiasm about being kissed, or it could be for his own reasons of not going too quickly.”
Either way, there were some mixed signals throughout the outing, and the “good night kiss” mood wasn’t there in his eyes.