By Kelly Gonsalves
Contributing Sex & Relationships Editor
Kelly Gonsalves is a sex educator, relationship coach, and journalist. She received her journalism degree from Northwestern University, and her writings on sex, relationships, identity, and wellness have appeared at The Cut, Vice, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and elsewhere.
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February 27, 2022 — 12:11 PM
These days, people have such different ideas about what it means to be dating and what it means to be in a relationship, so it can sometimes be hard to know where you stand with someone you’ve been spending a lot of time with.
If you suspect that the guy you’re hanging out with or crushing on isn’t interested in a serious relationship with you, and that’s something that you do want and have been hoping for, it’s best to just ask him about it directly. That’s truly the only way you’re going to get a definitive answer.
But in the meantime, as you prepare yourself for that conversation, here are some strong signs to look out for that suggest he doesn’t want a relationship–and what to do if that’s the case.
Signs he doesn’t want a relationship.
He hasn’t mentioned anything about wanting to be in a relationship.
Have you ever heard this guy talk fondly about the idea of being in a serious relationship, enjoying having a steady partner, and being committed to one person? Or does he (or his friends) laugh at the idea of him being in a real relationship?
If the idea of him liking those things feels at odds with what you know about him and his personality, that’s probably a sign that you know on a gut level that he’s not a “relationship guy.”
And if the subject of how he feels about relationships hasn’t come up yet? Ask him directly and see what he says.
He dodges or brushes off any conversations about defining the relationship.
Great relationships start with great sleep.*
If you’ve been talking to or hanging out with this guy for a while, but he constantly shuts down any attempt at defining the relationship, that’s a sign that he probably doesn’t want one. A person who intentionally avoids the “DTR talk” usually does so because they prefer the vagueness (and often the presumed non-exclusivity that comes with it).
What’s more, if he makes you feel guilty for wanting to clarify what’s going on between you two, he is already signaling that he doesn’t want to be responsible for your emotional needs or meeting your expectations.
You shouldn’t be the only one trying to figure out where things are going. If he’s not thinking about it, it’s likely because he’s not interested in it going anywhere at all.
He’s pretty vague about what he’s looking for.
Even when you do try to talk about what’s going on between the two of you, he avoids offering any specifics about what he wants. He might make excuses such as saying he “likes taking things slow” or “has a lot going on right now,” or he may say he “just wants to see where things go” with the two of you. Those things may be true for him, but the issue is when these things are said without giving any indication about whether a committed relationship could ever truly be on the table.
Usually if someone is open to a serious relationship, they’ll be pretty upfront about that when asked about it. A person who wants to date you seriously will not hesitate to tell you once you’ve directly asked them about it.
If they aren’t willing to say one way or the other whether they’re open to a long-term commitment with you, it’s often a sign that it’s not something they’re that interested in that the moment. People often choose to be vague about their intentions when they think the other person won’t like what they hear.
He says he “doesn’t do labels.”
Some people do prefer relationships without labels, but importantly, a relationship without labels is still a relationship and still requires clarity around expectations.
“Some people may choose not to label their relationship because they’re afraid of being tied down too quickly or in a place where they feel trapped,” relationship therapist Shena Tubbs, MMFT, LPC, CSAT-C, once told mbg. “However, one should understand that you maintain full autonomy of yourself in every relationship you’re in, and you are the one who is responsible for communicating what you need, what you want, and what you don’t want. So if you feel you’re at a place where you cannot (or don’t want) to date one person exclusively, that should be communicated to your partner so that [they] can make a decision about whether that works for them.”
In other words, saying you “don’t do labels” cannot be a stand-in for having a conversation about what you both expect from each other. You two should still be able to get on the same page about whether you’re romantically and sexually exclusive, what the expectations you both have for each other are, whether you want your current relationship to be long-term, and whether you’re interested in eventually living together, getting married, and those sorts of things. It’s OK to not want these things, but if he’s avoiding telling you how he feels about all this and keeping you in the dark, take that as a red flag.
Most of his previous relationships have been short-term or undefined.
A person’s relationship history isn’t always an indicator of what they want now or going forward, but if all of his past “relationships” have also been undefined or short-term and he’s being vague about his intentions with you, those factors together suggest he’s probably not interested in changing his ways any time soon.
He’s still talking to other people.
Now, take this one with a grain of salt. These days, especially with the prolific use of dating apps, most people will be exploring several connections at the same time until they find one person they want to focus on building something serious with. But if you’ve already been dating for several weeks or even months and he’s still pursuing connections with other romantic interests, it may be because he’s already decided that you’re not the one.
Not sure? Ask if he’s still on the apps or talking to anyone else, or if he’d pursue a connection if a new person came around. (Note: Some people aren’t into monogamous relationships, which is totally cool, but you two should be on the same page about that if that’s the case.)
He won’t make long-term plans.
He’s not open to planning something with you a few months in advance, and he only ever talks about his future without any indication about whether he envisions you there with him. Someone who’s interested in a relationship with you won’t shy away from making long-term plans and commitments with you.
He’s not interested in meeting your friends or family.
If he avoids hanging out with your people, cancels plans, or generally doesn’t seem that interested in connecting with your nearest and dearest, it’s usually because he doesn’t feel invested enough in you to get to know your world or because he sees your relationship as short-term.
He only wants to hang out late at night.
Late-night hangouts are often associated with casual sex. Whether or not you’re actually having sex, if he’s only around when it seems like sex could be on the table, that’s not a good sign. A guy who wants to date you seriously will suggest hanging out any time of day, and he’ll also be interested in doing very non-sexual things with you, like grabbing coffee or going for a walk. If he’s never available for those typical types of dates, he’s probably not interested in a real relationship–or at least not currently available for one.
He texts a lot but never actually meets up with you.
Some people just happen to be great texters, but that doesn’t always mean they’re actually interested in a relationship. If he’s always blowing up your phone but never seems available to actually hang out in person, then he clearly isn’t prioritizing building a real relationship with you.
If neither of you has suggested getting together in person yet, make the first move and ask him out. If he consistently dodges, flakes, or just can’t seem to make time for you, he probably isn’t interested enough in dating you.
He’s really into you when you’re physically together, but otherwise he’s pretty distant.
On the flip side, consider it a red flag if he’s affectionate and engaged when you’re hanging out but then basically disappears outside of those IRL dates. Some people are great at being present, showing affection, and turning on the charm when they’re with someone one-on-one, but that’s more a function of their personality than a sign of special romantic interest. If someone is genuinely interested in you, they’ll make an effort to reach out to you, talk to you regularly, see how your week’s going, or at least respond to your damn texts.
His texting is pretty lazy.
If a guy is spotty with his texting–that is, he’s kind of “hot and cold” with you, really interested one day and then doesn’t text you for three weeks–suffice to say that building a relationship with you is probably not a priority to him. Likewise, psychiatrist Mimi Winsberg, M.D., says having a “flat affect” via texting is an early-dating red flag.
“They may be emotionally aloof, stiff,” she writes in her book Speaking in Thumbs: A Psychiatrist Decodes Your Relationship Texts So You Don’t Have To. “There is no smiling in the language, no winking, no raised eyebrow, no blushing. They may as well be sending you the snail emoji, for all the energy that’s coming your way.”
If he generally responds with one-word answers to your texts, never initiates conversations, or never asks you questions back, the interest in a relationship might be just as one-sided as your texts.
He doesn’t put effort into getting to know you more personally.
Does he ever ask you questions about your personal life or your inner world? Does he ever seem interested in your job and career goals? Your art? Your friends and family? Your wounds and traumas? Or does he sort of just nod along when you talk about that stuff and then change the topic?
If he never seems interested in having deeper conversations with you, it’s possible that he simply isn’t interested in getting to know you on a deeper level. Likewise, take note if he never seems to remember details about you or your life.
He’s not really letting you get to know him on a deeper level.
On the other side of that coin, pay attention to how much he’s willing to share with you. Does he talk about his feelings with you? Does he share much about his personal life, his dreams and aspirations, his fears and past hurts? If he isn’t letting his walls down and letting you in, it may be because he doesn’t want that level of intimacy with you.
He’s not that affectionate.
He doesn’t say much about how he feels about you, and he doesn’t really do anything romantic or caring for you. You’re also nowhere to be seen on his social media, and he doesn’t really talk about you publicly with anyone. When you’re in a group, perhaps he even avoids holding your hand, kissing you, and all the other sorts of things he usually does when you’re alone.
If he isn’t putting effort into making you feel special and wanted, it may be because he simply doesn’t see you that way.
He doesn’t make you a priority.
Notice if he often cancels plans with you, demotes you in favor of other friends and projects, or never seems to have time for you. Or perhaps he’s always too busy to do things you want to do, but you see him spending time with his people regularly. He also isn’t really someone you can rely on–he doesn’t show up when you need help, and he generally has let you down more than once.
People will make time for the things and people they care about.
He isn’t pushing the relationship forward.
Are you the only one putting effort into making plans, doing romantic gestures, and generally trying to deepen your connection? Relationships are a two-way street, and if he isn’t working with you to strengthen your relationship and trying to take steps forward, it may be because he doesn’t want things to move forward.
“If they want to be in a relationship with you, they will show up. They will keep asking you out, they will want to see you a lot, and they will want to move in that direction,” therapist and life coach Tess Brigham, MFT, BCC, once told mbg. “They will ask you to things that are significant, and they will talk about plans for the future.”
You’ve been talking for a long time without any changes.
To be fair, many of the above signs can be true at the very early stages of getting to know someone, not because you’re not interested in a relationship but simply because it’s too early to tell. But if you’ve already been hanging out for several weeks or even months, and many of the above signs are still in play, that’s the tell that things between you are likely not going to progress any further.
He says he’s not looking for anything serious.
What more do you need to hear? When someone tells you who they are, believe them. If a guy tells you directly that they don’t want a serious relationship, take them at their word. Don’t try to “change their mind” or stick around just because you’re hoping you’ll be different.
Why does he keep me around if he doesn’t want a relationship?
Just because a person isn’t interested in a serious relationship with you doesn’t mean they don’t genuinely like you. He might just like spending time with you, think you’re really fun and interesting, and enjoy your connection exactly as it is right now. Of course, it’s also possible that he doesn’t like you in particular but rather just likes having access to sex, flirting, and intimacy, which your connection might provide him.
“There are a lot of reasons people date casually, ranging from wanting to gain more interpersonal experience with people to whom you’re attracted, to avoiding the emotional attachment that comes with deeper levels of commitment, to just wanting to have fun,” sex and dating coach Myisha Battle, M.S., recently told mbg. “A lot of my clients are casually dating until someone presents themselves as a viable long-term partner, so sometimes it’s a stopgap between relationships.”
It’s important to remember that people can enjoy connecting with each other without expectations for future commitments. Maybe he doesn’t like you romantically or doesn’t think there’s long-term compatibility, but he loves your company or thinks you’re great in bed. Maybe he isn’t looking for a romantic relationship right now in general, or at all–but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to connect with the fun and fascinating people around him.
Should I cut him off?
It’s likely a good idea to cut someone off if you feel like their presence in your life is negatively impacting your well-being or your ability to pursue your long-term goals. If you feel like this guy is being careless with your feelings, lying to you or avoiding being honest with you, or just generally doesn’t have your best interests at heart, those are valid reasons to end things with him.
That said, if he’s a good guy who treats you well and just happens to not be looking for a relationship right now, then it may not be necessary to cut all ties. You don’t have to cut off someone just because they don’t want to be in a relationship with you. It all depends on what you’re comfortable with, how much you enjoy spending time with this person, and how spending time with them impacts your ability to find what you’re looking for elsewhere.
Some people enjoy having someone to casually date and hang out with (or even just a friend with benefits) while simultaneously continuing to look for a long-term partner. Others only like to date someone when they know there’s long-term potential.
Am I likely to develop such strong feelings for this person that I’ll end up longing for something more–and potentially getting hurt? Am I OK with that? Or would I rather just avoid that potential pain?
Can I both hang out with this guy and explore making new connections at the same time? Or is that something that would be confusing and distracting for me?
Will continuing to hang out with this guy make it harder for me to find the serious relationship I ultimately want?
Have I had a conversation with this guy clarifying what he wants from our connection, to make sure I’m not making assumptions?
The bottom line.
When in doubt, ask directly. Literally say these words to this guy: “Are you open to a long-term, committed relationship with me? I’m interested in that. What about you?”
Then see what he says. Be direct about what a relationship means to you, what kind of future you’re interested in with a long-term partner, and whether you’re comfortable continuing to hang out with a guy who isn’t on the same page as you.
Yes, this requires some vulnerability. But just know that if someone really does like you and wants to be with you, you asking this question is not going to scare them away.