How long does it take to determine if a relationship has long term potential?
May 10, 2006 3:27 PM   Subscribe

What is a reasonable/fair amount of time to date a person while you are trying to determine if you have feelings for them, could develop stronger feelings for them and if they have long-term potential?

Years ago, I was devastated when a boyfriend ended an over year long relationship by stating that he would never have deep feelings for me. I swore I would never put someone through that misery. Relationships since then seem to have run their natural course and ended amicably. I've been dating a wonderful guy for nearly two months who has many qualities I'm looking for. He didn't knock my socks off on our first date, but it was nice and comfortable, and he is definitely growing on me, our physical relationship is great and we are compatible on many levels. I'm at the stage in my life where I'm looking to settle down and not just casually date. I just don't want to wake up one morning way down the road and realize the relationship isn't for me.
posted by socrateaser to Human Relations (28 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I would base it on milestones instead of time.

Met the parents? First argument? A night spent reading alone in the same room? Entertained together? Anal? The list goes on and on, but I think only you can decide.
posted by jon_kill at 3:44 PM on May 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

I agree with jon_kill. You can't base it on a strict period of time like "one or two weeks" or so. It all depends on what events you share and how those events go down. If you throughly enjoyed thse relationship milestones, perhaps theres something there. Otherwise, perhaps there's not.
posted by Effigy2000 at 3:55 PM on May 10, 2006

This is a good question. I am a guy in a similar situation to you: I have been dating a nice girl for nearly two months, and she has many of the qualities I'm looking for, good physical relationship, comfortable, growing on me, etc., etc.

Problem is: I neither love her nor am in love with her. I like her, quite a bit. I don't want to see her hurt. There are almost certainly biological reasons why I'm not "feeling it", as I'm recovering from a pretty severe injury. But, again, I like her. I want to give the relationship time for my feelings for her to grow. I never give relationships any arbitrary length of time. When it feels right, I stick it out. When it feels wrong, consistently, over a length of time, it's time to end it.

Historically, I'd have dropped her like a hot rock by now, being two months in and enjoying it but not feeling it. But, again, there's no timeframe.
posted by solid-one-love at 4:14 PM on May 10, 2006

Call me an idiot, but if you need to ask, then he's not the one. Maybe you're not ready for "the one" based on your previous experiences.

What it sounds like is that this is a guy who made a leap from the friend ladder. While good relationships are built on things like comfort and mutual respect, it sounds like you're dating a Cameron.

Anyway, what you're going through is a rebound relationship which is bound to hurt the guy you're dating (who, by the way, is bound not to be the guy you end up with), and ideally you'll end up with a guy who's half way between your current and your ex that you'll fall in love with.
posted by analogue at 4:35 PM on May 10, 2006

I kind of agree with analogue. If you have to ask, then he's not the one. That said, however, my first impression of my husband of 9 years was a terrible one and it took some time after we met before I realized that I even liked him, then still a little longer before I knew he was "the one." So, I guess my answer would be, you know it when you know it.
posted by misozaki at 4:50 PM on May 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

I also agree with jon_kill that it's more about milestones than a strict timeframe.

Of course, it's not like you want to go on without having a clear sense of things for years, but obviously at two months you're nowhere near that. Having said that, I'd say in very broad, general terms, I think it's fair to say that it's a good idea to have an idea of how we'll you've gone through some of these first phase milestones (first fight, meeting each other's friends, etc.) starting around six or eight months.

I think that's a fair period of time to have gathered some meaningful experiences and deeper feelings beyond just having fun dates (and good sex!) together so that you can start to assess whether the relationship has potential to get serious. (And don't forget to check in with your plain ol' gut instinct, too -- at that stage, you might have a gut sense of "this just isn't for me." In which case, don't force things.)

On preview: couldn't disagree more with analogue. (Ridiculous "ladder theory" aside, he apparently didn't even read the question all that closely -- to wit, this isn't a rebound relationship, so conclusions drawn from that misapprehension are null and void.) They've only been together two months. Jesus, she's not asking if he's THE ONE, she's asking for an idea how to mindfully assess the relationship as it progresses out of its very first stage. It's a perfectly smart question, because it isn't predicated on the bullshit myth that "The One" just magically presents itself in full, unambiguous glory. Knowing if a relationship is healthy and worthwhile to pursue takes time. Not forever, but not just two months, either.
posted by scody at 4:59 PM on May 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

As always, scody nails it. Good people are worth good time. Take more time, assess as you go. There's a lot to be said for a relationship built on quiet comfort and mutual respect. Spend some time seeing how things develop for you.
posted by Miko at 5:07 PM on May 10, 2006

Scody.. sounds like you've got a lot of scorn for whatever or whoever hurt you in the past/present. There is a "the one", it's whoever you end up with, it's the person who is perfect for you. Imperfectly perfect, if you will. IMO if you don't feel that way about the person you're with, you shouldn't be with that person.
posted by analogue at 5:11 PM on May 10, 2006

analogue, sounds like you don't know me, nor have you read my many posts in AskMe in which I speak with great affection and appreciation for the two main long-term relatinships of my adult life (namely my ex-husband, who is a great friend and who I've been playing phone/email tag with for the past couple of days, and my ex-boyfriend, who I consider one of the most intelligent people I've ever met and whose artwork I've promoted on this very website), not to mention the growing respect, affection, and love for the guy I've been dating for the past year (and who, had I followed your "if you have to ask, he's not the one" advice the first time a question came up about his and my relationship at the two-month mark, I wouldn't be with right now). So thanks for your armchair psychological assessment of me and my relationships, but no thanks. You're so far off-base you're in the dugout.
posted by scody at 5:19 PM on May 10, 2006

I'm in a similar position, and I'm not sure I believe in finding "the one" in a world with 6.6 billion people. All I know is that the person I'm with loves me, and I love being with him, and any doubts I have are probably arising from my own anxieties over the notion of "the one."

I think if you're happy in the here & now, that's all that matters.
posted by Lillitatiana at 5:20 PM on May 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

there's no such thing as "the one" ... there are people who you are compatible enough with to stay with

two months isn't enough time ... somewhere between one or two years, you really should have a clear idea of where it's heading ... if you don't, that's a sign that it may not go anywhere

your old boyfriend assessed it at that stage and decided it wasn't what he wanted ... it sucks, but be thankful ... it would suck even more if you found this out after marrying him
posted by pyramid termite at 5:34 PM on May 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

This question, If you don't fall in love with someone quickly will you fall in love with them at all? reminds me of yours.
posted by hooray at 5:49 PM on May 10, 2006

It's depressing to read what you guys are saying. You know, two years ago I would have completely agreed with your sentiments, but it's just not true. As painful as it was, I threw myself into the fray and dated and dated until I found the right girl for me. She was/is the one for me. She really does compliment every aspect of my self. She did so from date one. I'm not an armchair psychologist, and I don't claim to speak objectively, I can only speak to experiences derivces withing context of my life. Throughout all the relationships leading up to the one I'm in I hesitated, I asked myself the very same questions socrateaser asked us, until I met the girl I'm with now.

While I appriciate that you disagree with me, Scody, I'm not attempting to change your mind about your man or socrateaser's man, I was offering an opinion based on my experiences as did you. However, unlike you, I did not immediately debunk someone else's opinion after expressing my own.
posted by analogue at 5:50 PM on May 10, 2006

I also disagree with analogue, and always have. I honestly believe "the one" is a myth and I've never felt that way about my partner.

I've never been hurt by anyone, never had a bad relationship. Despite not thinking my boyfriend is perfect (even imperfectly so) or my soulmate we're coming up to our twelve year anniversary and are held up by my friends as a relationship they aspire too. We're sickeningly happy and intend to stay so for the rest of our lives.

But if I'd followed the advice of "If you have to ask, then he's not the one" then I would have broken up with him several times over in the first two years. Because that's how long it took before we really knew this was a long term thing, and it was at least five years before I realised this was my last relationship and I'm going to grow old with him. The two years involved us moving in together and making a few long term life decisions which I guess is relevant. Everyone has different timelines, there are no rules. Your priorities may be different than mine and not everyone will stick around for two years. At the same time don't give up something with potential because of an arbitrary cut off date.

I think that our relationship was successful and grew into something wonderful for two reasons. Firstly we worked at it (still do actually). We spent time together, talking, laughing, getting to know each other. We talked about our futures both together and apart, were thoughtful of each other, made the relationship a primary focus. We created an environment where things could grow, then gave it time to grow. But at the same time we didn't worry too much about it all. Never had a big 'relationship talk', didn't fret about where things are going, no timelines or milestones, didn't continually ask if it measured up, just let things develop. We always felt things were moving forward and we were getting closer, and that was enough.

There's a balance. Talk about your future with this guy for sure, having shared goals is important. So is communication actually, if you feel comfortable to be talking with him about these issues (ie casual dating vs whatever) then that's a good sign anyway. Create an environment where the relationship can progress. But don't fret too much about timelines and don't give up too soon. You won't one day find that perfect man where after x weeks it all falls into place, it's a process. Give it some time to work through.

After two months (or two more months) you might feel that you aren't moving forward with the process and things aren't going anywhere, that's fine. But it doesn't sound like you're there yet so if you're happy with how things are going why not just .. let them keep going for a while. See where it takes you.
posted by shelleycat at 5:57 PM on May 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

I honestly believe "the one" is a myth and I've never felt that way about my partner.

I don't think analogue is arguing that there's a single person out there in a world full of 6 billion people and your job is to find that one person.

I think he's arguing that there are people with whom magic happens, who you click with from the very start, who you'd know quick you could spend the rest of your life with, who you don't have to wait 1-2 years to know you love deeply.

This certainly doesn't seem to fit my disposition and observation. I've always been a months-to-years kind of person, personally. I've rarely fallen quickly for anyone. I don't often trust relationships until I've had them around for a while. I just don't want anyone arguing against the weakest form of analogue's argument.

It's also possible both sides are right: you can come to love and appreciate someone who could be a wonderful mate for you by cultivating a relationship over a long period. Or you can find a wonderful mate for you by meeting one of a handful of people with whom magic happens fast.
posted by weston at 6:09 PM on May 10, 2006

It's also possible both sides are right: you can come to love and appreciate someone who could be a wonderful mate for you by cultivating a relationship over a long period. Or you can find a wonderful mate for you by meeting one of a handful of people with whom magic happens fast.
posted by weston at 2:09 PM on Ma

Good point and I agree. No matter how much time it did or didn't take I know I want to be with my man, now and for ever.

It's just that I've seen so much damage done by the soulmate myth, where if you aren't sure about the relationship or it seems like it might need some work then you should ditch it. I've known people with cut off dates and relatioship time lines, and now we're all older they're generally single and unhappy. And to me analogue's first comment endorses that idea. It's pretty absolute after all.

There's a world of difference (and potential) between knowing it's not going to work and not knowing where it's going to go. A world worth exploring in my opinion.
posted by shelleycat at 6:22 PM on May 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

As a guy who's been mistaken for "the one" on numerous occasions, I'm tired of women who are into "finding Neo." Life doesn't culminate in the awarding of prizes, and the bestowal of bliss, as a result of conducting a successful hunt.

It's a journey, and at some points, you may get to invite a partner. Along the way, you spend some time hunting, some time building, some time swimming, some time sleeping, and some time, maybe, making and raising the next generation. Then you die, and whether there is any more to human experience after that, is hard to say. Some people are good partners for part of the journey, and some people are fortunate to find one partner for the whole journey. But we're all on different, though similar journeys. How can anyone know what his journey will bring, what this or that particular partner can or can't share?

Lighten up. Don't eat the last Oreo, or leave wet towels on the floor, and if it's going to work, it'll work as long as it does, and that could be long enough. It's really hard to die of a broken heart (or get a guaranteed maximum on your psychic return) in a practically indeterminate universe...
posted by paulsc at 6:29 PM on May 10, 2006 [5 favorites]

I'd like to repeat the advice that if you have to ask, given your stated prejudice towards wanting him to be the right one, he probably isn't. Give it a little more time, a month or so, and if it's still not feeling right, let things run their course. Many guys would be happy being slightly more than friends for years, so don't think you'll be stringing him along.

Passion exists, it's out there. Don't be afraid to hold out until you find it. You can either have passion or comfort. Don't be afraid to hold out for passion. The only thing stopping you is your own insecurity.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 6:50 PM on May 10, 2006

You didn't state your age, which has some bearing on the question.

Within the first 6 months you should definitely have an idea in your head "This is somebody I could see myself in a committed , potentially lifelong, relationship with." If not, you should probably consider breaking it off for both your sakes.
posted by justkevin at 7:32 PM on May 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

scody is right. There are people who are good for you and people who are not. Some you know are good for you right away. That's why people think they've found the one.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:04 PM on May 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

At the same time, I was not "in love" with the last person I dated even after 6 months of dating. We got on great, had lots in common and dating was fun, so apathy won out.

We're married today, and I'm desparately in love. I fell in "love" with him somewhere around month seven or eight. Of course, it wasn't really love. Love is born out of years of caring for each other. It was a crush, and a good one. We still constantly fall in and out of crushes on each other. If they coincide, we're saccrine. But sometimes one person says "I'm totally crushing on you" and the other says "that's nice, I'm not crushing on you right now." And the next week it's reversed.
posted by jb at 10:32 PM on May 10, 2006

Oh, and we didn't think we would be committed to each other until after four years of dating, six months in different countries without communication, then two years of being together for 2 months in the summers and not in the winter. The whole time we kept saying "this isn't really going to last is it? But it's good now, so it's stupid just to break off."

Then we got engaged.

Maybe our age mattered - I was 21, he was 19 when we met. But time is really what made our relationship - our lives grew inseparably together, even to the point that long distance was not a breaking point. We don't know who we would have been without each other - if we hadn't been together, we couldn't have possibly been "the one" for the other person, because we wouldn't share the same goals, have as many of the same interests - we just wouldn't be the same people.
posted by jb at 10:41 PM on May 10, 2006

I'm not sure I believe in "the One" either, but you couldn't tell by looking at me. My wife and I met the fall of our junior year of college, had our first date after Halloween (when we went out with in a group and I was pursuing a girl that was pursuing another guy and I ended up sitting next to my future wife at the movie thinking suddenly, "hey, she's kinda cute and not running away.") We started dating soon after, were a couple before Thanksgiving, engaged on Valentine's Day (I know), and married in the following August. This August makes 25 years.

I've never had a moment's regret. I'm still completely smitten.

But I still don't think there's a single perfect mate for each person. I think some of us are really lucky. But I do think that after a few weeks dating most people know enough to know if they're really interested.
posted by cptnrandy at 6:02 AM on May 11, 2006

I swore I would never put someone through that misery.

And yet you still dated people?

We can't spare other people misery if we're going to be open to bringing them joy. Some things you know in an hour, other things you might not know for a decade. The thing you need to not do to someone is jerk them around after you do know.

So long as you're not doing that you should just keep doing what you're doing.
posted by phearlez at 6:22 AM on May 11, 2006

But I still don't think there's a single perfect mate for each person. I think some of us are really lucky. But I do think that after a few weeks dating most people know enough to know if they're really interested.

I agree with this. (And I got lucky too, finally.)
posted by languagehat at 8:46 AM on May 11, 2006

Sounds like you're putting a lot of pressure on yourself (your urge to settle down + not hurting him like you were hurt). If you are being honest about your feelings, and things are going well but you don't know yet, just hang in there -- no need to rush to a decision. Love is what you do for 40 years, not that feeling of being crazy during the first couple months.
posted by salvia at 12:38 PM on May 11, 2006

Again, the OP isn't asking "is my guy The One"? She's asking what a reasonable time frame is to assess whether a relationship is moving towards serious commitment. It's absolutely true that SOMETIMES, such knowledge presents itself immediately and unambiguously. It's also absolutely true that SOMETIMES, such information presents itself only after a period of time, in which partners have gotten to know each other in key ways. That's why many of us here are suggesting that it's more important and useful to look at milestones within an initial period than either following a strict timeline or simply dismissing the OP's burgeoning relationship -- which is basically what you did, analogue (you also claimed that this is just a rebound relationship, which it's clearly not, as you'd discover if you read the question completely) -- purely on the basis of this notion that asking a question about a relationship automatically means that the relationship isn't worth pursuing.

As painful as it was, I threw myself into the fray and dated and dated until I found the right girl for me.

And so did I (except switch the genders). I found a guy who is right for me. We were crazy about each other from the first date, AND I still asked some key questions at key points along the way to make sure that I wasn't either overwhelmed by our initial infatuation, or (a little later on) overstating our initial differences -- either one of which could have clouded my judgment. So I did exactly what I'm advising the OP to do -- I started looking at milestones, and considered how well we met them. In doing that, I discovered that this is the happiest, healthiest relationship I've ever been in. But, analogue, had I followed your "if you have to ask, he's not the one" equation, I wouldn't have even gotten that far, because I would have broken up with him at about the 2-month mark when a specific concern raised itself. Do you see what I'm saying? Your one-size-fits-all "truism" simply doesn't fit many situations.
posted by scody at 1:13 PM on May 11, 2006 [3 favorites]

Thanks everyone for your input and insights. I'm going to take things day by day with the new guy and see how it goes. I've never believed in the myth of "The One" either, but this one definitely has potential.
posted by socrateaser at 7:01 AM on May 12, 2006

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