Today’s article is in response to a question from a reader (via Ask Melissa!) about how to decide whether you’re wasting your time in a relationship. In my response, I provide some scenarios where a relationship might not be worth it, how to tell whether he’s playing games, and I point out a red flag that shouldn’t be overlooked:
I am 39 and he is 34. We are both divorced and had a few good dates/dinner, movie, coffee. This has been going on since last October.
He disappeared and then apologized. Came back and said he was acting like a mean jerk. He was acting hot and cold. I mentioned that is not what I am looking for.
I explained I want to have a monogamous/long term relationship and get to know him. He stated he wanted something casual and understood what I wanted and mentioned to take it slow.
But when I see him he puts the moves on me. Holds my hand, kisses me and is very passionate. Before he was chasing me. Now he answers my texts but is very short. We haven’t seen each other much. In total I’ve seen him five times.
I just don’t get it. He works third shift and I work days. He doesn’t have a girlfriend. We both want kids.
I just wish he would be honest with me but he doesn’t want to be just friends. When there’s something serious on his mind he doesn’t discuss it just avoids or disappears.
Lately he has been letting me know what’s going on in his life but it seems very tough for him. Does this guy want a relationship or am I wasting my time? Do you think he is playing games with me? Why? What can I do to resolve this?
– Wanting Resolution
Dear Wanting Resolution,
Thanks so much for reaching out. I know it’s really frustrating when it feels like he’s giving mixed messages and you’re left wondering what to do.
I wrote an article on mixed messages that goes into detail about what mixed messages really mean, what to do when you’re getting mixed signals and whether you should tolerate them.
Is He Playing Games?
The bottom line is, mixed messages usually signify that he doesn’t know what he wants.
When guys give mixed messages, they’re either deliberately playing games or they have no idea what they want so then they’re just unintentionally playing games.
At the end of the day mixed messages mean that he’s just doing what feels good in the moment, but not being conscious of what makes really sense for him (or for you!) long term.
The problem is, this hot and cold relationship ends up confusing and hurting the woman he’s dating.
Are You Wasting Your Time?
Dating can take a lot of our time and emotional energy.
We want to know whether this relationship is going to be worth it.
How can we tell?
There are some instances where the relationship is probably not worth your effort if a happy, healthy relationship is what you really want.
You’re probably wasting your time if:
You and Your Partner Are NOT Aligned in Your Life Visions
One of the indicators for long-term relationship success is alignment with our partner in our life visions.
So, think about…what is your life vision?
For example, if you dream of traveling all over the world some day but your partner hates travel, there’s a conflict in what you envision as a fulfilling life.
Another example I like to use is, if you dream of being a mom someday but your partner can’t stand children, it’s going to be very difficult (if not impossible) to live that dream of being a mom if your partner doesn’t support your dream.
This doesn’t appear to be a problem in your case since you both want kids, but nevertheless I would encourage you to think about:
What are your big dreams for your life?
What does a fulfilling life look like for you?
Are you both compatible when it comes to the way that you want to live your life?
And is he someone who could celebrate and support your dreams?
Your Needs and relationship requirements Are Continually Going UNMET
Another indicator for long-term relationship success is if your needs and relationship requirements are getting met.
Ultimately we’re responsible for getting our own needs and relationship requirements met, meaning we’re responsible for choosing partners who are aligned with our values, who meet our relationship relationship requirements and who can support our needs.
For example, what if you have a requirement that your partner not lie to you and that he be forthright with what he’s thinking and feeling?
But if he’s not doing that, then there’s a requirement that’s going unmet.
Then you have to decide how you want to address that unmet requirement or unmet need.
Some options might be: You can problem-solve the issue or leave the relationship.
If you’re going to problem-solve, think about for how long would you want to problem-solve?
And what would be your criteria for leaving?
What would be your criteria for deciding to “cut your losses”?
It’s also important to note that the relationship research says that if your needs and relationship requirements are going unmet, you’re going to be unhappy in the relationship, and the relationship ultimately will not work.
One or Both of You Is NOT Ready for a Relationship
Readiness is so important because it’s intimately connected to the two points above.
Before you can find out whether you and your partner’s visions are aligned, you have to know what your own vision is.
Before you can discern and test whether your partner can meet your relationship needs and relationship requirements, you have to be very clear about what your own needs and relationship requirements are.
Before you can fully commit to a relationship, you can’t have other things or issues in your life that would interfere with your ability to honor that commitment.
Unfortunately, when we enter into relationships unconsciously or before we or the guy we’re dating are really ready and available for a relationship, we have a higher risk of getting our heart broken and a lot of issues can come up in addition to wasting a lot of time dating someone who ultimately can’t or won’t meet your needs and relationship requirements.
When He “Doesn’t Want to Discuss It”
You mentioned that when there’s something serious on his mind and he doesn’t want to discuss it, he just avoids you or disappears.
An avoidant attitude, in my opinion, is a red flag in your relationship because a successful relationship really requires openness and communication and the willingness to work through things together.
Showing up and standing in our truth, even when it’s uncomfortable, takes courage and emotional maturity.
But if he’s not being forthright and just shuts down or leaves you hanging when you have some important issues to discuss, this might indicate that he has some growing to do in this area of his life.
He’s got to get comfortable with talking about what he really wants.
How can you arrive at any resolution or problem-solve together if there is no constructive, healthy dialogue?
Can This Be Resolved?
The only person that you have real control over is you.
You’re the only person you can change.
So with that said, resolution is not something that you need to wait to happen.
Resolution is a choice.
It’s ultimately up to you whether you choose to stay in the relationship or leave.
But if you’re “looking to get to know him” and “want a monogamous long-term relationship,” you have to take a look at your experience with him and decide whether your experience of him, your relationship with him thus far, is aligned with what you really want.
So I would encourage you to think about:
What’s your life vision?
What are your needs and relationship requirements?
And what does a fulfilling relationship look like and feel like for you?
And does this relationship show a track record of supporting that vision and supporting your needs and relationship requirements?
If not, what’s your next move?
Whatever the issues are in your relationship, if you find yourself agonizing over questions like…
Is this relationship worth it??
Should I give him a chance or walk away??
I totally get you. I felt the same way when I was dating, which is why I created a free guide to help you get clarity.
In my free guide you’ll discover:
- 30 questions to ask yourself to help you decide if you should give him a chance or if you’re wasting your time
- 22 red flags you should be aware of if you want to avoid heartbreak and painful surprises
- How to assess your compatibility with your partner to know if your relationship has long-term potential
Want to avoid wasting your precious time? I hear you! Download my free guide Should You Stay or Go? Relationship Choice Assessment ↴