If you've ever sat across the table from someone in a candlelit restaurant and felt quite strongly that they weren't ready to date, you may have been right. People give off vibes when their heart isn't in it, when they don't want to settle down, and when they aren't sure what they want. And it's possible to pick up on them — especially if you know what to look for.
Sometimes, a person will know they aren't ready to date, but still want to go out and have a good time with someone new. And that's awesome. But if you're looking for a relationship and want to steer clear of potentially hurtful situations, trust your gut. Is this person talking a lot about their ex? Are they acting a little too casual? Are they only texting you at night? If the answer is yes, you might not be on the same page.
If they aren't ready, "it’s important to see the signs early because falling for another person can create a huge emotional burden, especially if the love isn’t returned," Jonathan Bennett, relationship and dating expert at Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. "Plus, if someone isn’t ready, it can lead to a lot of wasted time and energy on your part."
To spare yourself from having to wonder whether or not someone is looking for a relationship, you can always ask where they're at in life. But you can also keep an eye out for a few of these signs someone isn't ready to date, according to experts.
1. They're On Their Eighth Date This Week
While they're allowed to go on as many dates a week as they'd like, it should tip you off that this person isn't too serious about dating if they're seeing a lot of people at once.
"If the person you met talks a lot about 'dating around' or mentions going on a lot of dates with many different people in a short period of time, it’s a sign that [they aren't] focused on getting into a serious relationship," Bennett says. "It also could be a lack of certainty about goals and life direction." So really, you won't know until you ask.
Depending on what they say, it may turn out that this person is better suited to being a friend or someone to casually hang out with. And there's nothing wrong with that.
2. They Keep Bringing Up Their Ex
While it's OK to talk about exes if the conversation naturally steers in that direction, it's not a great sign if this person can't stop talking about their ex on your date.
"Many people, especially those who have recently broken up, go on dates as a way of getting over an ex rather than getting into a new relationship," Bennett says. "If you notice your date talking a lot about an ex (even negatively, like complaining about an ex), it’s a sign that person truly isn’t ready to pursue a new relationship."
It can take a while to get over a breakup, and some people jump back into the dating pool before they're truly ready. The thing is, while they might not be in a good place right now, they very well may be in a few weeks or a few months. So if you like them, stay in contact and see where things go in the future.
3. They Aren't Very Available
If someone's ready to start dating more seriously, and eventually settle into a relationship, it'll likely be one of their top priorities. They'll call to make plans, they'll open up their weekends, and they'll be down to respond to texts.
So if this person is constantly M.I.A., take it as a sign they just aren't on the same page. "If the person you meet seems so busy that [they] barely [have] time to interact with you, whether in person or even over text, it can be a sign the person isn’t ready for dating," Bennett says.
And again, it could be for any number of reasons, so try not to take it personally. As Bennett says, "Many people have other priorities in life (work, hobbies, pets, etc.), but feel pressure to date or get into a relationship. But, in reality, they aren’t ready to give dating the time and attention it requires."
4. They're Very Focused On Their Career
It's 100 percent possible for two people to date, have a fulfilling relationship, and focus on their careers. But sometimes, people aren't ready to multitask like that. And that's OK.
"Career or self discovery are important aspects to a person's life and if there are other priorities taking immediate precedence, then relationships will not be one of them," therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW tells Bustle. "If climbing the corporate ladder is the most important priority right now, for example, it [may be] difficult to have [their] attention divided."
They may hint that they don't have much free time right now, or that they're super busy with work. They may even use work as an excuse to bail on plans, which is another sign they're just not ready to date.
5. They Say They're Still Working On Themselves
If someone goes on and on about how they're working on themselves, and how they aren't quite sure where they want to be in life, that may be their way of saying they're not ready to date. So take them at their word — and try to view it as them doing you a favor.
As Hershenson says, "It is nearly impossible to be present for others when you have not taken care of yourself first." When someone's yet to do this work, they may not be ready to date or get into anything too serious. And that's OK.
6. They Only Want To Hang Out At Night
Midnight texts can be fun when you're in the mood for them. But when you'd like to start a more committed relationship, and these are the only messages you receive, it may be a red flag.
"An early warning sign that someone might not be ready to date or be in a relationship is when they text you sporadically to 'come over,'" life coach Holly Shaftel tells Bustle. "This is important to recognize early on because, if you’re on a mission to meet a quality partner, then it’s good to know when you might be wasting your time."
7. They Keep Bailing At The Last Minute
It's easy to overlook flakiness, or explain it away as someone being busy. And that very well may be the case. But if it keeps happening, it may mean this person isn't taking the relationship very seriously.
If they keep canceling, this means they aren't making you a priority compared to other things in their life, psychotherapist Tina B. Tessina, LMFT, PhD, tells Bustle. "This date is leaving options open in case something [else] comes along." And really, who has time to deal with a situation like that?
8. They Are Rude To Others
If you catch your date gloating about ignoring other people on their dating app, or not texting people back, take it as a red flag. "If someone behaves badly toward potential dates such as breadcrumbing, ghosting, stashing, etc., they are not ready to date," psychic and spiritual counselor Davida Rappaport tells Bustle. Do yourself a favor, and keep an eye out for someone more mature.
9. They're Playing Games
While it's important to take into consideration that people get busy, and others just aren't good at texting back, listen to your gut if it feels like this person is playing games, ignoring calls on purpose, and so on.
"If someone plays games with potential dates, they lack the maturity required to build a relationship," Rappaport says. "In some cases, they may not know what they want," so you''ll want to steer clear until they figure it out.
Keep in mind, though, that you shouldn't try to read anyone's mind. A person can be working on themselves, not responding to calls, and texting you to come over at midnight, but still be down to date — and even create a long-term relationship. So don't jump to conclusions. The only way to know for sure if someone's interested in getting a bit more serious, is to ask.