I’ll be the 1millionth person to say it: Trust your gut. Something that “looks great on paper” also makes for unhappy marriages and divorced parents and infidelity and heartbreak. Your gut, though, never lies. If something feels off, fuck off real fast.
But if it feels right, do continue. After all, our “young adult” branding gives us free reign to explore and learn and grow. So when your gut is telling to things are good, and your eyes are bright and shiny and you feel like you’re on top of the world but still need a little bit of external validation (that’s fine too) then how do you know you’re dating a keeper? Here are a few cool things to look out for:
His place doesn’t look like the shared room of a prepubescent. His respect for himself is reflected in how he keeps his surroundings (not expensive, but at least clean). He can hold a conversation with other adults without embarrassing you. He can fight with logic and says it outright when something bothers him. He can communicate his feelings constructively and he can understand yours.
He looks up when you enter a room.
He is aware of your presence, even when not directly acknowledging you he will still recognise your presence and acknowledge your existence each time you’re around. A small wink or pull on the corner of his mouth, his eyes flickering to meet yours even when he’s in a conversation with someone else or busy on his phone.
He makes an effort to care about the things you care about.
It can be something small like creating his own Pottermore account just to surprise you with his Patronus if you’re a Harry Potter fanatic or noticing how you don’t like your coffee too hot and brings you mellow lukewarm coffee next time. Whatever is significant to you, he’ll ask you and fake interest if he has to.
He tells you about the things he loves.
Obviously, because he wants you to make an effort to care about them. He will allow himself to be passionate about his interests in front of you without fear of judgment, trusting you to hold dear also the things he holds dear.
He has healthy relationships with friends and family.
If someone is constantly talking down to other people they claim to be friends, doesn’t respect the institution of family or holds grudges against others, before long you’ll be no exception. But, if he talks with love and respect of his parents, has a supporting group of friends, refrains from badmouthing his exes then you can just put a ring on it right now.
You are sexually compatible.
I did say this is a list of obvious signs. Whether your stomach flutters if he only puts his hand lightly on your lower back or brushes back a strand of hair, you can hold his eyes for 5 seconds and the world disappears, and when things eventually end in the sack then there should be fireworks. The emotional bond created by strong sexual compatibility will definitely prove to be valuable in the long run.
He loves things.
Because you’ll want him to love you too at some point, #amiright. Seriously, though, a man who loves small things and big things and sunsets or sunrises or aeroplanes or dogs or a silly trinket will be able to love you so much more. Someone who is familiar with love can love much more freely and easily.
He keeps fights private.
The principle here is this: regardless of the fight you were just having in the car to the point of insulting each other’s female ancestry; the second you arrive at your destination where other people are present he can put it aside and stand alongside you as your partner. Fights are necessary and inevitable but when you are out in public, the two of you are a team and he will work with you to present yourselves as such in any circumstances.
You can take long drives together.
You don’t run out of things to talk about, you don’t end up arguing about everything and there are no awkward silences. For instance, someone once told me about driving from Gauteng to Cape Town with their wife and he pulled over and drugged her Coke with a sleeping pill just so she’d stop complaining the entire way – don’t do that. If you can entertain yourselves in a confined space, things are looking up.
He has a healthy routine.
It doesn’t need to be rigid or boring, but he has a schedule and he is committed to sticking to the things on there and maintaining a general structure of order and healthy habits.
You can face crises together.
Whether it’s a flat tyre when you’re both sleep deprived or the death of a loved one or simply very stressful circumstances, you don’t have added stress about your teammate fucking things up even more – you can devise a plan together, support each other and still love each other even if things are falling apart around you. When crisis hits, you can count on them.
He dresses nice so you can be proud of him.
Let’s face it, no guy really gives a shit about their outfit (broad generalisation, yeah I know). Their criteria are much more basic – is it functional; does it smell; is it within reach, etc. But your keeper will want to make you proud and always be presentable so he doesn’t embarrass you ever – making your partner look good is part of the deal, after all.
He laughs with you, and a little bit at you.
It goes without saying that he needs to laugh at your jokes, laugh at things you find funny and you need to share a sense of humour but at some point, he’s going to discover your craziest quirks and – god help us all – he needs to be able to laugh at you then. Alternative to that is, he finds them annoying and then you may want to rethink your choices.
He has goals, and he includes you in them.
He doesn’t shy away from talking about the future, he has an image of his future house or career or dog or lifestyle and he is working actively to achieve just that, all the while keeping you in mind. Building a future together gets much easier when you know what you’d like that future to hold.
He has a good grasp on basic physiology and biology.
Given the severe differences between male and female anatomy, it’ll go a long way if he understands the basics of a period, to name but one example. A good grasp on the female anatomy obviously also holds other advantages *cough. This ties in with his level of maturity but let’s be honest – you need a man who won’t be awkward talking about your bodies and physical needs and requirements.
When the time comes, he prefers action to words.
Everyone knows that when men first say “I’ll punch you” – there’s going to be no fight. A keeper won’t say it, he’ll punch the dude and end things. Same principle applies to many other situations. When times get tough, you need him to act and not just speak. To do what needs to be done, no bullshit.
He can entertain himself.
Whether he’s online gaming for 12 hours straight or going out with friends or bringing work home, you should be able to leave him alone for extended periods and he must be able to take care of himself, entertain himself and function normally. Co-dependence isn’t sexy and sometimes you have to be able to leave and not worry about leaving him at home alone like a puppy.
He can take care of you.
Sometimes you won’t be able to take care of yourself. Yes, you can keep yourself alive, but not necessarily feed yourself well or have time for a cup of coffee or a bath. Whether you’re under strain from a heavy workload or tight deadlines or severely ill, you can count on him to provide a nutritious meal or run a bath.
In short: imagine yourself on a cliff with strong winds and crashing water beneath, about to jump knowing full well that the water at the bottom is cold and dangerous and unknown. Can you hold this person’s hand, give it a little squeeze and then jump? Would you trust them to jump with you? Could you count on them not to hold you back and in doing so, hurting you when you jump? Do you trust their ability to swim when you get to the bottom? If the answer’s yes, keep him.