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Is it love, or are you just lonely?

Winter: It’s cold out there, and if you’re single, you might find yourself eager for someone to cuddle with in front of the fireplace. (And maybe you’re also wishing for a fireplace, period.) But is the dude you’re dating really the one you should be with? Or is he just a warm body on a chilly night?

Couple in covers in bed

Whether you’ve almost convinced yourself that he’s The One, or you’re having second thoughts, when you’re in a new relationship that doesn’t feel quite right, it’s time to look for red flags that you’re having a fling, not a forever thing.

Red flags

Here are a few not-so-great signs from Amy Laurent, matchmaker and author of 8 Weeks to Everlasting:

  • You only hang out on weeknights and he disappears off the radar Friday through Sunday.
  • It’s been more than six weeks, and you haven’t met one friend of his, though he has met yours.
  • Your dinner dates have turned into just movies at his place or late-night drinks.
  • You go days or even a week without hearing from each other in between dates.
  • Your dates are really boring. There’s not much to talk about, but he looks really hot.
  • You find yourself not really missing him or thinking that much about him until you hear from him next.
  • You think he’s perfect right now to get you over your ex. (Think: rebound!)


And along with those little things, Laurent recommends keeping your eyes peeled for his thoughts about the big stuff (having kids someday, where you eventually want to live, etc.) that you might not want to think about in the beginning of a hot new relationship, but you need to — pronto.

“Don’t let things slide,” she says. “If religion is really important to you and you know it will be a deal-breaker in the long run, don’t look the other way and deal with it later. Or if you know there are some core values or issues that [don’t make ] for a long-term partner, you might want to not turn a blind eye the same way we might when we’re 21 and having fun. Those are things you need to pay attention to, or you’ll be having ‘fun’ with these types well into your 30s and 40s and wonder where the time went.”


Now let’s talk about sex, baby. It can be hard to think clearly when your new guy is giving you triple-Os.

“If you rushed into the sexual component, creating a kind of false intimacy, you’ll have a difficult time judging his partner potential,” says Wendy Walsh, Ph.D., author of the upcoming book The 30-Day Love Detox. “Sex hormones are like heroin, creating hallucinations of love that aren’t real. So, if you’re stuck in the delusion, you might have to wait it out.”

While you bide your time, Walsh says, take this handy quiz to help you gain some clarity:
  1. Are you hesitant to change your Facebook relationship status and link your profile to his?
  2. Is the relationship mostly about sex and not moving toward integrating your lives?
  3. Do you do more texting than talking?
  4. Have you been too busy “falling for each other” to introduce each other to family and friends?
  5. When he leaves for work after a night of serious romping, is there a piece of you that would be secretly pleased to have your own space back?

If you answered yes to three or more of these questions, you aren’t in a real relationship, Walsh says.

If you’re in a nonstarter like this, don’t despair! And don’t just blindly choose the next nice, stable guy you come across in order to avoid heartbreak. Finding a great partner doesn’t mean you have to settle for someone you’re not really that into.

“Always keep an open mind and get to know someone, but after date number three, if your feelings/attraction aren’t increasing with each date, you have given it a fair shot, but he’s not for you,” Laurent says. “Find someone you enjoy dinner and drinks with, but have enough in common you can really see having fun together doing the day-to-day stuff.”

There’s one surefire way to tell whether someone who curls your toes will also be there for you emotionally, Walsh says.

“To find a great mate, you must delay the onset of the sexual relationship,” she says. “It’s truly the only way to tell the good guys from the bad guys. The bad boyfriends will leave, and the good guys will stay around and reveal themselves. If you have sex within 30 days of meeting someone, you have about a 90 percent chance of being broken up within a year. The skills it takes to build a long-term relationship — communication, conflict resolution, empathy — just can’t be acquired while your brain is being assaulted by the dopamine rush that comes with a new sexual relationship.”

More relationship advice

Can a breakup be good for your health?
5 Stupidest things to fight over
16 Relationship deal-breakers

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