A big part of making a relationship work comes down to not repeating whatever caused the last one to derail. Men are great at giving you clues on what didn’t quite work for them with their past partners and what it’s going to take for things to progress with them in the future. Here are some signs that a man might give that’ll help you figure out how to avoid being like his ex:
Listen to his break-up tale
At some point he’s going to let you know what went wrong in his last relationship. Make sure you listen closely! Maybe he’ll tell you that she was too clingy, or he was too distant. Perhaps she was far more career-focused while he was focusing on life after work. No matter what caused the final break between them to happen, he’s telling you what he desires now and what it is going to take to keep him in a relationship. As mundane or uncomfortable as the conversation may be, it’s worth listening to, because it provides the ultimate blueprint for getting it right.
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Take note of his random comments about other women
We’ve all been out with our man and watched him point out a woman’s hair or style of dress, the way she’s talking to her boyfriend or even the way she’s handling her children. This provides you with great source material about what works for him (and what he never, ever wants any part of, especially in public). Instead of obsessing over the women he may find attractive at your next social gathering, zone in on what he finds unacceptable about them — then do the opposite. Yes, it can be that simple!
Watch how he handles family forays
There’s nothing like a family gathering to bring out what your man really wants in a partner. The truth is that you can’t just be his ideal woman; often, you have to fit the family’s image of her, too. Before you meet everyone, ask him to tell you some of the disaster stories that started with him bringing a new lady home — and if you’re especially thick-skinned, ask about some of women his family loved in the past. This conversation will give you a sense of how important his family’s input is when it comes to his love life and what to expect from them when you get there.
Pay attention when he turns into the friendly critic
Men cannot help but point out your crazy, stupid or loud friends. Sometimes, it seems like they take one of our friend’s quirks far more seriously than we do. Pay attention to what he says when this happens. Men sometimes use your girlfriends as a way to let you know how they never want you to treat them — or to point out something that they may be quietly having an issue with that’s really about you. If certain friends never seem to be home and you’re never home for them, either, then that’s just his subtle way of letting you know that he has a problem. Instead of taking these conversations as an indication that he doesn’t like your friends, see what you can learn about his expectations by digging a bit deeper.
Realize when he publicly praises you
Isn’t it the best when a man points out what he likes most about you publicly? It can be during a chat with friends over dinner, while relaying a conversation from the office where your name popped up, the way he strokes your hair when you’re out together or when he draws you into a conversation with someone else about a subject he knows you’re a bit of an expert in. What’s the public face that he likes people to see of you? Observe closely and realize that these are the things that he may love the most about you.
Be happy that he doesn’t hide from his exes
When the two of you run into his ex, does your boyfriend try to distance himself from you — or does he willingly introduce you to each other and then give you the full back-story later that night? If he introduces you without hesitation, then he’s clearly feeling that what he has today with you is better than what he had then with her. Use these moments to learn more about his relationship history, and don’t be too shy in sizing up your attributes against hers. Like most things in life, people should only get better at picking partners over time. Whatever differences there are between the qualities his ex-girlfriend had to offer then versus the woman he chooses to be with now (i.e., you) is a good indicator of how your man’s tastes have changed.
Analyze his daddy dreams
Contrary to popular belief, men do think about the types of kids they’d like to raise down the road. Listen closely to how he describes his ideal little girl. If he wants her to be smart, educated, athletic and able to take care of herself, then more than likely, those are the same things he’s looking for in the woman with whom he’ll choose to build his family. Much like women, men want to “build” the perfect person of the opposite sex in some ways in their own children — and they’ll tell you what they think makes someone ideal in describing their dreams of the future.
Indulge in celebrity dish together
Celebs do the craziest things, and of course, guys often gossip and chime in just like women do when it comes to the latest Hollywood drama. Pay close attention to his opinions about plastic surgery, relationship problems, leaked nude pictures online, etc. Asking his thoughts on reality shows are great, too, because then he’s telling you all sorts of things about what works or does not work for him based on those shows’ storylines. Celebs provide the sort of meaningless fodder that can really act as the jump-off point for serious conversations about morality, maintenance and his expectations in your relationship together.
Ask him to tell others the story of how you met
You’ll tell the story of how you guys met a gazillion times over the course of a relationship. (In fact, this seems to be standard getting-to-know-you material for any social gathering, whether it’s two days or 20 years later.) Listen closely to his particular way of telling that story. What was it about you that he was drawn to? What made him almost not call you? What does he continue to find so intriguing about you now? These are the things that you need to focus on — mostly because they were so important that he’s got them locked into his mind as the very reasons why you’re a keeper!