Becoming Boyfriends

Is your amour ready to settle down…or just acting like it? Here are six red flags that suggest you’ve got a phony on your hands—so steer clear.

By Dave Singleton

ne day you’re single and dating around. Next thing you know, you’re buying his-and-his towels, maintaining a joint calendar, and introducing your great date as your boyfriend.

How did you get there?

I know it can seem like a whirlwind of romantic serendipity but, most of the time, it’s not. There are usually signs along the way that indicate if you’re headed to a relationship. Sometimes the sign comes within the first few weeks; for others, it takes longer. “It took me about four months
“I don’t want to rule someone out too early on…”
to realize that my date was becoming my boyfriend,” says Jim, 37, who met his new boyfriend through an outdoors club in their hometown of Orlando, Florida. “I knew when we started calling each other daily. But more than that, I could hear in his voice that I was the one he wanted to share all of his news with first.”

If you pay attention to the steps, you’ll gain a better handle on where you stand in your romance. That’s valuable because you don’t want to waste your time wondering, do you? From research conducted for my book The Mandates: 25 Real Rules for Successful Gay Dating, I learned that finding a man who’s attractive, smart, fun, and fits with you emotionally and physically is tough. And finding someone who wants the same level of dating as you want can be tougher—but certainly not impossible!

So, let me take you through the stages from Fabulous First Date to Boyfriend Integration, so you can pay attention to the signs and keep in touch with your relationship status.

Step 1: The fabulous first date
OK, so you’ve both taken the chemistry test and passed with flying colors and a mutual attraction. What then? “At the end of the date, slow down and pay attention,” says Texan Rick, 33. “What signals is he sending? If you ask him out again, how does he respond?” If he hesitates or is noncommittal, leave the ball in his court and don’t count on a rematch.

Step 2: The deal-breaker check
At this point, you’re probably reviewing your personal list of boyfriend requirements as you assess his potential. Having standards is important, as long as they are reachable. “Instead of approaching each new guy with a laundry list, I think about my absolute bottom-line requirements,” says Baltimore resident Steve, 41. “I don’t want to waste time on something that’s not going anywhere. Nor do I want to be unreasonable and rule out someone too early on.” But if there’s a major issue — say, anything from religious differences to the use of recreational drugs — better to talk about it now than wait for it to blow up in your faces.

Step 3: It’s a daily thing
Your thoughts about him have now translated in daily emails and calls. “I didn’t wake up and say ‘I have a boyfriend now,’” says Orlando native John, 35. “It was a gradual process of wanting to share everything with him.” Just be careful not to wear out a good thing. “At one point we had to cut down on the frequency of calls,” says John with a laugh. “I didn’t really need to know what his boss just did. And he didn’t really care what I just ate for
Set aside some of your space for him.
lunch. We still talk a few times daily — it keeps us connected — but just not about every last little detail of our day.”

Step 4: The shared-space signal
For Bostonian Alan, 33, the clearest sign that he was on the way to “boyfriend-land” was a blue toothbrush hanging next to his. “When Chip left a few toiletries at my place, I had an ‘a-ha’ moment, “says Alan. “At a time when I didn’t know where we stood, it was a simple signal to me that things were getting a little more serious.”

If you have ever discovered the extra toothbrush or perhaps your guy’s contact lens case in one of your drawers, congratulations, you might have a boyfriend. As Alan says, “Without a spoken agreement, it was, at least, a boyfriend indicator.” If you want to encourage a relationship, set aside some of your space for him—a drawer, a shelf, etc. That sends a message that you want him to feel comfortable sharing your space.

Step 5: The big “c”—commitment
It’s officially time for the talk. “I’d stopped dating others and didn’t want to be with someone else,” says Ken, 34, from New Jersey. “But I didn’t want to assume we were boyfriends. It was time to have the ‘Are we on the same page’ talk.” When it comes to commitment, don’t make assumptions. You are not boyfriends without mutual consent. You might not sign a physical contract, but, in essence, you need to make a verbal one, even if it’s to clarify what you both want. “If you like someone and want to see him exclusively, you just have to tell him that,” says Washingtonian Scott, 28. “I think every real relationship I've been in has officially started with the ‘I don't want to date anyone else’ talk.” Once you’ve both agreed that you feel the same way, ta-da, you are boyfriends.

Step 6: Boyfriend integration
Make it official. Let your friends and family know. Get the naming process down (Will you refer to each other as boyfriend or, if more seriously involved, partner?) Don’t flinch at the mention of “future.” Making future plans is “a sign that you both feel stable in the relationship," says Sharyn Wolf, author of So You Want To Get Married: Guerilla Tactics For Turning A Date Into A Mate. “The more serious I get about dating a guy, the more I want to know if we are headed in the same direction,” says Ken.

So the next time you wonder how to get to “boyfriend-land,” make sure you follow the signs along the way.

Dave Singleton, an award-winning writer and columnist for since 2003, is the author of two books on dating and relationships. Send your dating questions and comments to him at

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