5 Love Signs You Might Misread

Think you know exactly what your date’s behavior means? Not so fast! Experts decode the real deal. Prepare to be surprised.

By Caroline Stanley

isten to this story from New York resident John Parker, 27, and see if you have an a-ha moment: “I had been dating this guy for a few weeks when we went on a beach vacation with a group of his friends. We didn’t have much time alone there, and each night he claimed he was too tired to fool around. I felt rejected and broke things off when we got back to the city.”

Think John made the right move? Well, listen to the next installment of this saga: “When I
Can it be a good sign that he won’t pay?
ran into him a few months later at a bar, he told me how much fun he had when we went away—how relaxing it had been to hang out with me and his best friends and really let his guard down. He was sorry things hadn’t worked out for us. I was wrong about the whole thing… argh!”

Relationships are filled with many milestones that can be confusing—even to the point of leading to a breakup like John’s. Read on for an expert take on this and four other mixed-message relationship moments.

You’re not having as much sex
You think it means: The thrill is gone.
It might actually mean: You’ve got the real thing, not a bedroom-only fling.
Anyone can have a hot and steamy sexual connection, says Kitty Stuart, who’s served as relationship mentor for WE’s The Secret Lives of Women, but most of us have experienced the horror of rolling over and realizing there’s just awkward silence to go with it. She recommends considering it a compliment that your partner actually values you from the neck up, too, as long as the other parts of your bond are actually growing and you’re truly talking. “This type of intimacy is a sign that your relationship is becoming deeper,” she says. After all, few relationships can maintain the crazy-in-bed passion of the first few months, so don’t let your insecurities lead you to misread this as a sign of rejection.

Your date drops the “L word” early in your relationship
You think it means: You’re soul mates.
It might actually mean: Your partner rushes into things.
There’s no formula for the exact time and date when someone should profess his or her love to you, and having someone say it very early on can be flattering. But it can also be a red flag for relationship-killers like codependence, insecurity and neediness. Stuart recommends putting aside your personal baggage and taking love talk with a big grain of salt. “Hopefully
Has your sweetie stopped sprucing up for dates?
it will prove true as things progress, but it could be a sign that your partner is more interested in finding someone to blindly shower with affection than in getting to know you,” says Stuart.

Your sweetie stops sprucing up for dates
You think it means: Your partner doesn’t care about impressing you anymore.
It might actually mean: Your partner trusts you with the “real” him or her.
“Maybe they’ve just lost their will to shop,” says Michael Alvear, who co-hosted HBO’s The Sex Inspectors, “but what is more likely is that he or she is showing how comfortable they feel around you now.” He points out that while most people dress up to impress, they dress down to decompress. If your relationship is going places, you will want to be with someone who you can relax with, too. “What your partner is essentially saying is, ‘The fact that I’m with you is more important than what’s on me,’” says Alvear. “And there’s no bigger compliment that that!”

Your date wants to go everywhere you do
You think it means: He (or she) is just that into you!
It might actually mean: He (or she) has not-so-great boundaries.
Meeting someone who wants to spend every waking moment with you can be a confidence booster—at first. But if your new partner doesn’t want to let you out of his or her sight, it’s a sign that he or she doesn’t feel valuable without you or has jealousy problems. “This generally means that there are trust issues at work that have nothing to do with you,” says Stuart. You need to make it clear that you have to spend time apart in order to have a healthy relationship and a balanced life—and so you have something to talk about when you are together!

Your partner stops picking up the tab
You think it means: You’re not important anymore.
It might actually mean: You’re becoming part of his or her life, not just a “date.”
It might be a good thing: This can be an important (if painful) moment in your relationship. “Next to sexual compatibility, discussions about financial responsibility are some of the most anxiety-producing relationship issues,” says Barbara Rubin, Psy.D., an Atlanta-based psychologist. “But the positive side is that changes in financial habits can often reflect unspoken changes in expectations between partners.” She says if you can tackle this sensitive issue openly and without making it personal, your bond will become stronger. It results in more equal footing between you two, which is essential for long-term success. Not such a bad sign after all, right?

Caroline Stanley is a New York City writer who has contributed to Twist, CosmoGIRL!, Quick & Simple, and Harper’s Bazaar.
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