You meet a great guy and sparks fly. Then you don’t hear from him for a bit, until—boom! Round two! Suddenly you’re in a pattern of hooking up regularly, and you like him enough to hope it means you’re dating. But infatuation and sexual attraction can play tricky mind games. Often, they convince us we’re dating someone who’s not dating us back. How to know the real deal? We asked some serial bachelors and a relationship expert to reveal the signs that you’re being kept at arm’s length. If your current honey exhibits these behaviors, realize it’s a fling—which is fine! Have fun, but when you want something serious, move on to someone with whom you have both chemistry and long-term potential.

1. You two talk all the time—but you’re the only one doing the dialing.
Ted Hoffman, a footloose dater in Chicago, lets his flings know they are a low priority by skipping their calls unless he wants to get physical. “If I’m only interested in something casual, I don’t chat with the person and risk developing a relationship,” he says. “I’ll pick up the phone to plan our next meeting, but that’s about it.” His preferred mode of communication? Text messaging, which guarantees you’ll never break out into conversation. “When you’re dating, there should be mutual calling back and forth,” says psychotherapist Joe Kort, author of 10 Smart Things Gay Men Can Do to Find Real Love. “If you’re doing all the work, you’re not being treated as part of a couple.” Ask yourself: Are the only messages you receive late-night texts reading “Where r u?” instead of midday calls asking “How are you?” Then file yourself under “booty call.”
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2. There’s no sex outside of the relationship…or at least you don’t think there is.
Allowing someone space in a relationship is one thing, but turning a blind eye is another. Kort says he sees many clients who assume their partners are faithful, though the partners’ actions indicate otherwise. “One of my clients has a ‘boyfriend’ who recently bought a massage table and began giving naked massages to ‘friends,’” says Kort. “The guy’s not even a massage therapist!” That’s an extreme example, but if your party guy still keeps an all-hours lifestyle or shows up with hickies or beard burns, assuming you’re sexually exclusive is a form of denial. After all, if you guys hooked up without talking about it, it’s reasonable to think he might do the same with others. Cheating or not, if your man won’t talk about being exclusive, he’s not taking your relationship seriously.

3. Meeting your date’s friends is always a day away.
It doesn’t matter if you spend every night for a month cuddling on the couch with your new sweetie—you’re not dating until he or she brings you out of the house and introduces you to a living, breathing person. “Taking someone out to the bar is a really big deal,” says Darcy Brennan of Los Angeles. “The last time I did it, I literally got 15 emails the next day asking, ‘Who was that? Is she your girlfriend?’ Now I don’t put myself through that unless I think the girl is worth the inquisition.” Gay communities are often small and insular, so going out together is a big step—it’s like publicly saying, “Yep, we’re a couple.” The bottom line: Someone who isn’t willing to show you off is someone who wants the dating scene to think he or she is still on the market.

4. When it comes to romance, there’s a “don’t look me in the eye” policy at work.
Call it the Pretty Woman principle. In the classic 1990 flick, Julia Roberts’ character refuses to kiss her, um, customers because it’s “too personal.” While this rule may or may not be fictional, it does correlate to non-transactional relationships. Kort says his clients commonly report a lack of true intimacy in sex-only relationships. “Someone who doesn’t kiss is sending a very clear message about how emotional they’re willing to be,” he says. “Even extended eye contact becomes off-limits for some people.” Keep an eye out for a lack of affection or tenderness. Your crush may be hot in bed, but if he or she doesn’t want to slow things down and make out like a teenager, this person doesn’t want to date you, either.

5. You’ve been asked to wait until he or she is “in a better place.”
When looking to keep things light and not on a relationship track, Geoffrey Schaffer of New York admits that he relies on phrases like “I have to work on me before I can be good to anyone else.” He explains, “There’s something about seeming emotionally vulnerable that gets you out of any obligations.” The truth, according to Kort, is that this kind of excuse is just that—an excuse! A person who wants to be with you will be, regardless of whether they’re busy at work, nursing a broken heart, or unsure of what they want from life. “Anyone who says they need to ‘get in a better place’ before being with you is not being truthful with you or with him- or herself,” he says. “Relationships help you get to a better place, because you’re learning about yourself.” If it’s personal growth your partner is seeking, dating is the best way to achieve it. If it’s true love you’re seeking, get rid of anyone who feeds you this line, and move on to someone who can give you the love and commitment you crave.

Maria Fontoura has written for Maxim, Cargo, and