You have to pass a test before you can drive by yourself, but they’ll let almost anyone sign up for Tinder.
That doesn’t mean they should.
Some people just aren’t ready yet. They need more practice in how to treat other human beings, and maybe a manual.
Even the best relationships put you through all kinds of gauntlets. You have to make sacrifices, and learn how to lose an argument every now and then. You have to be willing to change.
It’s a lot, and not everyone’s up for the challenge.
The ones who are demonstrate a certain set of qualities that go beyond emotional maturity. (Of course, that’s a great place to start.) They’ve relaxed into themselves, and they don’t play games.
1. They know how to dress
Someone who’s ready to date knows that faded t-shirts and gym shoes don’t enter the picture until you start spending nights and weekends at their place. It sounds shallow, but there’s a reason.
A mature person at least owns some adult clothes. These are the things you wear as a card-carrying member of society.
There’s no law that you have to show up in a three-piece suit, or an evening gown. But perhaps a button-up shirt of some kind?
A blouse, maybe?
Someone who can’t put on adult clothes for two hours just isn’t trying, and it means they won’t try in the relationship either. Of course, it’s always possible you’re dating a rock star, or a world-class athlete. In that case, go ahead and cut them a little slack.
2. They’re financially independent
All this means is that they have a job, and they can pay their own rent. They can buy their own groceries. Being broke doesn’t disqualify anyone from love, but it should make them rethink their priorities.
Like maybe instead of going on dates, they should be going on job interviews and taking night classes.
Think of it this way:
Someone who’s ready to date can actually pay for the date.
Someone who’s not ready starts asking to borrow money right away, or wants help covering bills and rent. This is sketchy territory. Money does weird things to relationships. It takes a ton of time and maturity for two people to combine their financial resources without killing each other. You can’t really “loan” money to someone you’re having sex with. You’re basically giving it to them, and hoping they don’t waste it.
3. They’re over all their exes
Every couple winds up talking about old relationships at some point, and some even do that on the first date.
Hey, knock yourself out.
There’s no magic number for how long it takes to recover from a bad breakup. Some even say you shouldn’t date for a year. That sounds a little extreme. Here’s what matters more:
Someone who’s ready to date doesn’t villainize their ex. Sure, they might describe some flaws or narrate some arguments. What they don’t do is completely trash someone they used to love.
A mature person remembers what they admired about their exes, and they can talk about that without evoking jealousy. They don’t use innocent questions about their dating history as an opportunity to vent or work through their hangups. They’re thinking about the future.
4. They’ve made room in their life for someone
There’s nothing quite like falling for someone before finding out they plan to spend the next four months hiking the Appalachian Trail. Um, thanks for mentioning that halfway through the third date…
Someone who does that isn’t exactly a keeper.
It’s fine for someone to travel the world five times a year, or spend 70 hours a week on their startup. But doing this means they’re not up for a committed relationship, even if they think so.
It’s cool now to have three side hustles. But a relationship shouldn’t be one of them. Dating is more than just a part-time job or passing curiosity. It’s an investment of time and emotion. Someone who truly gets that will make an effort to be around for you. There’s a little space in their brain to think about you when you’re not there.
5. They tell you what they want
Someone who’s ready to date has thought about what kind of relationship they’re after. Maybe they want something casual. Maybe they want to get married and have kids, starting right now. Maybe they want to take things slow, or they’re up for pretty much anything.
Whatever it is, they tell you. They don’t have to spell it out on the first date, but they convey it through everything they do.
They also know what they don’t want, and they’re comfortable telling you to your face. It saves a lot of time.
Someone who’s not ready hasn’t thought about any of this, and they’re not prepared to give you an answer. So they wind up sending mixed signals. They ghost and come back from the dead and then go dark again, clueless about all the confusion and hurt they cause.
6. They’re okay with you having friends
Toxic lovers want to control your access to your own social circle, and they’ll start right away. The scariest ones even call while you’re out to check up on you — even if they give another reason.
Some of them try to set curfews for their partners, and insist on meeting every single person they know.
They’ll claim it’s for safety. When someone starts using your safety to justify spying on you, that’s a sign to run.
Someone who’s ready to date has the confidence and stability to let you have friends, even ones of the opposite gender.
They don’t steep in jealousy all day.
They simply don’t date anyone who they can’t trust.
And they don’t set up side friendships with your friends. That’s just weird. They’re only as interested in your social group as you want them to be. Otherwise, they’re busy rolling with their own crew.
7. They’re dealing with their problems
There’s something a little wrong with all of us. We’ve all struggled with something, whether it was an addiction or some kind of trauma. What makes someone ready to date is the ability to handle it.
Someone who’s actively working on themselves is probably ready to date. It’s your call. A fixer-upper isn’t ready.
People aren’t cheap houses you can flip.
You might think you can plaster over someone’s holes with love, but it never works that way. Love can do a lot of things, but it can’t solve someone’s problems for them. They have to do that.
Keep your standards up
We think we know better than to date someone who’s not ready. We set standards for ourselves, but then we lower them.
We meet someone who’s almost ready.
A lot of people out there want to date, but some of them need more time to work on themselves. Give them that time, even if it means they wind up dating someone else later.
Everyone winds up better off.