If you have to ask, you probably already know the answer.
I had my first boyfriend in fifth grade. I knew he was my boyfriend because he passed me a note in class that said “do you want to go out with me,” and underneath, he’d drawn two boxes, marked “yes” and “no.”
Everyone knew that “going out” meant being boyfriend and girlfriend. Also, we knew we weren’t actually going to go out anywhere, because we were too young to go out on dates. Still, if you got the note and checked the box, it was official: you had a boyfriend.
Thirty years later, I only wish it were still that easy. You’d think that grown men would be capable of behaving better than elementary school boys – who, though sorely lacking in charm, sophistication, and the ability to pay for dinner, are at least decisive enough to pass you a note with clear instructions as to how you’re going to define your relationship (and then just as definitively break up with you the next week). But no. Men well into their forties and fifties still act like Peter Pan, forever frozen in little boyhood, unable to commit.
And why would they? With Tinder and other dating apps turning dating into a video game and commodifying human relationships, men can keep multiple women on the hook, breadcrumbing, zombie-ing, and ghosting to their hearts’ content.
So, how can we know whether a relationship is casual, monogamous, committed, or doomed? When the lines are so blurred, how do we know when a guy is really our boyfriend? Here are some telltale clues that will let you know one way or the other…
1. You’ve met his friends.
If a guy is serious about you, he’ll introduce you to his best buds pretty quickly. For one thing, he’ll want to show you off, and for another, he’ll want their approval. When you’re in with his friends, you’re in.
2. He takes you to dinner – and pays.
Does he only ever come by to Netflix and chill, and does he expect you to order and pay for takeout? Not your boyfriend.
3. He’s not seeing anyone else.
If you’re not sure whether he’s deactivated his online dating profiles, and you’re scared to initiate a conversation about whether or not you’re monogamous, then you’re definitely not in girlfriend territory yet. Only when he’s clearly told you he’s not dating other people can he qualify for boyfriend status.
4. He cares whether you come.
A guy who finishes, rolls over, and doesn’t care whether or not you’ve had an orgasm is not your boyfriend.
5. He comes inside you.
Speaking of coming – a dude who only ever wants to come in your mouth, on your ass, or anywhere else except inside you is definitely not your boyfriend. It’s an intimacy thing. (And if he only ever wants to come on your face, run.)
6. He takes you home to meet his parents.
This is one of the more obvious signs that he’s serious about you, but it’s not 100 percent foolproof. Especially at the holidays, make sure he’s not just desperate to get mom and dad off his back by bringing you home, then planning to ghost you in January.
7. He knows when your birthday is.
He also remembers – and celebrates! – it.
8. You follow each other on social media.
Yeah, yeah, social media is poisonous to relationships and it’s probably destroying the fabric of our society. Still, he should have no problem being friends with you on Facebook, and connecting on any and all other social media platforms the two of you use. If he refuses, there’s a reason – and it won’t be anything good.
9. He knows your parents’ and siblings’ names.
If he’s your boyfriend, he’ll have the basics of your bio and family relationships down cold – because it matters to him.
10. You can talk to him about anything.
There aren’t certain topics you’re afraid to bring up, or things that are off-limits to discuss. He’s an open book, which fosters trust.
11. He’s honest with you.
When you do talk to him about anything and everything, you never get the sense that he’s bullshitting you. Sure, a little bit of harmless deception has its place in every relationship, but he’s not keeping important things from you or outright lying.
12. Your lives are intertwined.
A guy who isn’t really your boyfriend will keep his relationship with you compartmentalized, not letting you into every part of his life. But when he’s truly your guy, the two of you are together. You’re a team. Again, it’s all about trust.
13. You just know.
Listen: if you’re reading this list and obsessing over whether or not he’s your boyfriend, then the painful truth is, he probably isn’t. When you know, you know. If he won’t commit, and you really want a boyfriend, spare yourself further heartache and move on. Like my mother always said, men are like buses. Another one comes along every fifteen minutes.
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