How into You is Your New Partner?

When dating someone new, an unfortunate consequence of the busy lifestyle most people lead today is how hard it can be to know exactly where you fall on their list of priorities. On one hand, a partner who faithfully honours commitments at work, or to other friends, or even to themselves in the form of exercise or time alone, is admirable. On the other, all that competing activity can give the impression your relationship is playing on a side stage while other things constitute the main event.

But there are signals that cut through the noise and provide a clear picture of just how important you are to your partner.

Here are five key ones.

When he or she makes time for you. Being busy in itself is not evidence of anything—except that your partner enjoys an active life. The clues to watch for arise when a scheduling conflict occurs between you. If you typically are the one to accommodate your partner’s needs, not only is that unfair, but it may signify that he or she is unwilling to make any sacrifices, because the relationship is less important than other interests. By contrast, someone who values you will find a way to be with you when it matters most.

Puts their best foot forward. Even someone willing to make time for you may signal tepid interest with a lack of effort in other areas. If you are important to your partner, he or she will work hard to make a good impression. She will dress in something besides sweats, even if you are just meeting for coffee. He will come up with imaginative and romantic activities. She will clean her apartment, and he will get that overdue haircut. If the one you’re with is essentially slouching through your time together, watch out.

Has your back. Suppose you had a really bad day at work—an office bully used you as a punching bag while people you thought were friends looked the other way. It happens, right? That evening you tell your partner all about it—and he or she shrugs and yawns; or worse, takes the bully’s side. Wrong answer! Someone who truly values a relationship with you will offer comfort at the very least, and will probably take your mistreatment personally and be eager to slap someone on your behalf.

Notices the small stuff. You bought a new shirt; detailed your car; started studying Spanish and the book is on your kitchen counter; brought homemade cookies to the picnic instead of store-bought; had a really good day and it shows. If you are important to your partner, then everything about you is important. He or she will see and honor the fine textures of your life because they want to, and to be a part of anything that you value.

Listens well. Of course, that means you have their undivided attention when you are speaking. Body language and eye contact all communicate that what you say matters. But good listening is also backed up by how well your partner remembers and reacts to what you’ve said. If you confide a secret weakness for Mediterranean food, your next date will be at a Moroccan place, for example. You know you are valued when your partner listens closely to know you better—and then uses what they hear to treat you well.

Naturally, this list also has a flip-side: You can use it as a guide for making sure your partner knows how important they are to you, as well.