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The question

I am a 30-year-old successful female, dating a guy who doesn't seem to be too serious about us. I don't want to waste more time on casual relationships, but I don't want to come off sounding like I am desperate or crazy. My question is how do you assess whether a guy is interested in the traditional marriage, kids, moving in together routine without scaring the heck out of him and send him running for the hills?

The answer

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Asking him directly is much better than trying to somehow assess what he is thinking! The very simple answer to your question is to talk to him: ask, matter-of-factly what he pictures in terms of a relationship right now. If he is at a place in his life where he knows what he wants, he will directly answer questions about marriage and kids without getting scared away in the least.

Now, there are a few more elements to your question that make the "simple answer" one that you should pause on for a minute before asking.

You say you don't want to "waste" more time on casual relationships, which suggests that you have a sense of urgency to change your situation. I would ask yourself sincerely whether you feel that you are in fact at a stage in your life where you actually want to have a more significant relationship, or if you are being driven by wanting something (anything) that is the opposite of the life you have been living.

It may sound like semantics, but it is an important question to clarify in your mind.

Secondly, you seem to already have some valuable insight that is helping you to answer your question: you say that the relationship doesn't seem to be too serious, and that it also doesn't seem that it will become that way.

I would pay attention to the pieces of information that are leading you to feel this way. I would trust the feelings that you are having, as they are likely coming from a range of sources (both what he is or has conveyed verbally, and his actions). It is human nature to want to try to impose an ideal picture of what you would like to see in a relationship (while ignoring some other clear signs that give you the opposite message). Although things could certainly change, the feelings that you are having right now are probably an important sign of something important you are picking up on, so don't ignore these.

You sound like a driven individual and I wonder if you view your personal life similar to the way you have viewed your work life (i.e., set a goal and then tick off achieving it). It may be that you need to consider the way you are approaching your relationship goals and perhaps take a slightly different strategy, as there is a strong return on investment for you to be devote time into finding the right partner for you (this is not, contrary to your current feeling, a "waste" of time in the least).

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And, it may sound cliché, but the right partner for you will not be scared off by candid questions about their picture for a long-term relationship.

Send psychologist Joti Samra your questions at psychologist@globeandmail.com. She will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

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The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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