Q: How can I tell if my partner is into me?

Answering this question varies greatly depending on where you are in your relationship. Many of you have heard about the book He's Just Not That Into You by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo, and the movie by the same name.  Both versions teach you to open your eyes to the less than loving behavior of your dates and mates. Others often see the insensitivities and lack of interest, but when love is at stake, you tend to dismiss, ignore, over-accept, get emotionally hurt or angry.  Here are some of the most common couple situations and tips for singles and mates.

Situation # 1:  Problems in the early stage of dating

Marianna and Alex were fixed up, and by the fifth week of dating, they invited their friends to join them for dinner. Marianna was very excited. She and Alex were both teachers in their late thirties, and Marianna felt she had found The One.

During the evening, Alex's eyes locked on every attractive women in the restaurant. He rarely directed his conversation at Marianna and did not hold even so much as her hand. Something in the meal disagreed with Marianna, and she ran to the ladies room. She was there for more than twenty minutes, but Alex did not send anyone to check on her. A week later Alex broke up with her by sending her a text message. Marianna was devastated and swore she "didn't see it coming." Her girlfriends said they saw it a mile away that he was not into her.

Although Marianna's situation might seem obvious to you, when you put all your love eggs in the same basket, you put blinders on to negative information. Marianna heard her biological clock ticking so loudly that she ignored and minimized Alex's warning signs of lack of attention and insensitivity to her feeling ill. 

Solution: Here are some tips to help you keep your eyes open in new relationships.

1. Introduce. Have your most caring and trusted friends meet your new partner and ask them for honest feedback.

2. Prepare. Before you go out with your new partner, prep your mind to become more observant. At first, you will awkward both being in the moment and observing your partner's behavior. During your dates, do an Emotional Self-Check. Are you feeling uneasy? Unhappy? Ignored? Mistreated?

3. Strategize. Make an excuse to go with one of your friends to the restroom, to do a conference call, or any other clever excuse you can think of. Ask your friend if he or she saw signs of your date not being into you. 

4. Assess. Think about whether this behavior means you should call it quits or give it one more chance. Sometimes, for example, your date might be pre-occupied with work or family problems and not seem as focused on you.

5. Ask. When in doubt, ask your date if anything is wrong. Make sure you allow the person to save face--and that you supply a solution for next time.


Situation # 2: Problems well into a relationship

Stacy and Rick have been living together for five years.Stacy is an architectural draughts person and has long hours. Work is hard to get because of the downturn in the economy, and she has to work extra hard to please clients so they will leave happy and make referrals. Rick is self-employed as a computer instructor. He places ads in the local papers to promote his tutoring skills, but clients are scarce. He's thinking of going back to school for another degree, but he doesn't know in what.

For the past two years Rick has been growing increasingly unhappy with their relationship. Stacy keeps very long hours and won't answer her cell phone. She comes home grumpy and tired. She eats dinner at work and just wants to watch television and go to sleep. When Rick wanted to talk to her about their plans to go his sister's wedding in a location that required them to stay at least one night in a hotel, Stacyjust shook her head no and said she couldn't get off work. She told Rick to go alone.  What was the big deal, she asked.

One night when Stacy was in the shower, Rick checked her cellphone and found many phone calls between Stacy and her old boyfriend. He was enraged and accused her of cheating on her.  

He did, however, have good grounds for not feeling that Stacy was into him.  The biggest warning sign was her refusal to go to a family event that was very important to Rick. What would you do?

Solution:  Here are some tips to help you stop simmering with unhappiness.

1. Speak up. Don't let your unhappiness build up. Speak your mind.

2. Be empathic.. Don't accuse without knowing the facts. Let your partner feel your concern first--not your anger. Say something such as: I know you've been under a lot of stress. I'm sure you're missing being together, too.

3. Solve. Complaining, nagging, or having a melt-down are poor responses because they don't lead to a mutual solution. Work with your partner to design a plan.

4. Prioritize. Communicate the importance of an issue.  Rick did not tell Stacy about the importance of his sister's wedding to him. 

5. Identify. Sometimes people react out of proportion to the situation. If you over-react, ask yourself: What else am I reacting to? Could the problem have deeper roots?

Situation # 3:  Problems in a long-term marriage

Twice Alan forgot Betty's birthday. The first time was when he got hard-to-get tickets to a major tennis match that occurred over her birthday. He was so excited that it didn't occur to him until three days before his trip that he would be missing his wife's birthday. The second time his father became very ill, and Alan flew to see him.  He forgot to call his wife or send a card while he was away.

Betty was very hurt. Alan had never been the most sensitive man. She knew he loved her very much, but it hurt when he forgot her birthday. She came from a huge family with so many siblings that her parents could not afford to celebrate each child's birthday. Instead, they bought one big birthday cake on January first to celebrate for everyone. Her hurt and anger were building, but she also understood the circumstances that made Alan forget.  Instead of talking to Alan, she confided in her friends so much that soon she was talking to them about every little thing that Alan did wrong. She began pulling away from him. Her friends told her to leave him. What would you do?

Solution: Here are some tips to help you get a perspective and permission to speak up.

1. Choose. Talk out your hurts more to your partner than your friends. Friends are important, but you can't always trust their advice. Learn to balance their feedback with your own feelings and situation.

2. Balance. You don't have to choose between your hurt and your understanding.  Women especially still regard this duo as an either-or dilemma. Give yourself permission to feel justifiably hurt and understanding. Life is complicated, and many situations are not clearly good or bad.

3. Express, create, and relax. Your best strategy is to tell your partner how you feel about both your hurt feelings and about your compassionate feelings for his or her situation. Then get creative and flexible about a solution.