At the beginning of most relationships, we’re kinda on cruise control and not trying to worry about too much—but after a couple of months we cross that threshold and start to wonder, “is this it, or is it just sex?” It’s all too easy to delude yourself into thinking a mind-blowing physical relationship equals a romance for the ages, but it’s also natural to want to look for signs that your partner wants more than sex.
So how do you separate the two? We talked to two relationship experts to help you discern if your current hookup is in it for the chemistry, or for keeps.
If you’re having nonstop sex…
It’s Just Sex: Does he say he wants you all the time and he’s constantly blowing up your phone? Hate to break it to you, but you’re his hotline bling. “He’s always trying to see you, but never makes plans to do anything outside the bedroom, because he only wants to see you in the bedroom,” says Dr. Sonjia Kenya, a certified sexologist and author of Sex in South Beach. See, it could only mean one thing.
It’s Love: If he’s asking you to go to a museum, a concert, or even an impromptu weekend away, that shows a deeper interest. “Unlike last-minute ‘Netflix-and-chill’ texts, planning ahead shows he’s making you a priority,” says Kenya. Translation? You’re in his thoughts even when you’re not in his sheets.
If he’s enthusiastic about your own pleasure…
It’s Just Sex: He may be enthusiastic about going down on you, but don’t think it’s a selfless act, dating coach Hunt Ethridge says. “Getting someone all hot and bothered is a total turn-on! Plus, an intelligent guy knows that the hotter you get, the likelihood of sex increases.” And beware—if he’s spending the night, it could just mean he’s hoping for morning sex, too.
It’s Love: Instead of calculating how often he goes down on you, pay attention to his willingness to cuddle. Guys will be into snuggling with someone they’re into. “If he is comfortable after the deed is done and doesn’t want to jump out of the bed right away, he’s likely got feelings for you,” Ethridge says.
If he’s slathering on the compliments…
It’s Just Sex: In the midst of your bedroom aerobics, he starts rattling off compliments like “I love your body” or “You feel so good!” which could make it seem like he’s concerned about your pleasure. But not so fast—he’s talking about your body, not you. “He’s often asking because when he knows he is making you feel good, it also boosts his ego and reassures him that he’s a good lover,” Kenya says. Likewise, if he just talks about your physical appearance and not your personality traits, that’s a red flag.
It’s Love: Whether inside or outside of the bedroom, if he’s complimenting you on things other than your body, that’s a good sign. So instead of raving about how good you look naked, or how pretty you are in that new mascara, he compliments you on the brilliant article you wrote or the dinner you made, Kenya says. Bonus points if he makes a positive remark on your character, like “I love how you help your friends out when they’re down in the dumps.”
If he can’t stop kissing you…
It’s Just Sex: Sure, passionate kisses during sex are great, but if that’s the ONLY time he’s doing it, check your relationship status. When things are getting hot and heavy, guys just do what feels good, says Ethridge. “There’s no brainpower left for men at this point to do things for any reason other than pleasure,” he admits.
It’s Love: He’s kissing you just for the sake of kissing you even knowing the makeout session won’t lead to sex. Better yet, he’s kissing and holding your hand while out in public—the ultimate PDA. Our experts agree that this shows he wants the world to know you’re his S.O.
If he’s making you see stars…
It’s Just Sex: You’re able to finish every time—good for you—just don’t let that oxytocin-filled head of yours confuse an orgasm with love. It’s great if your lover can please you THAT much, but sometimes people’s bodies vibe together without much effort. “The smartest guy in the room will know that the more you make her climax, the more she’ll want to see you again,” says Ethridge. We can’t argue there.
It’s Love: Pleasing you is his priority and we don’t mean just under the sheets. He wants to see you happy elsewhere—and everywhere. That means he’s going out of his way to do little things for you, like picking up your dry cleaning without asking, or buying your favorite kind of ice cream, because your happiness is his ultimate satisfaction. Says Kenya: “Sexual satisfaction won’t make or break a relationship. It’s the stuff that happens outside the bedroom that makes a relationship fail, or thrive.”
Originally published February 2016. Updated May 2017.