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How Do Men Know If A Woman Is Relationship Material?

That's a trick question. Who cares what they think?

Are men simply able to assess a potential relationship or lack thereof faster than I can? Do all men make a decision about a woman within 15 minutes or was it just the experience I had with the guys I met? And if men are able to make this assessment in 15 minutes, what criteria are they using? Is it simply a gut instinct? And do I have that instinct too but I’m simply not tuned into it?— Medium author Kasey Sparks

The made-up theory you’re pondering is the “Box Theory.”

According to Box Theory, an idea Tinx first put forth in a May 9 TikTok, heterosexual men see women in three neat categories. Either they see you as a potential partner, a potential hookup, or they’re just not interested. This has nothing to do with how you act or if and when you hook up. Tinx never specifies what determines your box, but she clarifies one thing: it’s not something you can control.

Before I go further, I want to point out that this Tik Tok creator is not the originator of this hypothesis. It’s been around for decades in different iterations.

Men see women as potential relationship material only when seeking a relationship. Until then, every woman they meet is put into the casual dating box. I don’t happen to ascribe to the idea that a man will change for the right woman. Instead, they remain the same until they decide to settle into something long-term. It’s not the woman who inspires him.

Romcoms like to sell us the fantasy that the love of a good woman can turn a Bad Boy into a Good Man. Another trope is where The Player finally meets his match in a woman that eludes him. These themes resonate because, at their core, they’re about being different (and, in some cases, “better”) than other women. They’re the ones who get picked. In real life, women try to get The Fuckboy to commit by turning up their feminine energy (not a thing, by the way) or acting unavailable. Rarely do these stories end with the Mr. Fuckboy realizing he’s just met the best thing that’s ever going to happen to him and pledging his undying love. In real life, women’s lives are upended by these guys, and they’re stuck with a ton of online courses teaching how to make a man obsessed with them and a hefty therapy bill.

Determine their core values.

The men who claim they can discern which of their dates is relationship material after one date or even two are basing that assessment on shallow criteria. They’re not assessing core values or lifestyle choices. All that matters for them is a basic level of compatibility and attraction. That tells me they’re not looking for an equal, someone to learn from and grow with for the foreseeable future.

We’ve all made this snap judgment at one time or another. We encounter someone who, on the surface, seems to share some of our interests and attitudes. As time passes and we become more comfortable, we peel back some layers. That’s when their true self is revealed. The only people labeling potential mates as relationship material out of the gate are those without the intention of digging beneath the surface.

While a couple may be able to persevere should they fall on opposite ends of certain spectrums, that doesn’t make the relationship healthy. It means they either don’t share opinions on those topics, turn a blind eye, or harbor contempt until it bubbles to the surface. In many cases, certain lifestyle choices directly affect our partners and require transparency not often provided until the relationship is in full swing.

Observe their behavior.

Before you lock yourself into a pledge of exclusivity, you will want to assess how your partner handles conflict and stress. Do they lash out or retreat? Are they open to hearing your side, or do they turn the tables on you? How we face difficult conversations speaks volumes about our emotional intelligence. In the early stages of a relationship, that mask we all wear adheres with Gorilla Glue. It only starts to slip when we get comfortable.

Or when we get hurt.

How someone navigates disagreements is an area you want to be well-versed in before you commit. That’s when our core wounds come out. You’ll want to see who’s behind the mask. A person who doesn’t isn’t concerned about possible confrontation because they don’t plan on there being any. He’s got that act down pat. He’ll either always be correct or gaslight you into thinking you’re being crazy. We all have particular needs to be met by our significant other. Open communication. Affection. Accountability. If you start the relationship letting things slide because you don’t want to ruin things, it will be difficult to ask for them later.

Trust your instincts.

A woman’s need to get to know someone better before deciding if there’s a possible relationship on the horizon isn’t due to a lack of instincts. Most women have the necessary attunement to read people’s personalities. Where we differ from men in these situations is women are more likely to be told their instincts are off. That they’re being crazy, judgmental, or paranoid. Men aren’t groomed to second guess themselves the way women are.

That’s the leading cause of women going on second, third, and even fourth dates with men they are unsure about. They weren’t trying to lead him on. They were listening to family and friends tell them to stop being picky.

When it comes to sussing out if a man is a threat to our emotional or physical safety, we’re Sherlock Fucking Holmes. Our brains have had a lifetime of assessing situations for our safety. We know fear. We know discomfort. Unfortunately, we’re told that being nice is more important than being comfortable. We stick things out even though we have that nagging voice telling us to run.

Women are more cautious because we can’t afford to vet potential partners and co-parents improperly. The last thing a woman wants is to be tied to someone abusive or who abandons their parental responsibilities. In both cases, we often end up framed as The Bad Guy. We lose friends and work experience due to “drama.” Our earning potential plummets because we have to leave our jobs for childcare purposes. I haven’t begun to scratch the surface of our psychological and physical scars.

Men can make split-second determinations because their wellness doesn’t hinge upon possessing accurate intuition. Women are forced to approach relationships cautiously because their lives and reputations depend on it.

If you have any questions for the next post or podcast, you can submit them below. Questions are answered on Medium, Substack, Tik Tok or the podcast. If you submit a question, you’ll receive a temporary free subscription to the Substack so you can read or hear the answer.

Christan Marashio is an internationally recognized trauma-informed certified dating coach. In addition to her certification, she has a Communications degree from Emerson College and 15 years of experience advising singles across the globe. She applies her trauma training to dating because dating these days is legitimately traumatic. Her insights have been featured in Glamor, Men’s Health,, and other media outlets. Her insights have been featured in Glamor, Men’s Health,, and other media outlets. Feel free to submit your question; she’ll answer it here, on Tik Tok, or on her podcast.

Subscribe to her Substack newsletter and listen to her dating advice podcast.

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