July 30, 2014 at 4:29 PM ET
Gauging a man’s interest level can be tricky, whether you’re on your first or thirtieth date. Some men cut to the chase and tell you they’re not interested. Others, though, prefer to leave clues—and hope you’ll get the hint. Without going through the headache (and heartache) of trying to figure him out, we’ve asked relationship experts to dish on 13 telltale signs that he’s just not that into you.
He’s super affectionate in private, but in public he won’t even hold your hand
Normally at home he can’t keep his paws off you, so why does he back away from your touch whenever other people are around? “If he’s afraid to smooch or hold hands in public, that’s a big red flag,” says Jordan Harbinger, co-founder of the Art of Charm, a company that helps men build better social skills in personal and business relationships. “He’s afraid other people are going to judge.” Hand-holding in public should be no big deal even for the most PDA-phobic.
He doesn’t make space for you at his house, even though you’re there a lot
Fighting over a little toothbrush space shouldn’t make your man get all moody. “If you aren’t allowed to leave your stuff at his place, that’s an indication that it’s time to get out,” says Casey. Neat freaks are the exception, she adds, but beware the messy man who banishes your clothes and toiletries from his home. He’s either trying to hide you from other women or he doesn’t want you to “encroach” on his life.
He closes email or g-chat the second you walk into the room
Obviously you’re not trying to pry, but if his fingers click on the exit box faster than Quick Draw McGraw in a shoot out, there might be something suspicious happening. “Maybe he’s a private person, but that’s pretty suspect.” Harbinger says. “Chances are he’s flirting with another girl.” A one-time occurrence is harmless, but if his stealthy ways persist—and he tries to pass off his behavior as normal—it’s time to reassess the relationship.
He went to his friend’s birthday party and didn’t invite you
You went ahead and bought new shoes and a dress anticipating his friend’s b’day party, and now it’s a total waste. Consider this: Did he forget to invite you—or did he simply not want you there? It all depends on how long you’ve been dating, but if it’s been a couple of months, Harbinger says he left you off the invite list for a reason: “He may not want his friends to know who you are. Or maybe he’s trying to ‘upgrade.’”
He doesn’t like committing to plans
When it comes to his friends, he seems to have no problem making plans in advance. When it comes to you, however, he won’t commit until the last minute. “If he can only make plans for a seven-day future window, that’s not a good sign,” says Rachel Greenwald, author of Have Him at Hello: Confessions From One Thousand Guys About What Makes Them Fall in Love … or Never Call Back. You can take his wishy-washiness as a possible sign of disinterest.
When you introduce him to your chihuahua, he doesn’t bother to hide his disdain for small dogs
While you don’t need to spell out “Must Love Dogs” to your man, he should definitely respect that your pooch holds a special place in your heart. “People’s pets are serious business,” Harbinger says. “If he really likes you, he would say, ‘Oh, your dog’s so cute.’” If he snickers or recoils at the sight of your dog, it means he’s not trying to win you over.
In the middle of conversations, he checks out other women
No surprise—men tend to gawk at hot babes. But when you’re on a date? His eyes should be on you. Casey emphasizes that it’s natural for men’s eyes to stray on occasion, but beware the perpetual gazer: “You can look at a shiny object one time, but you do not go back for the shiny object."
He takes forever to respond to texts or calls
A simple “How R U?” that goes ignored for hours means you may not be high on his priority list—especially if he has a track record for replying instantly. Texting is so non-committal,” says Harbinger. “You can answer a text while you’re waiting for a phone call, while you’re waiting for your computer to boot.” If he’s too busy to answer a text or a call, he’s probably ignoring you.
He acts sketchy about leaving his phone around you
Everyone has bouts of chronic phone attachment, but if he takes his phone everywhere—even when he’s going to the bathroom or emptying the trash—that’s a red flag, says Harbinger. His neurotic behavior might mean there’s something he’s trying to hide.
You always end up at his place, but he never comes to yours
While his neighborhood may have better restaurants and his bed might be bigger, that’s no excuse for always hanging out on his turf. “You’re always over at his place because it’s more convenient for him,” Casey says. If he’s too lazy to come over, it shows where you are on his priority scale.
His parents were in town, and he never told you
Meeting the parents can be a nerve-wracking experience, but when he’s denying you even that opportunity, chances are you may not be that important to him. “If he just wants to have sex with you, he doesn’t want to waste time meeting your friends and family,” says Harbinger. He would make the effort to introduce you to Mom and Pop if he really cares.
He tells the same stories on all your dates
You’re at the point where you can predict the next sentence of his “epic” hiking trip, and fill in the punch line of his embarrassing encounter with his boss. If the man talks about the same things he did on the last date, and the last date and the last date, it mean he wasn’t engaged. “He wasn’t even listening to what he was saying,” says Casey. “He’s been on too many dates. I call it the Broadway date: Every night it’s the same show."
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.