Ask Mary Jo: Characteristics of romantic love & fully committing to someone

Hey Mary Jo,

When dating, it takes me a while to develop feelings in a romantic way, so how do you tell if something is going to be platonic or has the potential to be more romantic in nature earlier for me specifically?  Sam


Platonic and romantic feelings can co-exist, so it is confusing to know what you’re feeling when dating someone new. Here are four characteristics I think are important to consider early on if you’re romantically attracted:

  1. Total honesty. Platonic love offers you the ability to not censor your truth because you don’t fear losing the person or turning them away. Since you aren’t an item, you don’t use the same caution as you do when you feel romantic toward someone.
  2. Platonic love has no expectations. When you feel romantic about someone, you have expectations for them, and you are more likely to be disappointed and less forgiving if they don’t fulfill their end. With platonic love, although you have a give and take, you’re more forgiving when they mess up or don’t follow through. Platonic love has lower expectations for their friend than someone you feel romantic about.
  3. Platonic love and romantic love have different boundaries. With platonic relationships, you don’t feel like you’ve overstepped a boundary if you share a room or take a trip together. If it’s someone you’re romantic about, you feel the need to slow down and not push these areas until the relationship has become exclusive to dating others. There is more confusion and awkwardness with romantic feelings and boundary setting. Friendships feel more natural because there isn’t the same attraction.  
  4. Romantic love feels more selfish. Romantic relationships require us to act in ways we may not act if we didn’t care about the person. Your behavior may seem selfless or self-sacrificing but it’s not. When you’re romantically attracted to someone, you want harmony and what works best for the relationship. This is different than platonic love where you’re more likely to take turns so no one needs to make a sacrifice to get along. The stakes to get along are not as high or worrisome.

Hi Mary Jo,

Is there a specific time that you know you should fully commit yourself to someone? Is it months, years? I really need to know.



Although there is no specific time limit for commitment, you should see things progressing in your relationship after six months. If you don’t, then I suggest you talk to your partner about where they see the relationship going and their intention in regard to making it exclusive and committed.