Starting a new relationship is all about getting to know someone and building up trust between you. But what happens when it feels as though your partner is trying to “test” you to see whether you’re actually girlfriend material?
Despite what some relationship advice sites may tell you, testing your partner has no place in a healthy and mutually respectful relationship. It does a huge amount of damage to your relationship and you shouldn’t tolerate it.
In this article, I’m going to look at why guys test the women they’re dating, why it’s always wrong, and how you can respond.
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We don’t ‘test’ our peers and equals. We treat them with dignity and respect. One of the reasons that he’s testing you is that, subconsciously or not, he believes that you are somehow less than him. Often, this is due to deep-rooted misogyny.
This is especially likely if he tests you with sexual double standards, such as trying to sleep with a girl on the first date and then refusing to date her if she says yes.1
Sometimes “testing” you to find out just how much poor behavior you’re likely to put up with. This is a huge thing for lots of abusive partners. They only want to date someone who will tolerate being treated badly, so they’ll start out with small tests to see what happens.2
This is definitely one test that you want to fail!
There’s a very real chance that the guy who says he was “testing” you was doing nothing of the sort. He might say that it was a test because it’s less embarrassing than saying “I screwed up and I’m so sorry. I won’t do it again.”
If he’s pretending that it was a test to avoid being held accountable, that’s a pretty clear sign that he’s unlikely to take responsibility in other situations either.
We’ve already mentioned that abusers will sometimes use poor behavior as a way to see whether they’ll be able to get away with it later. It’s worth mentioning that some of them actually enjoy the process of testing you as well.
Feeling as though you’re being tested leaves you feeling insecure and off-balance, which abusers love.
I think most of us know deep down that there’s something not quite right about testing someone you’re interested in dating, but it can be tricky to explain exactly why. Let’s break down why it’s wrong and harmful to test a romantic partner, or anyone else you care about, for that matter.
We all want to learn about the people we care about. It’s part of what makes us feel closer to them.3 If you’re about to open your heart to someone and become emotionally vulnerable, it’s understandable that you want some reassurance that they deserve that trust.
Unfortunately, testing someone isn’t a shortcut to trust. Instead, it destroys trust because the person testing isn’t being honest. They’re trying to see how trustworthy their partner is by being untrustworthy themselves.
That’s clearly wrong. In a healthy relationship, trust is something that you build together, slowly, over time. He shouldn’t need to set up fake situations and treat you badly to see how you react to things. He just needs to spend time with you. That’s the honest and ethical way to do it.
Testing someone also creates a power imbalance. As I’ve mentioned, we don’t test people we see as our equals. If he’s testing you, he’s belittling you. He’s sending the message that you need to earn his trust, while he’s entitled to yours… despite his poor behavior.
It’s also easy to see how ‘testing’ someone can morph into abuse. Remember that when we talk about these “tests,” the implied price of failing is that they’ll break up with you. You’re left worrying that enforcing your boundaries means that your partner will leave you forever - and they’ll say that it was because you failed.
This primes you to tolerate abuse. You start going along with things that make you feel unhappy or unsafe because you’re worried about losing your relationship if you don’t. No guy who loves you would want you to feel unsafe just to pass his test.
Remember that testing is putting you into artificial situations to see how you react. It’s not natural, authentic, or genuine. For example, it’s ok for him to care about how you respond to someone else flirting with you. It’s not ok for him to ask his best friend to try to get you into bed to see whether you’re faithful.
One way that lots of guys try to test their girlfriends is by trying to make them jealous to see how they react. He might flirt with other women in front of you, talk about how attractive he finds other girls, or compare you to his ex.4
Sometimes, a guy will do this to see whether he thinks that he can get away with cheating on you or to deliberately lower your self-esteem.
Other guys will test how independent you are by stopping replying to your messages and ignoring you for a while. They’re trying to see how hard you’ll work to get their attention back.
This typically leaves you feeling really anxious and worried about your relationship. It’s a horrible feeling, and it shows you that he doesn’t actually care about your feelings at all. He’s willing to hurt you just to feed his own ego.
Another way that guys will test you is by pushing at your boundaries and making you say no to something over and over. Maybe you don’t want him to meet your family yet, or you don’t want to do something that makes you feel uncomfortable in bed.
Someone who keeps trying to get you to move your boundaries isn’t treating you with respect. Whether they call it a test or not, they’re showing you that you’re not safe with them.
I’ve already mentioned the example of a guy who asks his friend to try to get you into bed to see whether you’re faithful or not. There are lots of other examples. He might leave things lying around his place to see whether you respect his privacy or pretend his ex is pregnant to see how you handle bad news.
This is dishonest and manipulative. He’s lying to you and setting you up to fail. In my experience, people who treat others with this level of distrust do so because they know that they can’t be trusted themselves.
Some guys will arrange dates or events that they never intend to follow through with, just so they can see how you react to getting let down at the last minute. This is incredibly disrespectful.
In my opinion, this isn’t a test of how you respond to getting let down. Sometimes life happens and you have to be able to deal with unexpected problems. This tests how you respond to someone who thinks that his ‘test’ is more important than your time and effort.
If the guy you’re dating is constantly testing you, you’re probably going to find yourself feeling insecure and unstable a lot of the time. For example, if he arranges a date, it’s hard to know how much effort to put into it in case he cancels at the last minute again.
You might also find yourself trying to work out what the ‘right’ response is. You’re focused on discovering what reaction he’s looking for, rather than feeling able to be yourself and give your honest responses to what’s going on.
When guys test you before they date you, they usually know that you’re unlikely to be happy about their behavior. These tests almost always involve them treating you badly to see what you do. When you call them out on it, they’ll try to pretend that their test is actually a sign that they really care.
This is gaslighting, pure and simple.5 They know that this wasn’t a good way to treat you. They just want to make you doubt yourself enough that you let them get away with it.
Hopefully by now, you’ve understood that these kinds of tests aren’t ok. But what should you do next? Here are the most important tips to deal with a guy who keeps trying to test you.
The first thing to understand is that you don’t have to pass these tests. You’re trying to build a mutually respectful relationship. You’re not auditioning to play the role of his perfect girlfriend. If you think he’s trying to test you, try to ignore it completely.
Try saying to yourself “If this relationship is going to work, he needs to be ok with the real me. I’m just going to be me and, if he doesn’t like that, it just means we weren’t a good match.”
I talk a lot about boundaries because they’re important. They’re especially important if you think that someone is trying to test you. Sticking to your boundaries keeps you safe and makes sure that you only behave in ways that you can be proud of.6
Try to avoid adjusting, blurring, or justifying your boundaries. Practice saying “No. I don’t feel comfortable doing that” or “I’ve said that this isn’t something I’m willing to do. Please stop asking.”
One way to make it easier to stand up for yourself and to stick to your boundaries is to buy yourself some time to make decisions. Studies show that we make better decisions when we have some time to think about them.7
You can say “I’m not sure how I feel about that. I’m going to think about it and we can talk about that tomorrow.” This is especially important if he’s pushing you to do something sexual that you’re not comfortable with. Say “I never want to regret things between us, so I’m not going to do that until I’ve had a chance to think about it.”
When guys test you before they date you, it can easily knock your self-esteem. They’re acting as though you have to prove that you’re good enough for them, which leaves you wondering whether you actually are.
Your self-worth doesn’t depend on his approval, especially if he’s playing manipulative, childish games. Remind yourself that you deserve better than this. If it’s hard to believe that, try turning to close friends for support.
This kind of behavior isn’t ok, so be vocal and honest about that. Rather than accepting his comments about it being a test, call him out for how he’s acting. This can help you to feel strong and empowered.
In my experience, guys who act like this aren’t used to being called out about it. When you tell them that their behavior wasn’t ok, they become defensive and petulant. This can help remind you that they’re not worth your effort.
Try saying “That was manipulative and dishonest. I’m not willing to trust someone who doesn’t respect or trust me in return.” If you decide you’re done with them, tell them “It doesn’t matter whether I passed your ‘test’. You’ve demonstrated that you can’t meet my standards.”
This is a really useful tip for life generally, but it’s especially valuable if you’re not sure whether a guy is testing you. Rather than worrying about what he wants or expects, behave in a way that feels authentic and genuine to you.
Behaving authentically isn’t the same as being selfish. It means acting in a way that you’re proud of and that matches your beliefs and values. Behaving authentically lets the people around you know who you are and makes it easy to find people who share those values.
Everyone has to make their own decision about whether a guy testing you before dating you is a red flag or not. You’re entitled to set your boundaries wherever you want to. Having said that, if his testing makes you feel uncomfortable or belittled, it’s important to remember that you can (and probably should) walk away.
He might say that you’re being petty, oversensitive, or childish for refusing to date him over his behavior. That’s not true. If you’re not happy with his behavior, walking away is the right choice, even if it’s difficult.
The most common reasons that a guy will ignore you are that he’s seeing someone else, he’s sulking, or he’s super busy. If he says he was testing you, that’s probably an excuse. Even if he really was ‘testing’ you, that’s no better. He’s showing himself to be deceitful and untrustworthy.
Some guys will ‘test’ you by not texting to see how you respond. Others will pretend that it was a ‘test’ when they’ve just been lazy. Either way, this is childish, arrogant, and deceitful. Some guys will do this, but lots of mature men won’t.
No. It’s never ok for a guy to test your loyalty or make you ‘earn’ a relationship. That’s manipulative and is a power play. Focus on being authentic, and expecting anyone you date to be authentic as well. If he’s playing games, you deserve better.
No! Absolutely not. Testing a partner’s loyalty or care for you is manipulative and cruel. Yes, there is a chance that he will hurt you, but that’s part of being vulnerable in a relationship. Testing someone destroys the trust and mutual respect you need in a healthy relationship.
Guys who try to ‘test’ you before they date you (or even while they’re dating you) aren’t being kind, respectful, honest partners. They’re being entitled, manipulative, and cruel. Don’t play his games. Find someone who will value you and who can be as authentic and honest as you are.
Was this article useful? Let me know in the comments below. And if you agree with my take on guys who test their girlfriends, make sure you share this article and get the message out that this behavior isn’t okay.