You might have heard it more times than you’d like, whether it was from a friend or even from a personal fling, “We’re dating, we’re not in a relationship.”
For newbies to the dating scene, or if you’ve never had a boyfriend or girlfriend, it might be difficult to understand the difference between dating someone and being in a relationship.
The truth is that these two things are quite different for everyone, so it’s best to ask your partner what they mean when they say, “we’re dating” or “we’re in a relationship.”
The main difference between being in a relationship and dating is that a relationship has established boundaries that are set by both partners.
Both people are committed to each other and exclusive, while people who date are free to date whoever they choose and go on as many dates with other people as they see fit.
On the other hand, dating someone is the beginning stage of two people knowing each other, and that could potentially lead to a relationship.
Dating is, in essence, the first step to a relationship. Although sparks can fly on the first date, be aware that, unless you and your partner specify, you are not in a relationship with your date!
Why do people date?
You might think that everyone has had a first date and that every couple you’ve ever met has had a date at one point.
On the contrary, dating is a concept that only began around the beginning of the 20th century – during the roaring ’20s.
Dating is, in essence, taking a partner and showing them a good time, taking them to dinners, movies, late-night outings, and taking the time to understand them as a person.
This concept of dating is more of a luxury and convenience now than it was before.
Before the early 20th century, however, being in a relationship and even getting married was more about the benefits of marriage, such as the union of families and uniting different incomes.
Legal marriage itself has only been around since the 1500s as well, with its origins in the Roman Catholic church.
Still, this doesn’t mean that modern people all date each other. In fact, it’s estimated that 50% of marriages globally are actually arranged!
This means that a family finds a suitable husband or wife to unite with their son or daughter. Some countries that still commonly practice arranged marriages include:
For these arranged marriages, couples might meet each other once or twice, if not at all before the ceremony.
Some traditional families choose not to introduce the bride and groom at all before the big wedding day.
If so many countries are still practicing arranged marriages and are having successful long-lasting relationships without dates, why do we still date?
Why not get into a relationship right away?
Dating the Right Way
Dates can reveal a lot about a person.
From the manner in which they treat you during their date, to the way in which you feel around them; whether that’s safe, cared for, or even creeped out!
Dates allow us to get an inside look into a person and are just plain fun when done correctly. Most people’s ideas of a date can differ significantly from one person to another.
Dating someone can mean taking them out to a movie, taking them out to a museum, or even taking them out to a bar or club.
Some people’s ideas of dating can be vastly different as well. For instance, dating is something that can even be done online, especially during COVID-19.
Many online apps today, such as Tinder, Bumble, or Zoosk, are a way for people to date and casually meet one another.
Some people prefer to text rather than call or meet up with a person.
Choosing to date someone by finding them through an app, speed dating, or meeting someone through a mutual friend are all popular ways to hook up and meet people.
In addition to the method in which you date someone, there’s also a right and wrong way to date someone in order to show respect and make them feel comfortable.
It’s important to listen to your date in case they have any special requests.
Here are a few tips that can help you date someone successfully and then, later on, help you seal the deal and enter a relationship!
Respect their Boundaries
Boundaries are incredibly important, not just on the first date but in a relationship.
During a relationship, boundaries might be more strict between you and your partner, such as not texting other people, definitely no cheating, and no flirting in any way.
However, boundaries can be quite different when dating. Perhaps your date doesn’t want you to hold hands or even cuddle with them.
You might set the boundary that you can date other people, and this shouldn’t bother your date. These rules emphasize the need for space, individuality, and even religious preference.
When you are dating someone, realize that though these boundaries might seem strange at first, as the relationship progresses, they will change and become aligned with those of a traditional relationship.
The moment your date decides you can call her “sugar plum,” “baby,” even “my love,” and can freely hold their hand and kiss in public, the moment you two decide you don’t want the other person dating other people, are all signs that your boundaries are becoming more like those of a relationship!
Respect their Interests
Whether your partner likes to go on a quiet walk in the park, go hiking, or is an avid art enthusiast, you will understand what their interests and hobbies are during the dating phase.
Respecting their interests and hobbies will get you very far when it comes time to be in a relationship with them.
Never make fun of a person’s interests, even when you two are only dating.
Although humor and joking can be flirty and somewhat charming, bashing your date for liking a certain interest, such as watching reruns of Friends, is never a good idea during the dating phase.
Similarly, your date should never force you to take part in something you’re uncomfortable with or just plain aren’t interested in.
For instance, if you’re not into drinking or doing drugs, going to all-night clubs, and meeting friends and family right away when dating, it’s important to let your partner know these things beforehand.
If you feel pressured to be something you’re not, it’s a good sign that the dating phase will only be just that…a phase.
Respect their Family
Everyone has different comfort levels when it comes time to meet the family.
Some people might wait between one to three months before they think it’s appropriate to introduce their date to their family.
This is, of course, not a standard, and some might wait even longer before you are able to meet their family for the holidays or even just a simple dinner.
When the time comes, you will be able to be introduced to the family as the boyfriend, girlfriend, or partner.
In the meantime, however, if your date insists that it’s not time to meet the family yet, this is a sign that you’re still in the dating phase. You should take it slow and enjoy the ride!
Respect their Time
Dating is not incredibly time-consuming. The reason some people choose to date is that being in a relationship takes a lot of time and commitment.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Dating can be fun, and it can be a great way to get some much-needed stress relief.
Unfortunately, for some people, dating is all they will ever do until they feel their schedule can handle being in a full-on relationship with someone.
It’s important to respect the time someone is giving you.
If you find yourself constantly missing and thinking about your date, wanting to see them, or wanting to spend more time with them, be upfront and ask them where they plan on taking this dating phase.
Some people might be open to considering more commitment and taking things to the next level.
However, some people might say they are not looking for a relationship at the moment.
If this is the answer, don’t beat yourself up, and remember that it’s better to know early on rather than later what your date’s intentions are.
Around 47% of Americans say dating is difficult, so remember you’re not alone in this situation!
When To Call it a Relationship
No matter how many blogs and articles you read about “signs he likes you” or “signs she wants to take things to the next level” there’s a very simple answer to when a date turns into a boyfriend or girlfriend.
The answer is: they’ll tell you!
Whether sparks fly on the first date and your partner wants to marry you right away (ahem, Pamela Anderson), or you wait several months after dating to make things official, there’s really no better way to know that your dating phase has turned into a relationship than asking each other.
Do you want to put up with their shenanigans? Take them to museums more often? Spend time alone living in a cabin or van?
If the answer is yes, you’re no longer dating partners, you’re partners for life (or until you break up).