If there is one thing about dating, it is that it can be a lot tricky to comprehend at times. With the ever-changing rules, the numerous millennial dating trends, and the new dating lingos, it can be hard to keep track of where you are at. But it is also impossible to dodge the ever-so unsettling question that crosses your mind for the most part of the day: “What are we?” Asking your partner can seem like a daunting task, while not asking can create inevitable paranoia. Worry not! In this article, we will help you understand the difference between dating and relationship so that you can figure out where you are headed to.
Dating Vs. Relationship
What Is Dating?
The traditional definition of dating is when you initiate the casual process of getting to know someone individually or in a group of people. You may develop a romantic relationship with the person in the future. It usually starts with friendship. It can be about you wanting to get to know the person of the opposite or same sex by asking them out – be it making plans for seeing a movie together, taking a walk, or just going to a restaurant for dinner.
Note that at this point, you are not necessarily committed to the person, and it is mutually clear between the two of you. Dating is more about getting to know each other, having fun, and enjoying spending time together. Intimacy, too, can be included in dating as even though it involves a certain level of closeness, it isn’t exactly wise to conclude it as a full-fledged relationship.
What Is A Relationship?
You can call it a relationship when there is a mutual agreement between you and your partner. You become exclusive, and the idea of a casual relationship isn’t floating around anymore. A smooth transition from just going on dates together to referring to each other as boyfriend and girlfriend takes place. This can even lead to considering becoming partners for life.
When you are in a relationship, you basically are in a romantic, committed union with your partner. A healthy relationship is mostly monogamous.
Let us discuss in detail about the identifiers that can make the blurry lines between dating and relationship clearer.
How Is A Relationship Different From Dating?
- You Can Just Faff Together
A common sign that your short-term fling is turning into a complete relationship is that your plans do not necessarily involve actual plans. Indulging in individual hobbies while sitting next to each or faffing together (spending time doing nothing) becomes a regular feature. If your significant other is busy watching a football match on TV, you can just do your own thing and read a book or maybe do the laundry together. This means that you have become comfortable doing the less glamorous everyday chores with them and are letting your walls down.
- You Lose Interest In All Others
This is one of those involuntary things that happen without even thinking. If you are dating around a lot but have encountered someone really special, you will find yourself in a position where you have let all others fall off without giving it much thought. If you are on a dating app and are not feeling compelled to start a new conversation with a new guy/girl, you have definitely been bitten by the love bug and have stepped into the relationship territory.
- You Are Not Afraid To Be ‘You’
When you are in a relationship, you are not scared to be yourself around this person – be it being paranoid when there are creases on the bed cover or wrapping your hair around in a messy bun with no makeup on. This is as opposed to dating, where you typically keep your raw behavior under wraps while going out and just getting to know someone. Indulging in geeky obsessions or revealing your guilty pleasures, such as watching re-runs of Friends or Desperate Housewives, can only be done when you are absolutely comfortable around the other person.
- It’s All Mutual
A key difference between dating and a relationship is having your separate ideas about where you stand with the other person. In relationships, both individuals are on the same page with respect to the question, “What are we?” However, in dating, the idea of exclusivity while being with someone may differ. Certain people like to date each other exclusively, while others like to date multiple people at once and not just be tied down to one partner necessarily.
- You Tend To Have Expectations
It is obvious that the level of expectations is different in dating versus that in a relationship. Do you feel comfortable asking your partner for a favor? Do you have confidence that they will be there for you in the time of need? Do you have certain expectations from the other person? If the answers to the above questions are yes, well, you are in a relationship mode. When you both know that it is casual, you don’t tend to expect a future or even littlest of things from each other.
- There Is A Change Of Priorities
When you are dating someone, you will notice that you will plan everything around your timetable and preferences. Contrarily, when you are in a relationship, you make sure that your plans are made, keeping in mind the schedules and comfort of both the people involved. You almost treat them like your family, and they come on top of your priority chart, even before work or friends.
- You Introduce Them To Your Friends And Family
This is a major identifier of a relationship. Integrating your special someone into your current social life and introducing them to your close friends and family is a great way to tell that you are serious about your bond with this person. When your friends reveal embarrassing incidents about you and your sweetheart doesn’t seem to be disturbed by them but rather joins in and laughs out loud, you know that this person is interested in getting to know the real you.
- A Promise Of Commitment
This is sort of a given. Commitment is what separates casual dating and a relationship. Partners who are serious about their relationship tend to look forward to spending a lifetime together and are willing to make sacrifices for that to happen. On the other hand, while dating, the commitment people may have is watching a movie together post-dinner.
Let us now understand how a relationship progresses through different stages.
What Are The Different Stages Of A Relationship?
1. The Attraction And Romance Stage
This is the stage of glee and euphoria, where your favorite person is always on your mind. You feel like you are falling in love, and no obstacle can stop you.
From the jitters on the initial dates and the light in your eyes when you look at them to the absolute electricity you experience around them and the first kiss – everything seems perfect. The oxytocins released into your brain because of this state of happiness can cause you to have a constant state of high, insomnia, and even loss of appetite.
2. The Crisis Stage
As the honeymoon period gets over after a few months of dating, the dopamine eventually runs out. This is where trouble kicks in. It is the tricky stage where you start getting to know the person better, making things more clear.
Once you get comfortable with each other, you will start noticing the littlest of things, which may even annoy you. Whether it is forgetting the laundry in the dryer, leaving dishes in the kitchen sink, or saying something unkind in front of the others’ friends, anything can become topics for arguments and result in relationship anxiety.
But this is also the stage in which your bond with each other is put to the test. Unfortunately, some couples go through this stage and choose to break up by the end of it in case they feel that their current partner isn’t right for them in the long run. However, others power through and clear their differences, embracing the little quips and annoying habits.
3. The Working Stage
Well, congrats on conquering the crisis stage! The two things that you gain from the previous stage are patience and harmony. This is the acceptance stage, and it makes the relationship, as well as each individual, grow. You begin to develop a routine, with one making coffee in the morning and the other making breakfast, one doing the dishes and the other taking the trash out. You find yourself in a calm situation where you can imagine yourself with this person in the long run.
4. The Commitment Stage
After all the hard work, tension, and constant anxiety, here you are, confessing your love to each other. You choose to stay together, even in the hardest of times. You accept that you are in love with the person as a whole: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
You now know each other’s goals, desires, and dreams and constantly push your partner to become the best version of themselves. Ultimately, you decide that you want to remain committed to this one individual alone. This is usually where the couple decides to take the next step in the relationship, which could be moving in together, getting married, or having kids.
5. The Real Love Stage
This is it. Everything you did to get here finally seems worth it – the hustling, blood, and tears have finally led you here. You have become a team, a family, coming far from the first time where you met as strangers. This stage is where the couple becomes one, working unanimously towards a single goal or project like finding a home or starting a family.
While there will be no dearth of challenges here either, you realize your love can battle any obstacle that comes along. Your past mistakes have made you wiser. The great times you have spent become cherished memories, and the bad ones make you realize that it was all worth it at the end of the day.
While the differences between dating and relationship are significant, it is imperative to realize that both the experiences help you understand what you want in the long run. When you indulge in either or both, you discover yourself as a human, as a lover, and as a partner.
Depending on your perspective and bond, certain experiences can be bad, but others can become cherished memories. The thing to really focus on is how to learn from every instance and be ready to take a stand with your relationship when needed in the future. Good luck!
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