Dating Vs. Relationship: Know Where You Are With Your Partner

Understanding the relationship status helps you avoid mistakes and lets you achieve peace of mind.

Reviewed by Stephanie Mintz, MA (Clinical Psychology), LMFT Stephanie Mintz Stephanie MintzMA (Clinical Psychology), LMFT
Written by , Integrated MA, Certified Relationship Coach Sneha Tete Integrated MA, Certified Relationship Coach linkedin_icon Experience: 4 years
Edited by , MA (English) Subhrojyoti Mukherjee MA (English) Experience: 4 years
Fact-checked by , BSc Reshma Latif BSc Experience: 5 years

It is time to clear the eternal confusion of dating vs. relationships. You should know one thing about dating: it can sometimes be tough to understand. It isn’t easy to get a hold of where you are with the criteria, multiple generational dating trends, and popular dating lingos. But it is also difficult to avoid the nagging question that can run through your head for most of the day: What exactly are we? Approaching your partner might be difficult, but failing to do so can lead to anxiety. However, don’t be concerned! In this article, we have explained the differences between dating and relationships to help you determine where you are with your partner. Keep scrolling.

Dating Vs. Relationship

What Is Dating?

What is dating vs relationship
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What Does Dating Mean? 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. However, dating means different things to different individuals. It can be about wanting to get to know the person of the opposite or same sex by asking them out or being asked 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. Well, what is dating all about? Dating is more about getting to know each other, having fun, and enjoying spending time together. Physical intimacy can be included in dating. Even though it involves a certain level of closeness, it isn’t exactly wise to conclude it as a full-fledged relationship. It is important to have a conversation so you are both on the same page before engaging in physical intimacy so there isn’t any confusion as some people aren’t comfortable with this type of intimacy unless they are in an exclusive relationship.

What Is A Relationship?

What is relationship vs dating
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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 and eventually, a happy marriage.

When you are in a relationship, you basically are in a romantic, committed union with your partner. A healthy relationship is mostly monogamous.

Your dating experience can go through a few stages before turning into a committed relationship.

Stages Of Dating

There can be several stages of dating depending on how two people approach it, but the phases can be broadly classified as follows:

  • Initial Attraction
    You are strongly attracted to them and might need a couple more dates to clear the fog created by their physical appearance. Until then, everything they do seems charming.
  • Curiosity Or Exploration
    You hang out with them a lot, want to know more about them, celebrate shared interests, and learn how you feel about your differences.
  • Enlightenment
    You might still be unsure about committing, but you are certain about whether it feels nice to be around them or not. You begin exploring the possibility of commitment.
  • Commitment
    You want to give your relationship an official label, make things exclusive, and proudly show your partner off to your friends and family.

Let us discuss in detail about the identifiers that can make the blurry lines between dating and relationship more clear.

How Is A Relationship Different From Dating?

  • You Can Just Faff Together
You can faff together in a relationship vs dating
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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 desiring a relationship territory.

  • You Are Not Afraid To Be ’You’
You are not afraid to be you in a relationship vs dating
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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.

protip_icon Quick Tip

You share each and every detail of your past and present life with each other in a committed relationship. But there is limited communication and sharing during the dating phase.
  • It’s All Mutual

A key difference between dating and a relationship is how you each feel 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 committed to one partner.

  • You Tend To Have Expectations
You have expectations in a relationship vs dating
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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 many things from each other.

  • There Is A Change Of Priorities

When you are dating someone, you will notice that you may try to 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 become a top priority.

  • You Introduce Them To Your Friends And Family
You introduce them to friends and family in a relationship vs dating
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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 oxytocin released into your brain because of this state of happiness can cause you to have a constant state of high or even keep you up at night.

protip_icon Quick Tip

You know you are at the ‘attraction and romance’ stage when you can relate every love song or romantic movie to you and your feelings.

2. The Crisis Stage

As the honeymoon period often starts to come to an end 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 deeper, 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 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 because they feel that their current partner isn’t right for them in the long run. However, others work through their differences, sometimes even 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 probably some 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 partnership, 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. 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 bigger goals.

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 difference between dating and relationship is 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.

Key Takeaways

  • The lines between dating and relationships are blurred due to popular dating lingos and multiple generational dating trends.
  • Dating is the process of getting to know someone and may or may not lead to a relationship.
  • A relationship is a committed union.
  • Knowing the differences can give you a more clear understanding of where you are and what you might want in the long run.
dating vs relationship

Image: Stable Diffusion/StyleCraze Design Team

When you begin spending more time with the other person rather than just official dates and outings, and there is a promise of commitment, chances are you have moved from dating or exclusivity to a full-fledged relationship. You also meet their friends and family, prioritize each other, build mutual trust, and lose any romantic interest in other people. However, the relationship also becomes deeper in stages. While it will be all about romance, compatibility, and attraction initially, things eventually boil down to commitment and real love. So, you can gauge the stage you and your partner are at to help understand the future and nature of your bond.

Infographic: Key Differences Between Dating And A Relationship

While dating involves getting to know the person you are attracted to, a relationship is where both partners have realized their feelings and want to be mutually exclusive. However, people tend to confuse these two easily, leaving the people involved struggling for answers. Don’t worry. We have got you covered. Check out the infographic below to understand how a relationship is different from dating.

key differences between dating and a relationship (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

Frequently Asked Questions

How many dates before it is a relationship?

While there is no fixed or preordained number of dates after which two people automatically fall into a relationship, 10 dates or a dating period of one to two months is considered sufficient time to decide whether you want to be exclusive or in a relationship with each other.

How long does the average dating relationship last?

The average dating relationship lasts between 1 to 2 years before culminating in an engagement or a breakup.

How many dates before you decide it’s not a match?

Three dates are often considered enough to identify whether a match is good or not.

Are you confused about the differences between dating and relationships? Check out this video to learn the top 10 differences between the two!

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Stephanie Mintz

Stephanie MintzMA (Clinical Psychology), LMFT

Known internationally as The Strategic Relationship Consultant™, Stephanie Mintz, MA, LMFT, provides individuals and couples with actionable strategies to reach their relationship goals. She has 8 years of experience and is highly sought-after for her ability to help individuals and couples at all stages of relationships, from dating, living together, pre-engagement, pre-marital, and just married to marriage strengthening/difficulties, brink full bio

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