Dating vs Relationship: What are We?!

May 13, 2022
Dating vs Relationship: What are We?!

So you’re getting ready to date or you’re already dating someone. How exciting! We can feel the first date butterflies from here. But how do you know if it’s casual dating or a committed relationship? And how exactly can you take it to the next level without messing up a good thing? First, let’s start with the basics...

What is dating?


Let’s look at what it isn’t. Dating isn’t just about going on a great first date. (But, if you’re looking, here are a few first date tips that might come in handy!)

Dating is the early stage of a romantic relationship where you learn a lot about the other person to see if you’re a great match together.

If you’re courting someone (or being courted), then you’re simply seeing whether or not you have enough in common to spend a lot of time with one another. Dating apps, social media, and mutual friends can help make your similarities clear right from the get go!

Over time, dating can lead to a more serious relationship, a committed relationship, or it can remain just dating without a clearly defined relationship status. And that’s okay! There’s no wrong way to date if you’re being open and honest with one another about what it is you’re looking for exactly.

Dating means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, so think for a minute about what it means to you.

You can start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • “Am I ready to start dating and spending time with new people? What amount of time can I devote to dating? Do I have the emotional energy to date right now?”
  • “What type of person or people do I want to date? What specific qualities am I looking for in a potential partner? What are my ‘musts’ and must-nots’?”
  • “Do I want to date other people before committing myself to just one person? What level of commitment can I give to someone right now?”
  • “Am I casually dating or dating to meet a significant other and possibly settle down?”

If you’re honest with yourself about what you want and need, it will be easier to be open with your dating partners. From there, it’s all about treating each other with mutual respect and care, and embracing a healthy style of communication.

What is a relationship?

Relationship experts define an intimate or romantic relationship as an interpersonal relationship that involves physical or emotional intimacy.

There are a few different stages of a relationship that can occur, but there’s no wrong order or way to pursue a relationship. Plus, you should feel empowered to define what a relationship means to you based on your unique values, wants, and needs.

Often times, a committed relationship can be the next step after dating for a while. Or a relationship can follow after years of shared memories as close friends. If you’re having the same strong feelings and respect for one another, a relationship can be a mutual agreement of shared intimacy and trust. Celebrate all your relationship milestones along the way, and try not to sweat inconsequential relationship differences you might be facing.

What kind of relationship should I pursue?


Well, that’s really up to you. First ask yourself some of the following questions:

  • “Am I looking for a casual relationship or an exclusive relationship?”
  • “Will I want to see other people? Would I be okay with my partner seeing other people?”
  • “What are my wants and needs? Specifically, what are my romantic wants and emotional needs?”
  • “Am I interested in a long-term partnership?”


The major difference between a “casual relationship” and a “real relationship” is something you’ll have to discover and define on your own. For example, casual dating can lead to a casual relationship that might lack intellectual spark, physical chemistry, or healthy infatuation with the other person.

In the case of something more than just casual, something you’d consider a real relationship, you can see a future with the other person. Whether that future is being together for a few months, years, or longer is really up to the both of you. Here are some of our favorite relationship questions to ask your partner, no matter what type of special relationship you’re forming together — casual, committed, exclusive, open, or anything in between!

An exclusive relationship — also known as a committed relationship — means you and your partner(s) are exclusively committed to one another and only each other. Exclusive dating can often lead to an exclusive relationship. That just means your relationship territory or relationship boundaries are now exclusively focused on the other person, with no other suitors or love interests in the picture.

How to go from dating to being in a relationship

Defining the relationship can be complicated and uncomfortable. That’s why we’ve put together a guide to how to define the relationship.

When defining the relationship, communication is key. The main differences between dating and being in a relationship are about how much time, energy, attention, and affection you’ll be showing one another over time.

Relationships take work, and that work never stops. Long-term relationships both take a great deal of work. But a relationship can be incredibly rewarding and meaningful once you’re both on the same page about your goals as a couple.

Start by asking yourself the following questions before having an open conversation with your partner.

  • “Have we talked about what we’re looking for, and what we’re looking for next?”
  • “Are we on the same page? Do we want the same things?”
  • “Am I ready to stop dating other people? Do we both want to go from being single people to being seriously not single and in a new relationship?”
  • “Do I see important qualities in my better half?”

The short answer is there’s no one way or right way to make the switch from dating to a relationship. Your current stage of dating or level of comfort with your romantic interest can be a good indicator if a relationship would be the next best step for you both. And ideally, that next step can set the foundation for a functional, healthy relationship.

Ready to define your relationship status once and for all? Take a deep breath. Remember what’s really important. You’ve got this. And when you’re ready to show your other half just how you’re feeling, we’ve got you covered on tips to show someone you love them.

Your relationship status, your way


No matter if you’re single, dating, in a relationship, or something else entirely, there’s one thing to remember. You matter.

And you know what else? Your feelings matter.

So don’t sell yourself short or settle for less. Get comfortable with voicing your needs and wants early on. Figure out what you’re looking for, and when you find it, celebrate it.

If the time comes and you find yourself in a healthy relationship, then celebrate early relationship milestones as they come, and work on your relationship skills together. If you put in the work, you’ll grow from every relationship you have from here on out.

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