Relationships 101

8 differences between dating and being in a relationship

Its more like a 'been there done that' thing - haven't we all been confused whether we are still dating or have moved to a relationship?
couple dating

A relationship is like a rollercoaster. You feel afraid to get into it, but once you do, it is thrilling and exciting. But more than most of it, relationships are confusing, especially when they begin through casual dating. You are confused whether it is still a casual thing or has become serious. Those butterflies in your stomach keep fluttering because you want to know where it is going!

The transition from dating to a relationship is a difficult and confusing one. You can’t read the other person’s thoughts and you are too afraid to ask questions. Because, admit it, guys are pros at avoiding the “where is it going” question and you don’t want to scare them away.

At what point does dating become a relationship?

The dating to relationship transition obviously doesn’t happen overnight. Well, maybe in a chick flick or a Rom Com, but in real life, it doesn’t. It takes some time for your emotions to evolve and realise that it was him all along. So at what point does dating become a relationship? When do you know that this is it?

Well, there are a few dating relationship stages involved, but they may vary from relationship to relationship. Here are the five obvious ones:

  1. You go on a first date. Have a great conversation and feel like going out another time
  2. You like spending time with him. Go out on more dates. This is the stage of infatuation
  3. Everything is going on great. You get comfortable and are yourselves in front of each other
  4. You realise that you are in love and dating is not enough
  5. You both take it to the next level and Boom! Congratulations, you are in a relationship

So when to know whether you both are in stage four? Here are 8 differences that will help you identify your relationship status without you having to scare him away.

couple dating
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8 differences between dating and being in a relationship

People often confuse dating with being in a relationship. If you are seeing someone, it doesn’t mean that you are in a relationship. You could be dating but not in a relationship. There may seem to be a thin line between a relationship and dating, but there is much more to it. Dating can be a physical or a casual fling, but a relationship is a more serious and romantic affair. There is more love than lust and being your ‘stupid careless self’ is okay. Let us see the differences between relationship and dating.

1. Relationship involves seeing each other exclusively

Dating is a stage where you want to get to know more people, because you know that ‘the right one’ is out there. And to know for sure who the right one is, you have to keep your options open. Well, you may or may not be seeing other people when you are dating, but the option for dating someone else is always open. You haven’t established the rules of being exclusive.

When you are in a relationship, you want to spend most of your time with that one person who makes your heart skip a beat. There is no question of seeing someone else. It is like someone has pulled ahead of the pack and you are no more looking around. Your relationship is exclusive and there is no room for any doubt.

2. He lovingly says, “I love you”

The time throughout your dating, the most that you will get out of him is “I like you” or “I love spending time with you”. There will be moments, but none will have the intimacy or love.

The moment when he lovingly says “I love you” is when he is no more afraid of expressing his feelings in front of you. It is a gesture to show that he is ready to take it to the next level. Just like he may wrap his arms around your shoulder while walking or hold your hand while talking.

Related reading: Is your man with you just for sex? 20 signs to watch out!

3. You become his priority, he yours

Guys follow the rule of ‘bros before hoes’. Friends and family top the priority list and they might make an exception if it is a booty call. You both go out on dates only when both of you are free. He will make time for you, but will not priortise you above else.

In a relationship, you both go out of the way to make time for each other. Even a half-hour catch up is enough to make your day. You both cancel plans with your friends so that you both can spend more time together. That shows that you have priortised each other over everyone else.

4. Relationship allows you to be comfortable and ‘ugly’

Dating rule No. 1: Don’t scare him/her away. You are conscious of everything, your looks, your habits and even your behaviour. You are careful about each and every move you make. You are not ready to reveal your real self to that person just yet.

People in relationships don’t care about ‘bad hair days’ or ‘no makeup days’. Being embarrassed in front of your partner is not scary but now funny. You become so comfortable in front of their partner that you don’t care anymore. You show them your ‘ugly’ side – when you are not dressed to kill and are probably sulking around on the couch. A movie day in house while wearing sweats is as good as going out to a fancy restaurant.

Couple relaxing on sofa

5. In a relationship, you are there for each other

You can’t expect the guy you are dating to come home with chicken soup when you have a bad cold. That is what boyfriends do. They take care of you in your worst times. When you are dating you take a rain check for being sick and don’t expect to meet the person any time soon.

Relationships are quite the opposite. Your boyfriend is there for you even when you least need it. Even if you go out of town, you know that someone will be waiting at the airport to pick you up when you return.

6. Expectations flower in a relationship

There are no expectations while dating. You go on dates, have fun and sometimes even have great sex. It stays that way. There is no room for emotions, late night conversations and surprises. You don’t have anyone to have your back, and you are still pretty much on your own.

In relationships you have high expectations from your partner. You expect your partner to spend most of their time with you, get you gifts and surprise you when you least expect it. You meet their friends and maybe their family members too. You become a major part of their lives.

Related reading: A date when everything went wrong

7. Conversations about “us”

There are no conversations about “us”, because you don’t plan on building a future together with the person you date. “Us” is not a word in the dictionary of dating. It is just you and me as separate individuals. You do not really talk about “where are we going…” stuff because none of you want to answer that.

If you and me becomes “us” and “we”, then it is going in the right direction and is close to reaching the point of ‘us as a couple’. Couples talk about their future plans and their relationship. They see their future with each other in them. And so, “where are we going..” is talked about with definite plans of action.

couple talking to each other
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8. The girlfriend or boyfriend title

You don’t need to ask the question of where is this going if you have got the title. People who are dating don’t use the girlfriend or boyfriend word. They just refer to you as a ‘friend’ or ‘the girl I’m dating or seeing’. If they introduce you as their girlfriend in front of their friends or family, then it’s official. You are already a couple! You don’t need to rack your brain thinking about it. Defining your relationship in public is the cherry on top.

The dating-relationship drama is a complex one. You look for signs and keep asking your bff whether this was a sign or not. You don’t want to screw things up, so you keep this dilemma to yourself. But it keeps eating you up anyway. Make sure that you both are on the same page with this dating-relationship thing you have going. If you are serious about him and see these signs, then go for it, but if you are not looking for anything serious and realise that your partner is getting serious, pull out before you end up hurting someone.

You swore you’ll always be crazy about me, but you have changed!

I dated women for years before publicly coming out as gay

Published in Relationships 101

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