Seeing Someone vs Dating – 7 Differences You Must Know About

October 18, 2023 |
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Okay, okay, we get it. You don’t really know the difference between benching and curbing, or ghosting and zombieing. We can cut you some slack, it is hard. But if you don’t know the seeing someone vs dating difference, things might get a little confusing for you somewhere down the line. This is one fundamental you have to be well-versed in no matter what. Ignore all the other terms if you want to, but you should know this distinction like the back of your hand.

The conversation around seeing someone vs dating becomes all the more confusing since the two terms are thrown around interchangeably. These words are heavily overused, and it almost sounds like a lot of people are unaware of the actual difference between the meaning of these two words. Coupled with other terms like double texting or cuffing, it seems like we’re learning something new every day.

What does “seeing someone” mean? Is dating and seeing someone the same thing or are those two different things? Can you post an Instagram story with someone you’ve gone out with twice? Do you send them random snaps in the middle of the week? And if you do send those snaps, does that mean you are dating this person or just seeing them? It’s a confusing world we live in, let’s help unravel the mystery one definition at a time. 

What Is Dating?

Before we dive into understanding the seeing each other vs dating distinction, let us go back to the basics. It is important to define dating as a concept to be able to understand how it’s different from seeing someone. It’s a little bit like this.

You stress about what you’re going to wear, you look at the clock and realize you’re already late. Hurriedly, you wear the first outfit you tried before changing four times and rush to the restaurant. The nervous excitement ensues, and you’re trying to be your best self to charm the person you’re talking to. When everything goes well, you exchange a kiss and a promise to meet again. 

What I’ve just explained is a date, and going on a few dates with someone is when you’re dating them. Simply put, dating is meeting a potential romantic partner over an activity like sharing a meal, to assess the possibility of having a future (any sort of a future) with this person. It can be preliminary, but it does not have to be. This brings us to understanding the main difference between dating and being in a relationship. Dating is more chilled out and laid back while being in a relationship is treading along more serious lines.

And dating can happen quite randomly too. It does not always have to be planned. It can be right after you’ve swiped right on each other or with someone you’ve been friends with for a few years. Seeing someone vs dating them basically boils down to how a first date is usually the nascent stage of any sort of relationship and can be described as dipping your toes in to try a person out, for perhaps a committed relationship in the future or just a friends-with-benefits situation. Whatever you really prefer, it is quite flexible.

When going on dates, people usually try to focus on getting to know each other the best they can. “So, what do you do?” “Dogs or cats?” “What was your favorite vacation?” are the kinds of questions you might hear on a first date. Dating one person (or more, that is cool too) can be described as the period of a relationship when two people sporadically meet each other over meals, to pursue mutual interests, or indulge in other activities.

The main goal is to determine if they’re a good fit for each other and if you can imagine things going beyond that first kiss. Is seeing someone the same as dating? Well, not really. Let’s try and understand why that’s the case and what is the difference between dating and seeing someone, by taking a look at what seeing someone really means. 

Related Reading: The Dangers Of Online Dating In 2022 And How To Avoid Them

What Is Seeing Someone?

In the dating vs seeing someone conundrum that has you all perplexed, welcome to the second part. Before we step right into the intricacies of seeing someone vs dating, it’s important to know exactly what the two terms mean individually. Let’s help you understand why they’re two different terms, even though they’re used interchangeably quite often. 

When you’re seeing someone, you’ve been on a decent number of dates already. You’ve seen all the nice shirts he has, and he’s seen all the nice heels you’ve got, and you’re starting to develop more intense feelings for each other. In the seeing each other stage, things begin to get a bit more serious. No, it may not be a full-fledged serious relationship yet but it is close to getting there.

You might have possibly discussed exclusivity, and you’re definitely past the initial awkward first few dates phase where you were still praying that the spaghetti you ordered wouldn’t make a mess on the white shirt you decided to go with (great combo, by the way). By now, you’re more comfortable with each other, and that is the main differentiating point of the dating vs seeing each other concept.

Maybe you’ve even spent a few nights with each other and made a few strides toward establishing physical and emotional intimacy. That doesn’t come early on with people you are dating, does it? It comes with people you have been seeing for a while. Whether you’re in a relationship or not is completely up to you to decide, but things have definitely gotten a bit more serious than overthinking things like “I just texted him three hours ago, should I text him again?”

By now, you’re calling each other every chance you get, and your conversations seem effortless. Whether you’re official or not varies from dynamic to dynamic, but the basic agenda remains the same: there’s definitely a lot more emotional investment and everything that comes with it. You’re on the verge of a committed relationship!

seeing someone vs dating
You’re meeting more often

You’re meeting more often, the friends have been introduced, and if you’ve already left a toothbrush at each other’s places, you best believe you’re going to go from seeing someone to a relationship. Dating vs seeing someone — hopefully you are gaining a significant amount of clarity now. Even if you are not, that is fine. The difference between seeing someone vs dating might still not be clear and fresh in your mind, and it’s easy to see why.

How many dates does it take before you go from dating to seeing each other stage? Is it possible that you’re seeing someone but not in a relationship even though you’ve been going on dates a lot? Sure, there are a million questions still buzzing in your head. Let’s go ahead and answer all of them for you. Let’s talk about all the things that truly make the difference between dating and seeing someone.

Seeing Someone Vs Dating – 7 Differences 

“I’ve been going out with this guy a bit, and I’m not sure where things are going. I wanted to ask my friends about him but I didn’t even know how to define what I have with him. They asked if I’m with him, seeing him, just hanging out, or dating…I was just like, what even are all those things?!” Jasmine told us when she told us that she had a hard time navigating the seeing each other vs dating maze that you have also found yourself lost in.

Understanding the difference between seeing someone vs dating can be extremely important to make sure that you’re both on the same page about exactly where things are and where they’re going. Lack of clarity and communication around the subject can leave you feeling unsure in a relationship. And that can make things not just awkward but also extremely distressing. The longer you let the ambiguity fester, the longer you’re going to be hitting up your group chats with your friends asking, “WHAT ARE WE?!” 

Though the dreaded conversation of defining the relationship can only be had with the person you’re involved with, it’s always beneficial to know what the terms actually mean, and how you should go about labeling your dynamic. Let’s get right into that by understanding what seeing someone vs dating is all about. 

Related Reading: 15 Best Places To Meet Men (Out Of Dating Apps)

1. Seeing someone vs dating: The definitions 

As we mentioned, there’s a difference between the definitions of these two terms. When we talk about dating, we discussed that it’s when two people are assessing their compatibility with each other and are just trying each other out. It’s the very beginning of any relationship, complete with awkward first dates and asking your friends about what they think of this person’s Instagram page. It’s when you feel lots of butterflies, sheer embarrassment every time you do something silly around them, and a constant need to impress them or feel seen by them.

We also discussed that dating and seeing someone are two different things. So then, what does seeing someone mean? It means that the dating phase is long gone and you’re both a lot more serious with each other than you were in the dating phase. You may have discussed things like future plans, exclusivity, or even starting a new relationship. You’re spending a lot more time with each other and are definitely more involved in each other’s lives. The embarrassment and the excessive blushing are gone. Now, all you feel is sheer comfort and warmth with this person.

2. Length of the relationship is usually the difference between seeing someone vs dating 

To really understand dating vs seeing someone, think of this and try to apply it to your past encounters. Getting acquainted with someone and going out on a date with them can literally happen within a week. Once you’ve been going on dates together and things are going well, you can establish that you’re dating each other. You’ve probably been there plenty of times.

In the seeing each other stage, we can safely assume that you’ve gone on far more dates than you care to remember, and a considerable amount of time has passed since you two first met each other. There’s no specified duration of time that needs to pass before you two can claim to be seeing each other; it has more to do with the emotions that are involved. 

When you’re still asking each other what your favorite colors are and where your favorite vacations were, you’re certainly just dating. When dreaming about going to your favorite vacation spots together, wearing matching t-shirts in your favorite color, you’re seeing someone. 

3. The seriousness of the relationships 

Is seeing someone the same as dating? We’re sure by now you know the answer to that question. When you’re dating, you wouldn’t care much if they didn’t reply to your text for a day after a first date (but you’ll definitely be nervous about being ghosted). 

When you’re seeing someone, you’re bound to call them up and say, “Excuse me? Just where have you been?”, if they don’t reply for half a day. Even when you’re seeing someone but not in a relationship, you’re a lot more serious about each other than you were when you were dating. 

This is the biggest differentiating factor that can help you understand the distinction between dating and seeing someone. Seeing someone is usually seen as either the stage right before the relationship or in some cases, it’s the stage where you’re both in a relationship with each other. It’s like, you are ready to now focus your energies on that one person. If you’re wondering what it takes to go from seeing someone to a relationship, it’s the dreaded “what are we?” conversation. 

4. Communication is often different

When trying to settle the seeing someone vs dating debate, pay attention to the nature of your conversations – they’re bound to be very different. As we mentioned, you’re getting to know someone during the dating phase. They tell you the things they want you to know about them, and they’re trying their best to ask you superficial questions like, “So, what are your hobbies?”

When you’re in the seeing each other stage, you’re usually talking about more serious and intimate things. You’re more vulnerable with each other, you’re talking about things that may be difficult to share, and you’ve established greater emotional intimacy. You might have discussed future plans, exclusivity, and even the prospect of being together for a long-term relationship. Simply put, seeing someone vs dating all boils down to the seriousness and the emotional attachment you have with each other.

Infographic on seeing someone vs dating
The differences between seeing someone and dating them

5. Exclusivity is often discussed

If you have considered seeing someone in your life ever, then we don’t need to spell this one out for you. Because you’ve probably already discussed exclusivity with this person you like. So if you have, assume that you are leaning on the seeing someone side of the dating vs seeing someone spectrum.

Usually, it’s well understood that if you have just started dating someone, exclusivity is definitely not a given. If you’ve been out with them on one date, it’s pretty much understood that you’re both going to be going out with other people if you want to. However, one of the biggest differences in seeing someone vs dating is that you may expect some sort of exclusivity in your relationship from your partner when you’ve established that you’re now seeing each other.

The best way to establish it is by having a conversation about it and making sure you don’t just rely on assumptions. Though exclusivity is not a given even in the seeing each other stage, what’s important is that you’re both comfortable enough with each other to have a conversation about it and admit what you really expect from one another.

Related Reading: 15 Important Tips For Dating In Your 30s As A Woman

6. The different stages in the relationship timeline 

The relationship timeline can be vastly different for different couples. The seeing someone vs dating difference is that dating is the absolute first step in the journey, whereas seeing someone is a bit deeper into the relationship timeline. In these timelines lies the answer to questions like what does seeing someone mean to a guy or girl or what does dating mean for a man or a woman.

Well, It means that this person knows they want you and is ready to delete that dating app from their phone. Or it can mean that they want to spend every single day with you, talking to you. But dating means that this person is just casually meeting up with you and other people as well until they decide who they want to fully invest their energies into.

When you’re seeing someone, you’re also talking about the future and moving further ahead in your relationship timeline. If you wish to stop things, it’s going to take a bit more than just ghosting the other person, as you might be able to do during the dating stage. 

7. Difference between dating and seeing someone: The activities change 

When you’re going out on a couple of dates with someone, you’re at your absolute best. You take them to places in the city that only you know about, and you wear your best outfit, complete with your hair down in the thick of summer. You try to make sure your dates are idyllic, as if straight out of a movie.

You’re courteous, you’re trying to present your best self, and having food stuck in your teeth is a crisis-level catastrophe that you must avoid at all costs. However, when you’re seeing someone, things change a bit. In fact, they change quite a bit. When you are seeing someone, you’re probably just lazing around in your room, spending time with each other, ordering pizza, not worried if any crumbs are falling on your shirt.

You’re not really concerned about always being your best self in front of them, and you’re okay with them looking at your dirty PJs. When you’re seeing someone vs dating them, the activities change since you’re a lot more comfortable with each other. You spend more time indoors or doing things that make you feel like yourself, rather than channeling all your energies in trying to impress a romantic interest.

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Seeing Someone Vs Dating: Figuring Out Where You Are 

So, now that you know the difference between dating vs seeing someone, you might be confused about where exactly you are in your dynamic. Does seeing someone mean being in love with them? And just because you have been seeing this person for a while and feel comfortable around them, does it mean you love them truly?

To put it bluntly, the only way you can truly figure any of this out is by having a straightforward conversation about it with your partner. Yup, you’ve got to go up to them and give them the ol’ “So, what are we?” If they freak out and tell you they don’t have any network when you can hear their voice perfectly, you can assume you guys are dating indefinitely.

When you have a conversation about it, you’ll also start talking about monogamy and other aspects like expectations in your relationship and future plans. Once you do, it’ll be pretty clear where you stand on the spectrum. Some other things that can help you figure it out include how long you’ve known each other and if your feelings for each other have been steadily (or meteorically) growing.

Are you both exclusive? Do you spend a lot more time together with each other than you used to? Have you met their friends, and have they met yours? All these questions can help you decide if you’re just someone they like hanging out with or if you’re in the seeing each other stage. 

Key Pointers

  • Dating is a more casual dynamic where the two people are still testing the waters and figuring out how they feel about one another
  • What does seeing someone mean to a guy or girl? It means that the person is falling for you and is not really interested in dating other people anymore
  • You always ‘date’ to impress. But when ‘seeing someone’ you feel more comfortable around them 
  • You often discuss being exclusive with the person you are seeing, but when dating, it never comes up 
  • Dating is usually the stage that precedes seeing somebody

Keep in mind, it’s also entirely possible to be in limbo and not be sure of where you and your partner are. You might be in the middle of seeing someone vs dating, and your lack of conversations about it might have made you more confused. As we said, when you don’t know where things are headed, the best thing to do is to talk about it. 

Now that you know all there is to know about seeing someone vs dating, we hope you have a bit more clarity about where you are in your timeline and where you’re headed. Instead of bothering your friends with the excruciating details, just tell them this article helped you out. You’re welcome.


1. Is dating the same as seeing someone?

Not at all. Seeing someone is a slightly more serious affair where you try to pin down your choices to one person and spend time with them solely because you think there is a future with them. Dating is more casual, it might even be a friends with benefits situation.

2. Is seeing a person or dating them more serious?

Dating is definitely not as serious as seeing somebody.

3. How long after seeing someone are you in a relationship?

There is no specific time frame as such. It is possible that you have been going on dates for 6 months and now want to be serious and ‘see each other’ more. Or you two have just met on your second date and sparks flew and you realized this person is the only one you want to see! It’s less about the time, more about how emotionally invested you feel.

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