It’s quite difficult to come to a conclusion whether you’re dating someone or are in a relationship. Dating is one of the pre-stages of a committed relationship.
What most couples fail to determine is when they’re not dating and have entered into a relationship. There is, obviously, a thin line between the two and sometimes one of them disagrees with the other. Couples must know dating vs. relationship differences to ensure that they are aware where exactly they stand and what importance they have in each other’s life.
To clear all the confusion and to get all the couples on the same page, here is what you ought to know about the difference between dating and being in a relationship.
What is dating?
Dating can be a way that two people explore their romantic or sexual interest in each other. They date to figure out whether there is the possibility of them getting into a committed and serious long-term relationship with each other.
Dating is like a taste test, in which individuals decide whether they want to continue if they like the other person enough to get into a relationship. It is the exploration stage, which is marked by curiosity, hope, questioning and uncertainty at times.
The dating phase of a relationship can end in moving towards a long-term relationship or both partners going their separate ways as they see no hope for a future together.
What is considered a relationship?
A relationship is a commitment that exists, usually between two people, whether they are romantic or sexually committed to being with each other. Instead of the uncertainty of dating, relationships are marked by hope and commitment towards a future together.
Relationships mark a growing emotional, romantic and sexual intimacy with each other. The couple are able to open up to each other and state their expectations from a relationship.
Relationships are usually the foundation on which two people learn to live life together.
4 stages of dating
Dating someone can be exciting, new and confusing at times. It is one of the phases that people go through to figure out whether they are ready to get into a relationship with each other.
But even within dating itself there are various stages that define the progression of emotions and intensity between the couple. Here are the four stages that one goes through while dating:
The first phase of dating is marked with excitement and uncertainty, driven by your attraction for the other person. It happens when you meet someone and despite feeling a spark, you feel awkward around them.
Awkwardness is the first phase of dating as the uncertainty over feelings and lack of knowledge about the other person, makes you nervous around them. You may become extremely conscious as you want to make a good impression.
The second phase is marked by a growing attraction toward the other person.
You may find yourself unable to keep looking in their direction, and trying to find ways to establish contact with them, in-person or through the means of messages and calls.
Research shows that attraction stems from various factors, and yet it plays a significant role in mate selection. It is the attraction phase of the relationship that forces individuals into getting past their nervousness and strongly making steps toward each other.
The third stage of dating is marked by confusion as this is when both partners have to individually assess their emotions and the possibility of a romantic future together.
It is during this phase that you have to decide whether you will move towards being in a committed relationship with each other, take more time to explore things or move on from each other.
The last stage of dating is marked by the movement towards a committed relationship with each other. It is when you start feeling hopeful about having a future together.
The last phase of dating is marked by declaration of intimate feelings by both partners. It is a hopeful stage that overlaps with the beginning stages of a relationship.
Dating vs relationship definition
Dating and relationships are two different stages with two different parameters. One must know the difference to avoid any confusion or embarrassment later.
Is dating the same as being in a relationship? No.
The major difference between dating vs being in a relationship is that once a person is in a relationship, they’ve agreed to be in a commitment with each other. The two individuals, officially or unofficially, have decided to be with each other, exclusively.
However, there is still a difference between exclusive dating vs relationship. In the former, you both have decided not to date anyone else apart from each other, whereas, in the latter, you’ve decided to take things seriously and move forward towards staying together or being with each other only.
Let’s have a quick look at other factors that define dating and relationship differences.
1. Mutual feeling
You’re the best judge of your relationship. The two of you must make a choice that you are either dating or are in a relationship.
When it comes to the difference between dating and relationship, the former doesn’t endow you with any responsibility whereas with the latter there are some responsibilities that you must embrace. So, make sure that you both are in agreement regarding your relationship status.
While dating, you tend to look around and keep in touch with other single people with the hope of a good future.
As mentioned above, you’re not bound with any responsibility so you’re free to date other people as well.
However, when you’re in a serious relationship you leave all this behind since you believe you’ve found a match for yourself. You’re happy with the person and the entire mindset changes. This surely is one of the major points in dating vs relationship.
3. Enjoying each other’s company
When you’re too comfortable with someone and enjoy their company the most, you certainly have moved up the ladder towards a relationship. When considering dating vs relationship, comfort lies on the side of relationships.
You’re no longer just trying to know each other, you both pretty much are comfortable and enjoy each other’s company. You have clarity and would surely like to see things going in a good direction.
4. Making plans together
This is another major dating vs relationship point that can help you understand where you stand. When you’re dating, you may not make plans together quite often. You would rather be with your close friends and family than make plans with someone you’re dating.
However, when you’re in a relationship you make most of your plans with that person. You even plan your trips accordingly. This is a revealing trait when comparing dating versus relationships.
Everyone has a social life and not everyone is welcome in that. Whilst dating, you tend to keep the person away from your social life since you’re not sure of the future together.
This thing changes when you’re in a relationship. You include them in your social life, introduce them to your friends and family, in some cases. This is good progress and perfectly defines dating vs relationship situations.
6. Go-to person
Who would you reach out to in case you have a problem? Someone close to you and someone you trust. It is mostly our friends and family. When you’re not dating anyone and have moved forward then they would be your go-to person. Whenever you have trouble their name comes to your mind along with other names.
Trusting someone is one of the biggest things. In dating vs relationship, look at the fact if you trust your partner or not.
If you like to go out with them and still would like to take some time to trust them, then you’re not there yet. You trust someone who is close to you and someone with whom you have agreed to be in a committed relationship.
Watch this video to learn more about how to build trust in a relationship:
While dating everyone wants to be their best. They don’t want to show their other ugly side and push others away. Only your friends and family have seen you your worst. When someone joins the list, then you aren’t dating anymore. You are entering into a relationship, and that’s a good thing.
Now you should be able to make out the difference between a relationship and dating. Dating is the precursor to a relationship.
9. Declaration of love
An important aspect to consider when looking at dating vs relationships is the declaration of love. Dating is an exploration state between two people, and therefore there is no declaration of love usually involved at this stage. The couple may convey their interest in each other by letting the other person know that they like them.
In relationships, however, you are emotionally connected to your partner and convey your love for them using your words and actions. Experts call these declarations of love the oxygen that keeps relationships alive.
Dating versus being in a relationship is significantly different when it comes to the expectations that you have from your partner.
When you are dating someone, there is no declared commitment with each other, therefore, you are not in a position to expect or demand things and consideration from the other person.
In a relationship, you can expect your partner to show up whenever you need them or to listen to your problems. You can state your expectations to your partner and they can do the same because you are committed to each other.
Notice the usage of the word “us” when you are comparing dating vs being in a relationship.
When you are in a relationship, gradually you start envisioning activities and thoughts in terms of a unit. That is the reason why you start using the “we” in an automatic manner.
In the dating phase, couples still see themselves as independent units that are unaffected by the plans and opinions of the other.
12. The title
The most noticeable difference that occurs when comparing dating vs in a relationship is the way in which you introduce your partner in front of others.
Dating is a stage in which most things are undecided so you don’t refer to your partner differently when introducing them to other people or when mentioning them during conversations.
Being in a relationship gives you the right to call your partner, boyfriend or girlfriend. You can openly refer to each other as partners, which would convey the exclusive position that they hold in your life.
The dating phase is usually categorized by a few weeks or months. It refers to a recent association between two people who are exploring the possibility of being in a relationship with each other.
The difference between a relationship and dating is that a relationship is a long-term commitment. It indicates knowing and loving someone for a significant period of time. The time indicates a serious commitment and investment into the association with each other.
Relationship vs. dating can also be seen in terms of the stability that they entail.
Relationships are usually marked by seriousness and stability as the couple is committed to making things work amongst themselves. It ideally involves maintaining peace and engagement.
Dating, in contrast, can be unstable as you may be exploring your romantic options with more than one person. It involves questioning your feelings and potential with a person, which can make you question everything constantly.
Relationship vs dating definitions as per social standards includes the distinction in the accountability that you have towards the other person. When you are dating someone, you don’t necessarily have to notify the other person in detail about your desire to end the arrangement.
However, if you are in a relationship with someone, you have to discuss things with your partner if you are looking to break up with them. You are answerable to them if you desire to end the relationship.
Research tells us that breaking from a relationship can have a significantly negative impact on the social, psychological and physical well-being of a person.
Can you be dating without being in a relationship?
Dating is a form of exploring whether you can get into a relationship. Therefore, people date without getting into relationships all the time.
It is like a test drive that one takes before they make the decision to invest in one particular person. If they like the person they are dating and see hope for a future together, they can decide to get into a relationship with this person.
Additionally, even in relationships, people go out on dates with their partner, which can make you question, “is dating a relationship?” The simple answer is, no!
Dating vs relationship are significantly different as they are both marked by couples that are in different phases of knowing each other and developing feelings for each other.
The differences mentioned above mark how, even though there might be overlapping traits between the two, relationships and dating are different in terms of the expectations, experiences, commitment and accountability that one has in each of these.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Sylvia Smith loves to share insights on how couples can revitalize their love lives in and out of the bedroom. As a writer at Marriage.com, she is a big believer in living consciously and encourages couples to adopt this principle in their lives too. Sylvia believes that every couple can transform their relationship into a happier, healthier one by taking purposeful and wholehearted action.