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Dating vs. Relationship: 14 Signs to Know Your True Status

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Are you wondering where you stand, or whether you’ve crossed the finish line? These 14 steps will reveal your true dating vs. relationship status.

Casual dating is a marvelous way of getting to know all kinds of people, without having to feel tied down to anyone until you’re absolutely ready. It’s not a crime; it’s a necessity. That being said, it is important to remember that your dynamic with anyone, regardless of who it is, won’t be as intense or committed as in a serious relationship.

Serious relationships tend to be monogamous and long-term—or at least conducted with that intention in mind. Even if it doesn’t pan out, there was a level of seriousness there that reflected commitment—more so than casual dating ever provides. There’s also the underlying message: love is there. Love isn’t a word thrown around lightly when casually dating. Let’s consider the signs, to see where you might be.

Casual dating

So, are you still in the non-exclusive stage of casual dating where hearts are fluttering with affection, but nothing’s too sure just yet? Use these signs.

#1 Casual dating can mean friends with benefits. This isn’t always the case, but there’s a chance that if you’re casually dating, you have a friend who’s also single, and you’re having sex on occasion. This doesn’t mean you’re in a relationship; it means you’re both helping each other with sexual frustration. If there was more to it—something serious—there would have been a discussion. [Read: 16 signs you’re not yet ready for a serious relationship]

#2 Odds are, there’s more than one person. Because you’re not serious with any one person, there are probably 2+ people in the picture at any given time. Maybe you’re texting one person, but planning a coffee date with another. It’s not wrong; since you’re not tied down, you’re simply screening a list of potential candidates. It could also be that you’re having fun, and taking a break from dating, but still want people to do things with.

#3 May or may not include sex. Casual dating doesn’t mean you have to sleep with everyone you talk to. On any given day, you might meet someone new, or stop talking to someone you’ve been talking to for months. The idea of sleeping with every single person that comes and goes isn’t exactly realistic for most people. In fact, sometimes casual daters don’t sleep with anyone at all, opting to wait until a serious relationship is established.

#4 May see each other occasionally, or even a little more. If you’re not serious with someone, why see them all the time? Might as well see them on occasion, or maybe regularly, but not most of the time. The minute you see them too much, you inch closer to something more serious.

#5 The chances for unfulfilled romantic feelings are high. This is a sad reality that everyone needs to understand: sometimes you won’t end up on the same page. It could be that one of you has intense feelings, and the other doesn’t. It could be that one of you wants to commit to a relationship, but the other one isn’t ready, despite having romantic feelings. Life is hard, and love is perhaps one of the hardest aspects of it. Timelines don’t always match up. [Read: 20 signs you’re wasting time in a one sided relationship]

#6 Might not know each others’ friends. Think of friends as a test. You have to prove yourself to meet someone’s friends, then prove yourself again upon meeting them. If you’re still in the proving part, you may or may not have a shot. Now, if the person makes it obvious you’re not even close, and will never meet their friends, it’s never going to get serious.

#7 Level of seriousness is low. Casual daters don’t usually find themselves sighing on a bench, in a garden, fantasizing about a long, lasting future with someone. The expectation is low, so marriage and family planning aren’t really on the table. The minute serious topics come up, someone has developed feelings. [Read: 8 subtle signs your casual fling is turning into a relationship]

Relationship

If you’re already in love, but just want to feel reassured that the feeling is mutual and everything’s just dandy in loveland, look for these subtle signs in your romance.

#1 It’s been made official, obviously. If you two lovebirds had the whole “we should be an item,” conversation, then things are pretty clear. The reason you’re reading this article is either because your partner forgot about the conversation, or you’re having a terrible time.

#2 Monogamous—you’re just sleeping with each other. This is a huge sign. Say you haven’t had the “official” conversation yet, but you’ve established that you’re not sleeping with other people. That means there’s a chance you’re easing into a serious relationship with the person, but are waiting to become an official item. [Read: 15 clear signs your guy wants a real relationship with you]

#3 Both parties see a potential future together. It may sound obvious, but people get tunnel vision and focus on the present, so it’s a good reminder: being in a serious relationship means you’re aiming for a future together. There are too many couples out there that simply don’t work, for various reasons *immaturity, incompatibility, different goals, etc*. To build a future, you have to focus on your level of compatibility. How good of a chance do you really have at making it work for the rest of your lives? This is something that was considered, and weighed in at “let’s try this.” [Read: 50 quick questions to test your relationship compatibility immediately]

#4 If trust is ever broken, the relationship suffers. In a casual setting, people expect their sexual partners to have other sexual partners. If someone lies, no real emotion is involved. Meanwhile, in a relationship, these things will break trust, and trust is not something you want to lose. It’s almost impossible to get back and, chances are, you’ll spend your time kissing your partner’s feet and feeling inferior, until the love is gone on both sides.

#5 Sex is more meaningful. Sure, casual sex is pretty easy to come by, but at the end of the day, it means nothing more than the motion of the ocean. Sex in a relationship is meaningful, because there’s a love connection there *hopefully*, and it makes the act more than just about lust.

#6 You know each others’ friends. Your friends have been around for however long, so they’re important to you. If you introduce someone to them, then they did something right and earned their way to your friends. If it wasn’t serious, you’d never come close.

#7 Strong emotional connection. When two people get together in a serious relationship, regardless of anything else *even common sense, sometimes*, they have a strong emotional connection. The love is there, and that’s a word that isn’t used in a causal relationship. You miss the person when they’re gone, you put energy into making them happy, and you include them in decision-making. There’s both a want, and a healthy level of need, to have that person in your life.

[Read: 19 clear signs the two of you are ready for a serious relationship]

Differentiating the dating vs. relationship status can be a little messy, depending on the situation. Sometimes, nothing serious is spoken, but serious actions are undertaken. Other times, the right words are there, but the feelings aren’t. But by using these signs, you’ll be in a better position to know just where you are.

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Jennifer Mendez
Jennifer Mendez
Jennifer is a writer, director, consultant and author, with a passion for all things literary. While she works on a variety of projects at a time, her one true ...
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DISCUSSION

5 thoughts on “Dating vs. Relationship: 14 Signs to Know Your True Status”

  1. Beck R. says:

    Casual Dating is a concept that was not so common in the past but with the current scenario; you need to opt for it before locking yourself in a serious relationship. I mean; you do not have to sleep with all the guys you meet; but casual dating provides a good platform or knowing the people of opposite sex and you can choose the right person for you. Case being made; once you have locked yourself in a relationship; you cannot move back and you have to live with it. So, in my opinion; people should go or causal dating before picking their partner.

  2. Fitzgerald says:

    Well, firstly I would like to put my hat down *invisble hat off* to the author of this lovely article. I imagine it’s quite helpful for people to differ the dating and the relationship, which are two different terms in our modern society, I’m afraid. But, are you ready for a paradox, fellows? This girl and I, we’ve been friends with benefits for quite some time and she’s ok with it and so am I. Wait for it, and you know we had fun weekends and everything and it may sound like a movie, but it’s 100% true. I started to fall in love with her. With every passing day I think about her more and more and I’d like to ask her to be my gf. I will hopefully transition from casual dating to relationship. You know what? I’m looking forward to it!

  3. down syndrome sucks says:

    I will be sharing based on my own experience. I am currently in a committed relationship for over a year now, but am also basing this off of my parents’ experience as well. Dating and “being in a relationship” are both about getting to know the person. But it is very different when you are casually dating versus when you are in a committed relationship. When you are casually dating, you are focused on the “here and now.” You’re learning about the other person’s personality, whether you are having fun, what you are doing together, and whether you want to see this person again in the nearby future. Some people who casually date are into the hook-up scene. If two people hook-up right away, the chances of a relationship developing could diminish. But it all depends on intention: does either person want to be “exclusive” or “committed”? If only one person wants a commitment, then in all likelihood somebody will end things – either because someone wants somebody who will commit, or someone wants to avoid the commitment. But if two people are dating and enjoying each other’s company, and both are thinking of being more exclusive, then eventually they will have “the talk”: Will you be my boyfriend/girlfriend/etc.? So what happens when you are in a relationship? You make the time and the effort to see each other. Even if you two live far away, you set plans, and you commit to them. You laugh. You cry. You share all your weird quirks, all your vulnerabilities, your family, your friends, everything. The more you share, and the more time you spend together, you are always considering: “Do I want to spend my time, my effort, my life with this person?” Sooner or later, you two will fight. Some fights are small fights, some fights are big fights. The fights are the most important factor in whether a relationship will last or not. Why? Firstly, it’s only healthy for a couple to fight every once in a while. You need to air your grievances. It’s not healthy to bottle them up. But how you two fight will determine whether your relationship is strong enough to last. Do you two yell? Cuss? Insult each other? Blame fault on the other? Or…do you state the problem? Explain how you are feeling? Are you willing to apologize for where you have wronged, and as willingly able to forgive your partner? Fighting issues together rather than against each other brings you two even closer together. Two people causally dating are most likely not ready to handle problems and arguments in a way that can strengthen their bond, although if they can it may help them realize how strong they are together. Early dating should be fun though. It’s the rare chance to open up and be with each other in a way that is relatively stress-free and enjoyable, without any strings attached. Relationships grow with time, and with time require a renewed sense of commitment, love, trust, and intimacy, or they can wither and die. Too many fights that tear a couple apart are toxic to the very nature of the relationship. A person should stand by their partner, not against.

  4. spring into action says:

    Been in a relationship for one and a half years. I still take her out on dates and try to impress her, and she does the same for me. I’ve known her for three years and everyday I’m trying to outdo the day before that. Yes after awhile it might slow down when you get comfortable but that by no means should stop you trying to create awesome memories with your SO. We look as every time we hang out as an adventure. For example we were once driving to the beach and I got lost. At first we were kinda scared but after a while we said screw it lets just drive aimlessly exploring. We found a lake neither of us knew about and it was relatively isolated. We went there instead and had the best time of out life there. This and we also take time to just sit in our pjs and watch movies and eat ice cream all day. Once you get comfortable doesn’t mean the fun has to end. When you get comfortable is when you truly get to know the other person because they aren’t busy trying to impress you or you trying to impress them. When you get comfortable is when you truly fall in love. I feel like it needed to be said because people stop “dating” after they begin a relationship.

  5. verbois says:

    I hate to get all “sciency” on it, but here goes: Let’s assume the people are involved are monogamous. Plurality adds too many variables for a short discussion. Boyfriend, girlfriend, dating, seeing, in certain situations have ambiguous meanings. Friends with benefits can have sex but not be in a “committed relationship.” It’s best to look at it from asking these questions: These factors can be mutually exclusive: Is the couple sexually active with one another? Does a person in the pairing still seek companionship of others (with the potential eventual goal of having a sexual relationship) ? Forget the terms “boyfriend” and “girlfriend”. What matters is the level of comfort with the potential for exclusive sex and companionship.

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