Have you ever wondered about dating vs. in a relationship? I can see how you might be confused, so I’m here to clarify.
While it might not seem like it, there are quite a few differences between just dating and being in a relationship. I think once you read through them, dating vs. in a relationship will be all cleared up for you!
The most fundamental differences between dating and being in a relationship boil down to your intention and the relationship’s trajectory.
In other words, what are your goals with this relationship? This is one of those instances where you and your guy need to be on the same page. If he’s just in it for the sex (think player), but you’re looking for your forever man, Houston, we have a problem.
Let’s see if we can’t clear this one up today!
Dating vs. In a Relationship | Definitions
First, let’s get some terminology down.
What is Dating?
Dating is where you explore a new person. You take time to get to know them before you commit to being exclusive.
Think about dating as a wine flight. You go to a bar, and you order a flight of six of their new wines. You taste each and decide which one you want to go with for the evening.
Dating is the same thing. You line up a few men and date them several times to see which one might be a good fit.
You’re exploring one another to see if the likes and dislikes match. Are your values aligned? Can you have fun together?
Dating is a time of curiosity and hope. It’s marked by uncertainty and lots of first dates. Usually, dating lasts just two to three months before you either slide into a relationship or go your separate ways.
What is a Relationship?
When you move from dating to being in a relationship, you choose to be committed to this one person. The expectation is either marriage or a long-term relationship, depending on your wants.
The exploration continues in a relationship, but it’s on a deeper level. You experience an increased romantic, emotional, and sexual attraction to one another.
In a relationship, you’re exploring the possibility of a life-long commitment.
Stages of Dating
Dating progresses through natural stages that mark whether you advance toward a relationship or ultimately find someone else.
The first stage of dating is attraction. A man sees a woman from across the room and summons the courage to approach or vice versa.
The second stage of dating is awkwardness. This happens right after one of you approaches the other. You’re unsure if your approach is welcome, and you’re nervous about making a great first impression.
Once you move past awkwardness, you re-enter attraction on a deeper level.
While you like this guy, you’re unsure how he feels about you. You’re dating other people, and for all you know, he’s really hot for someone else.
You’re now assessing your feelings for this guy and wondering if he could be the one. At this point, you decide whether he’s someone you want to be exclusive with.
If you move past uncertainty and are still together, you’re beginning to form an intimate partnership. This is the prelude to your relationship, but things can still go the other way. Remember that you’re still exploring, and things can still come up to derail the whole thing.
Stages of a Relationship
You can best read about the stages of a relationship here. Although the article combines the stages of dating with the stages of a relationship, it’s still a great way to determine where you are.
Dating vs. In a Relationship | The Differences
Dating is About Finding Out if You Fit Together
When you date someone, and please read this carefully, your main goal is to determine if you fit together. Are you compatible with the big stuff? Of course, this conversation doesn’t happen immediately, and much of this fact-finding mission isn’t about having a conversation.
When you first meet someone new, one of two things usually happens. Either you have great chemistry right away, and everything seems to click, or the date falls flat, and you struggle to maintain a conversation.
This is why I never suggest dinner dates. Dinner dates are better suited for date nights when you and your guy need to spend quality time reconnecting. By then, you have plenty to talk about.
Dating is about having fun and getting to know one another. You do that by exploring the world around you. Act like you’re new to your town and set out to explore it. Go to sporting events, even if it’s high school football. Explore museums and other historical venues. Go to local events. Do things together.
That’s how you really get to know someone. That’s dating.
Dating Has a Lower Level of Commitment
Initially dating someone new, you have no commitment to them. You should be dating more than one man until you are in a committed relationship. It helps you know what you like and dislike about different men.
You aren’t sexually exclusive, although I encourage you to hold off on having sex until a man has proven that he’s worthy of you. Additionally, when dating, there’s no commitment to be there for the complicated stuff. You can be, of course, but there’s no obligation.
Dating vs. In a Relationship | When Can You Be Yourself?
Please don’t be angry with me for what I’m about to say. I mean it most kindly. When people are dating, they’re essentially marketing the best version of themselves. You’re constantly worried about saying or doing the wrong thing.
Once you’re in a relationship, you’re comfortable being yourself. You’ve seen one another’s flaws, and you’re okay with them.
Relationships Require Compromise
When you’re dating, it’s easier to be a little selfish. If you don’t want to go out with him on Friday, you can call or text and make an excuse without feeling too guilty. You don’t have a commitment, so if you don’t want to go out, don’t sweat it.
But it would help if you learned how to compromise in a relationship. He went to your best friend’s baby shower, even though he still has no idea why men were invited, and now, it’s your turn to go to his buddy’s house to hang out for the evening.
And the compromise goes further than that because a relationship is all about compromise. Neither of you can expect to have things your way all the time. It’s selfish and unrealistic.
Relationships are Exclusive
When you’re considering dating vs. in a relationship, probably the easiest thing to do is define a point in time where things change from one to the other. That point is when you decide to be exclusive with one another, and no, that isn’t after your first date.
Once you’ve dated a guy for a while and the relationship feels good, the two of you can decide to become exclusive. You’ve been together and determined that you share values and goals for your future. You know he’s worthy of you, and he’s sure you’re the confident woman he thought you were when he first saw you.
The decisions you make now are for the two of you. Where will you live? Who pays the electric bill? Which one of you does the cooking?
Dating vs. In a Relationship | Introductions
When you’re in a relationship, you introduce one another as boyfriend or girlfriend, but when you’re just dating, you might introduce one another as friends or someone you’re dating.
Boyfriend or girlfriend status is reserved for that commitment stage of the relationship. That’s why it can feel uncomfortable to introduce a guy that way for the first time. It’s because you’re taking a giant leap into relationship territory.
The Communication is on a Different Level
When you’re in a relationship, you’re more likely to discuss the minute details of life, whereas when you’re dating, you stick to surface material most of the time.
As you draw closer to making a mutually exclusive commitment, conversations will deepen, but when you’re dating, it’s more about where to go the next time you go out or whether you enjoyed the movie you just saw.
Dating vs. In a Relationship | The Expectations are Different
You expect less of them when dating someone, or you should anyway. I see this causing many problems early in relationships.
Often, the woman thinks they’re more committed than they are, and she becomes frustrated when he doesn’t meet her expectations. Meanwhile, he doesn’t expect a lot yet and doesn’t feel he has any need to meet your expectations.
In a relationship, you expect your partner to be more present, and, depending on your living situation, you may also expect him to pitch in more.
Their Priority in Your Life is Greater in a Relationship
When dating someone, they are less of a priority in your life. Time with your friends and family may come before time with someone you’re just dating.
In a relationship, however, you prioritize them more. If you choose between going to a social event hosted by his work or doing an Outlander binge with your besties, you should prioritize the work event. He’s your priority now.
Dating vs. In a Relationship | Your Social Lives
Generally, unless you meet through mutual friends, you won’t introduce someone you’re just dating to your social network. Men do this to avoid hearing all the comments from their friends. The uncertainty of your future isn’t worth it.
If his friends love you, they’ll get after him if he doesn’t choose you, and if they don’t, they’ll be your demise before he’s ready to give up.
The “L” Word
When dating, you shouldn’t expect to hear him say he loves you and vice versa. You’re not there yet. You’re exploring one another, and men don’t usually fall in love that quickly anyway.
Once you enter a committed relationship, the “L” word is more likely to come out, although maybe not immediately.
Dating vs. In a Relationship | You’re an “Us” in a Relationship
When dating, you don’t think of you and your guy as “us” or “we.” If your best friend invites you to her wedding, she invites you and a guest.
When you’re in a relationship, you’re part of a “we.” You’re a unit, and people think of you as one, not two individual people. That wedding invitation will have both of your names.
Walking Away is Easier When You’re Dating
Many women contact me after a man they’ve been dating for just a few weeks suddenly exits their lives. While that’s a crappy way to end things with someone, that’s sometimes how men do it.
These women are desperate to get the guy back, but there is little hope for one reason. You weren’t together long enough to build the intimacy you have in a relationship.
It’s harder to walk away from a relationship with feelings of love and commitment, but when you’re dating, it’s easier to stop seeing someone.
Women often mistake dating with being in a relationship, which makes the exit of these guys so painful.
Dating vs. In a Relationship | Action versus Label
Dating is an action. You are dating someone to learn more about them. A relationship is a label of what you have when you become committed to one another.
You’ll always date one another, but the differences above determine your overall commitment.
Dating Vs. In a Relationship | The Final Word
Hopefully, you’ve seen the importance of understanding dating vs. in a relationship. Too often, we find someone we have great chemistry with and immediately believe we’re in a relationship with them, but that isn’t the case.
Relationships require a dedicated effort and a level of caring that isn’t present when you first date someone new.
I encourage you to slow down when you’re dating and to date more than one guy at a time. Once you’re sure things are going well and he’s proven worthy, you can move to something more committed and long-term.
Meanwhile, have fun. Date different types of men and learn what you like and dislike. Put these men to the test and allow one to rise to the top naturally.
To date a man, you must understand a man. Men and women do almost everything differently, and sometimes for different motivations. To a man, his financial status indicates how well he can take care of you and your family. It's a source of pride for him to be able to do so, even if you make your own money and can support yourself.
It's how he was raised.
Men also love differently. Many relationships breakup for the simple reason that a man is showing a woman how much he loves her, but he isn't saying the words she longs to hear. He's taking her car to get the oil changed, building the shelves she desires in her office and helping with the outside chores. You're probably missing many of these signs that he loves you.
You gain so much insight into the male mind that you'll be amazed at what you suddenly see and understand in the behavior of all men around you. Not just the man you're in a relationship with, but the men you work with and those in your family.
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