You might be looking for an exclusive relationship, but you’re also aware you probably need to go on more than a couple of dates with a person before you get there. The amount of time it takes for a couple to make things official varies widely. Still, there are signs along the way that a relationship is something special. Here are a few benchmarks in the dating timeline that will tell you whether your relationship is real.
How many dates should it take before you’re exclusive with someone?
This is a question many women have, and it makes sense. The older we get, the louder our biological clocks start ticking. For those of us who actually want to get married and have kids, we’re aware that we’re on borrowed time. And even if we’re not keen to lock things down, there’s a sense of urgency. We don’t want to be the last single friend in our group. We want to find someone to build a life with. Plus, we want off the rickety old roller coaster that is the dating scene.
Sadly, how many dates you’ll have to go on with someone before you decide to make it exclusive is up in the air. It really depends on the person and the situation, and that’s unique to each individual couple. If you really hit it off and neither of you is weighed down by relationship baggage, it might happen after a couple of dates. If you’ve been hurt before or they struggle with trust, it may take a little longer. Only you ultimately know whether a person is worth sticking around for. #
Dating milestones that indicate you’re on the right track
- The first date Whether or not you believe in love at first sight, you can learn a lot about the potential of your relationship on the first date. Easy conversation, feeling almost high with excitement and chemistry, and experiencing a growing sense of mutual admiration are all auspicious signs. Some couples even describe feeling so comfortable and natural with each other that it’s almost as if they’d known each other in a past life.
- The first week Do they reach out to you over text to say how much they enjoyed spending time with you? The communication (or lack thereof) that happens between dates is just as important as what happens during the dates themselves. If you feel like they ignore you the second you’re apart, it’s not a good sign. If they immediately text you to ask when they can see you again, you’ll know that they’re just as thrilled with the date as you were. Feeling mutual excitement in the days following your first date is a sign that you might have something special.
- The third date By the third date, the whirlwind of getting to know each other will have eased. You’ll see each other more clearly. Your faces will be more familiar than miraculous, and you may even have a few inside jokes. Plus, your conversational dynamics will have grown clearer as well. If there’s a good balance between listening and talking, serious and silly, you’ve found a healthy rhythm. By the third date, you’ll be able to look at each other more objectively and see if you’re compatible.
- The first month You’ve been on a few dates but you’re not necessarily in an exclusive relationship just yet. If you decide to have sex within the first month, you’ll be learning about a different aspect of your compatibility. (According to several studies, the average couple waits for about eight dates, though many choose to do it right away.) Emotional and physical intimacy are intertwined. If you feel comfortable and safe with your partner during this early period of your relationship, these two components will be able to grow alongside each other healthily. Feeling comfortable during this period does not mean that everything is easy. On the contrary, trusting each other means that you can confront issues as they arise. If you can do this within the first month, you’re on the right path.
- The tenth date There is a “rule” in dating that states that men need ten dates to decide to commit to a woman. This is simplistic (men’s hearts are not regulated by a schedule any more than women’s are), but it does hold some truth: only a committed person would bother having ten dates with someone. If they were on the fence or dating around, they probably wouldn’t make it that far. But just having a tenth date doesn’t mean you’re destined to have a great relationship. Do you feel supported by them at this stage? Do they prioritize spending time with you? These are the questions you should ask yourself by the tenth date to evaluate the merits of the relationship.
- Three months By three months, you should have a comfortable rhythm. You should feel like a priority. You should still feel infatuated and excited, while also feeling like you can be yourselves around each other. In addition to this emotional process, you’ll be sorting out the logistics of integrating your lives. This makes it one of the most critical periods in your relationship. In an interview with Bustle, dating coach Anna Morgenstern suggests that three months is a crux moment in a relationship when a couple decides to make their relationship official or call it quits.
- Meeting each other’s families No matter how solid your relationship is, things will be complicated by meeting each other’s families. You will see different sides of each other. Your quirks, mannerisms, and personalities will become clearer when seen alongside your families, and you’ll be able to imagine what a long-term relationship would look like. You don’t have to love each other’s families to have a happy long-term partnership, but it will definitely make things easier.
- Six months By six months, rifts will have emerged. You may have very different ideas about how much time you should spend together, what commitment looks like, or how you like spending time together. You may have baggage from previous relationships that needs to be sorted through, or you may simply find that your values do not match. By six months, these issues will be apparent, and whether you can overcome them will dictate whether you are able to make it as a couple.
- Your first trip together You can’t truly know your partner until you’ve been on a trip with them. Even the best-laid plans are disrupted when you travel, and you will both feel out of your depth in a new place. You’ll learn about each other’s problem-solving abilities, patience, and flexibility. You’ll also learn if your planning and traveling methods are compatible. Going on vacation will show you whether you make a good team. If you can make it back home at the end of the trip with more happy memories than resentments, you may be destined to be together.
- A year It is harder to be objective about your relationship after a year. Your patterns of communication and relationship dynamics will be set, for better or for worse. At this point, the best way to tell if your relationship is solid and “real” is by noticing how you feel on a day-to-day basis. Are you tired and irritable most of the time, or do you feel lighthearted and content? How do you talk about your partner with your friends? Are you dismissive and resigned, or complimentary and loving? By now, you’ll have been on what feels like a million dates and you should be in a happy exclusive relationship.
Red flags to notice on dates that indicate you’ll never be exclusive
While it’s much more enjoyable to keep track of signs that your relationship will thrive, it’s just as important to look for red flags that foretell a less-than-happy outcome. Here’s how red flags present themselves:
- The first date is a bit of a disaster. We all know what a bad first date looks like. The person talks about themself incessantly, doesn’t show any interest in you, or is rude to strangers. Other bad signs include badmouthing exes, revealing sexist views, and constant phone checking. All of these behaviors indicate that you don’t have a future with that person.
- You’ve been on 10 dates and there’s no sign of progression. If the 10-date rule is to be believed, you should feel some level of commitment from the other person by this time. You should feel comfortable and special around them. If you suspect that they’re leading you on or continuing to follow other relationship prospects without being transparent about it, you shouldn’t expect them to get better with time.
- They always talk about how they love “hanging out” with you. And sure, maybe it’s genuine. However, no matter how many dates you’ve been on, you’ll never be exclusive if they say this. Same goes for if they remark on loving your “friendship.” Or, maybe they love “going with the flow.” These are indications of a commitment-phobe.
- They’re into keeping their options open. Obviously, they don’t need to delete their dating apps after the first date. That being said, if it’s been a month or more and they’re still swiping, that’s a problem. They’re obviously not that invested in you. If they were, they’d want to give you their full attention.