I Thought We Were Dating But He Says We’re Just “Hanging Out”—What Does That Even Mean?

A recent study by USA Today found that nearly 70 percent of single women and men are confused about whether they’re on a date or not. Such a high number seems absolutely ridiculous, but I experienced this crazy confusion myself when I was spending time with a guy who said we were “hanging out” and left it at that. WTF did that even mean?

  1. He wasn’t sure. I don’t get the whole “hanging out” thing. It’s not exactly dating, is it? I mean, if I look back on my time with this guy, we sidestepped all the traditional couple things like going out for dinner and holding hands at the movies. We hung out with his friends or we did things like go for drinks. He kept saying we were “hanging out” but all I could think was, “This guy’s not sure about me.”
  2. He didn’t like me enough. If he’d liked me, he would’ve wanted to date me properly and we would’ve been clear about the terms from the start. I know building a connection and seeing if there’s something between us is important, but the terms are equally valuable, otherwise, it’s like we’re in some sort of dating purgatory.
  3. He stalled relationship progression. What the guy was really saying was that he didn’t want to progress to relationship milestones and he showed it with his actions. Whenever I tried to get him to one of those couple-like dates, he always bolted. He was quite happy to keep things in the “hanging out” phase.
  4. He wanted sex. I imagine he was hoping to get some sex out of the deal without having any strings or feelings attached and without making any promises. It feels so cowardly and I’d never fall for it. I’m glad we didn’t have sex because I would’ve felt so used.
  5. He didn’t want expectations. It’s convenient for him to say we were hanging out. It meant that we were keeping things light and casual without any expectations getting in the way. I know it’s good to live in the moment, but honestly, when a guy says he doesn’t want expectations, all I hear is that he’s gonna freak out if things get serious. This is not boyfriend material.
  6. He had other women on the go. One of the most disturbing things for me while this guy and I were hanging out was that he was probably hanging out with other women, and who knew if they were having sex? I mean, why wouldn’t he be hanging out with other women? It’s hanging out, not dating—and there’s my problem.
  7. He wasn’t actually dating me. I was hoping “hanging out” would become “dating officially” but that never happened and I don’t know why I was surprised. He wasn’t acting like he wanted to take steps to a more solid, exclusive setting. We were just hovering around on the dating sidelines.
  8. “Casual” is a waste of timeCasual dating seems like the biggest lie ever! I want to be serious about someone I date. I don’t want to keep things casual and lukewarm. I want to dive into the deep end of the pool, not sit around bored in the shallow end. I hate “hanging out” and “casual dating” because it gives people the green light to waste each other’s time.
  9. What’s there to figure out? When I confronted the guy and asked him if he was still happy to hang out, he said it was good because we could “figure things out.” Um, what? He knew me very well already and we’d spent quite a bit of time together. It felt like such a cop-out, like he just didn’t want to hurt my feelings.
  10. He was filling a gap. “Hanging out” always makes me think of people just sitting around, not really doing anything but just killing time. That’s exactly what this guy was doing with me. He was just filling a gap between relationships and when someone better came along, we stopped “hanging out.” That was it. He moved on so easily, leaving me feeling confused AF.
  11. He’s a man-child. This guy clearly didn’t want to commit to anything serious, but it seems so damn childish. I wish he’d just been open with me about that instead of hiding behind the “hanging out” term. That way, I could’ve moved on much earlier.
  12. He tried the friend card. After our times together started to fizzle out and he was always too busy to see me, he asked if we could still be friends. Ouch. I couldn’t be friends with him and this surprised him. He then asked if I thought he’d led me on and I said that’s what it felt like. He was quick to say, “But we were just hanging out.” Oh, well played, loser. Well played.
  13. It removed his guilt. This guy wasn’t keen on anything serious with me and using the excuse of “hanging out” gave him the perfect exit when he didn’t want to see me anymore. It also absolved him of any guilt because he hadn’t promised me anything.
  14. It felt like a test. Another thing I hate about “hanging out” is that it feels like a test, like I have to undergo scrutiny before the guy decides if he wants to date me or not. Only, there are no clear answers. Instead of being let down easily by the end of it, the guy just fades out. I’ve come to realize that if he was interested, he wouldn’t have needed to hang out in the first place. He would’ve just asked me out on a real date.
  15. There’s a “hanging out” limit. One of the biggest signs that this guy didn’t want a relationship with me was that our “hanging out” phase lasted almost two months. That’s a problem. I get that sometimes it’s cool to hang out a few times to see if there’s a connection, but continuing the phase for too long is really just another way of saying, “I’m not into you… but I’m too much of a coward to tell you.”
Giulia Simolo is a writer from Johannesburg, South Africa with a degree in English Language and Literature. She has been working as a journalist for more than a decade, writing for sites including AskMen, Native Interiors, and Live Eco. You can find out more about her on Facebook and LinkedIn, or follow her on Twitter @GiuliaSimolo.