What’s The Difference Between Dating And A Relationship?

If you’re seeing someone you really like, you might be eager to know if you can officially call what you have a relationship. All relationships are different and everyone sets their own rules. So there’s no universal law that dictates whether or not two people are in a relationship or just dating. But in general, a conversation needs to happen so that both people are on the same page. Additionally, there are several other signs that your dating stage has evolved into a real relationship, even if you’re yet to put a label on it. Check them out below!

  1. A relationship tends to have a label. In most cases, people know for sure they’re in a relationship when they put a label on it. If you have a conversation with the other person and decide to call each other girlfriend, boyfriend, or any other specific label, you can generally assume you’re officially in a relationship. You might also have a conversation where you both determine that you are official, rather than just dating. In many cases, people don’t assume that they’re in a relationship until they have this conversation with their partner to make sure they’re on the same page. But every situation is different! Sometimes, people will assume without labels or communication, mostly because they’ve noticed the below signs.
  2. Relationships are usually exclusive. Relationships tend to be exclusive. If your date is also dating other people, they probably don’t consider themselves to be in a relationship with you. Of course, the exception is when people get into open relationships. If you are in a relationship with someone who also sees other people, this will almost always be communicated beforehand.
  3. Dating can be only for the short term. For many people, the dating stage is a short-term thing. You date someone for a while, and if it works out, you move into a relationship. If it doesn’t, you stop seeing each other. Rarely do people date for the long-term, over years, without getting into an official relationship. Sometimes, a person will want to keep dating you and tell you they’re not looking for a relationship. This usually means they want the good parts of a relationship without the commitment. In other words, they want to keep spending time with you, but owe you nothing and be able to leave at the drop of a hat.
  4. Dating usually means no serious attachment. Two people who are just dating tend not to be attached to each other. The whole thing feels fun and casual. And if they were to stop seeing each other tomorrow, it might be surprising, but it wouldn’t be a life-changing thing the way a relationship break-up can be. Before people get into a relationship, they tend not to rely on each other the way they do when they are officially a couple. People in a relationship are partners. People who are dating are having fun.
  5. In a relationship, two people prioritize each other. According to Bonobology, one of the key differences between dating and a relationship is that two people in a relationship make each other a priority. Relationships take work, and both people have to put in effort for the relationship to be healthy. That person rises on your list of important people, and it gets to the stage where you’d do just about anything for them.
  6. A relationship continues past the honeymoon stage. As mentioned, relationships take work. Dating mostly stays in the honeymoon stage, where your time together revolves around fun and bliss. Relationships continue on after that, even during stages where things aren’t so fun. A relationship is about two people doing life together, which invariably comes with challenges. Two people in an official relationship are committed to staying together even when things aren’t fun.
  7. Relationships involve spending time together without actual dates. When people talk about someone they’re dating, they usually mean a person they go on actual dates with. It doesn’t matter whether those dates are at home or out in public. Dating tends to revolve around scheduled dates. A relationship, on the other hand, involves spending time together without actual dates. You hang out just because, even when you don’t have anything to do.
  8. In a relationship, people integrate their lives together. Ultimately, a relationship is about two people who integrate their lives together. Relationships are hard work because they involve a couple co-ordinating their schedules to fit in with each other. Dating is the stage when two people are leading separate lives that occasionally intertwine. But relationships happen when those two people bring their lives together to create a new life as one. That doesn’t mean you lose your identity or freedom when you get into a relationship. But the other person comes to hold a significant place in your life, rather than just being someone you catch up with every now and then.
Vanessa Locampo is an Aussie writer who’s equally obsessed with YA fiction and pasta. Her time is divided between writing all the things, reading all the things, listening to Queen, and bopping her cat on the nose. She has a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing and has written for sites including Hotsprings.co and Discovering Montana, and currently works as an editor at Glam. You can keep up with her on Instagram @vanessaellewrites.