How Is Dating Different From Being in a Relationship?

Dating vs relationships

Being in a relationship and dating are very interesting, exciting, and sensitive positions to be in regarding our romantic lives.

They come with lots of awareness, awakenings, consciousness, vulnerability, and accountability.

I think of them as a ‘Venn diagram’ with overlapping sectors. Due to this, it is very common to find people to mistake one for the other and attribute features of one half of the coin to the other.

The concept of dating versus being in a relationship is one that can be given several symbolic representations.

One such that can help give a clear picture is ‘swimming’.

Think of prospective partners as being a ‘pool’; for dating, you’re allowed to take several dives into the pool to learn about swimming, find your swimming style or pattern, decide on what stroke suits you, and test the depth that you can handle, and so on. Being in a relationship, it is comparable to having found rhythm, being in your groove, finding your feet, and hitting your stride.

Dating typically entails attraction and flirtation while being in a relationship is marked by commitment.

With the following points, I will be drawing parallels between dating and being in a relationship.

1. Level of Seriousness

Being in a relationship versus dating relationships differs in the level of seriousness of the relationship and the partners in it.  Typically, dating relationships tend to be casual and mild in their outlook while proper relationships are serious romantically for both parties.

As such, a dating relationship is one where both parties court each other’s interests and attention on a very subdued level but have no serious responsibilities to themselves or their friends and respective families.

2. Time

Usually, the first few months after meeting each other and trying to get to know each other is the dating period. It only becomes a relationship when both parties have gone past the first few interactions or dates, made impressions on each other, and a willingness to take ‘ the big jump’ to the next stage which is a relationship.

There are no hard and fast rules to this because timing differs and is relative but it is important to note that the phase must have been completed over a duration before a relationship comes about.

3. Exclusivity

As mentioned in the introduction, in the dating versus ‘being in a relationship’ complex, the dynamic changes.

Usually, dating allows for making experiments and trying out several options. Meeting new people, trying out new ideas, exploring different options and all such varieties fall within the purview of dating. However, things change when a relationship is in the picture because both partners are expected to be exclusive to each other out of respect for each other and the union. 

The only exception here is in the case of open relationships.

4. Declaration of Love

It is very common to find the word ‘love’ thrown about rather carelessly, these days. It is especially sad when it is not meant and just brandished as a means of getting to an end or pushing an agenda. In the true scheme of things, romantic love should only be expressed within a romantic relationship.

The three letters: ‘I love you should only be expressed within that context. For dating, it shouldn’t go beyond expressing love for their admirable features to avoid making things complicated.

5. Priorities and Expectations

Dating versus being in a relationship comes with appreciating and acknowledging the differences in priorities and expectations for each phase. Dating is such that expectations are minimal and you are not required to make any more exceptions for partners than necessary.

However, in a relationship expectations are different because the stakes are higher and there should be a change in priorities that would accommodate partners in the work-life balance.

6. Comfort

Dating and romantic relationships also differ in the level of comfort and security that both partners have for each other.  This is not an excuse to be lax or disrespectful but both partners should be comfortable enough with each other to not have to put on a show around each other but should be their relaxed selves whether in dressing, speech or mannerisms or not depending on the status of the interaction.

For dating, both partners should be on edge but being in a relationship means settling and being assured as a couple.

7. Details

Dating, when compared to romantic relationships has a different level of openness and accountability. For one, both partners are not certain of the future of the interaction and certain information is simply inappropriate in a dating sense. 

In a relationship, however, both partners are expected to hold no secrets. From family to work to hobbies to trifles. No holds barred.

8. Title and Pronouns

In a dating relationship, there are no labels while a proper relationship would have each partner aptly tagged as a girl/boyfriend or significant other to reflect the position of things in the relationship, especially to the public or pet names between themselves. Such pronouns as ‘we’ and ‘us’ will also be used in a dating relationship.

There you have it, folks. 

When it’s time to properly define things or address the ‘elephant in the room’ in a romantic sense, these are good pointers as to where you stand and offer great guidelines for speech and actions thereby. 

Best wishes for your relationships!


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