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7 Major Differences Between Dating vs. Relationship
Relationship Advice

7 Major Differences Between Dating vs. Relationship

When does dating turn into a committed relationship? When you kiss? When you open up? Here are the 7 key differences between dating and being in a relationship.

Together Team
February 14, 2022

In an era of endless choice and instant communication, knowing where you stand romantically with someone can be confusing. 

If you are texting a lot, does it mean you are together? What if you are having regular sex? Or what if you leave personal stuff at each other’s place? 

There are several stages in a relationship that you should consider before describing yourself as taken, casually dating, or available. Read further to know the 7 big differences between dating and a committed relationship.

Dating vs. Relationship

1. Dating may not be exclusive, a relationship should be

Unless you and your partner has agreed otherwise (that you're in an open relationship), a relationship should be exclusive. But dating doesn’t have to be. It's possible that you may text and date several people in parallel in order to meet someone to build a committed relationship with. And your dates could do the same.

In dating, there are no obligations.

Dating can be seen like an interviewing: you test out chemistry, common interests, and future plans. With some people, you can go on several dates and maintain contact in between, while with others, it may be only one encounter. However, you can be talking or dating other people too, as long as you did not make any promises and no promises were made to you.

Moving towards a committed relationship can take a few dates or a great connection between you and a potential partner. You’ll usually know when it’s time to consider becoming exclusive, but you should also discuss this with them to get their thoughts about it. Exclusivity in a relationship is mutual, and committed relationships are also about heartfelt conversations and sharing intimate thoughts and feelings.

2. A relationship is more about comfort, dating is more about impressing

Dating vs. relationship looks and attitudes of people can be quite different. Because dating is similar to an interview, you’ll usually see other people’s best version of themselves, and you will probably show others the same. 

You want them to like you and have a good time. At the dating stage, you can have a lot of fun together, feel at your best, and have no strings attached.

It is only when you move into the relationship zone when both of you can feel comfortable showing up in sweatpants or with no makeup on. When you're in a relationship, you tend to feel more accepted, be more natural, and reveal your “less attractive” parts. You will also see more of your significant other’s silly habits. 

But when you are dating, social conventions may be important: offering to pay the bill, bringing flowers, being well-mannered, and cultured. In a relationship, social conventions start to fade and a deeper connection starts to build up. 

3. In a relationship you have a common social circle

While you are dating, it’s all about you two sharing experiences and thoughts. You may not know their friends or family, and not hang together publicly. You may invite someone you date to significant events and introduce them accordingly. 

But, in a relationship, you’ll gradually start becoming a part of each other’s social circles. Not only will you typically meet their family and introduce him/her to yours, but you start having friends in common as well. You also introduce each other as boyfriend or girlfriend and you start having a couple’s identity in social events. 

You may not feel very comfortable involving someone you’re dating in all the areas of your life. But, with someone you have a relationship with, you’ll be excited to. That’s because you start feeling connected to one another and form a sense of "we"-ness as a couple.

4. A relationship involves emotional intimacy, dating doesn’t necessarily do

This may be the most important difference between dating and a relationship. If you are dating someone, you’re having fun, you may like each other, but there’s no emotional intimacy involved. You may have deep conversations or open up to one another, but it is usually only with topics you can handle. 

In a relationship, on the other hand, you start being vulnerable to each other, because you feel safe. You can also reach out to them for emotional support in a critical situation. This may not feel appropriate to do with someone you are dating. 

In a relationship, the bond between you and your partner will be stronger than with someone you are merely dating. And you are also trusting each other with important aspects of your life, personal information, and sometimes deep secrets. 

5. Feelings are mutual in a relationship and may not be while dating

In order for dating to evolve to a point of being exclusive and emotionally intimate, feelings should be shared by both partners. In dating, one person can be more charismatic or more attractive than the other one. Or, you can have different expectations about dating: one may want to move towards a serious relationship, while the other one doesn’t.

This means that you can start having feelings for someone you date, while they may not feel the same, or vice versa. If you feel an imbalance in how involved you are with each other, you may not actually be in a serious relationship.

In any successful relationship, feelings are mutual. Even if it’s a short term relationship, in the beginning both partners are fond of each other, search for each other’s company, and feel happy together. The chemistry between them is making them fall in love and enter the honeymoon phase of a relationship

6. Dating highlights independence, a relationship values partnership

While you're dating, you’re basically meeting whoever you want, for how long you want and the decisions you make may not impact those you are dating. Being self-sufficient can even help you market yourself better to people you are dating. But usually, you feel free and confident.

You might be entering the relationship zone when you start thinking in terms of “us”. 

It’s either that you take the next steps and start making decisions together, join finances, or start planning a future together — you start to value being a couple. You start having each other’s backs and learn how to ask and receive help, when needed.

Because dating doesn’t involve commitment, you may not feel like you are bonded. Even if you have fun and feel attracted to each other, you still feel like you are on your own and they do the same. In a serious relationship, this feeling changes towards a more exclusive approach.

7. Dating can be stressful and unpredictable, a relationship brings stability

Dating can be more exciting and experimental than a serious relationship. While you are dating someone you choose your best clothes and makeup, you talk about interesting topics, and point out your biggest achievements. Keeping up your best image can be quite stressful and energy consuming. 

When you hit the relationship point, you start relaxing and leaving behind your best image. 

You get more comfortable with your significant other, so it may promote a sense of casual carelessness. It’s not that you do not give a dime on your relationship, but you do not make efforts to show yourself at your best 24/7.

Because dating is usually short-term and casual, it can also be unpredictable. You may meet people online and set up offline dates, but you may be surprised when you actually see the person. In a relationship, you start knowing each other more deeply and build stability and security together.

There are some signs to know you are still dating someone and not completely entering the relationship arena just yet. But, you’ll definitely feel it when things are moving. 

Don’t underplay your gut feeling either. It can tell you if you’re going into the right direction, especially if things are complicated, for example, when you’ve got physically involved.

We’ve had sex — are we in a relationship?

Before making things official with someone, your involvement and commitment for the relationship can be unclear. Kissing, holding hands, and sexual activities can be, for a lot of people, signs of a more serious approach, but that may not always be the case. 

Statistics show that 62% of adults see consensual sex as acceptable between adults who are not in a commited relationship. 49% of them say that sharing explicit images with someone you are not exclusively involved with is pretty much acceptable.

Engaging is sexual activity with someone you are dating is possible without the relationship changing its status. If you’ve agreed to keep things at a physical level, you can call yourself “friends with benefits” or you can have a one-night-stand, with no further obligations.

Traditional dating doesn’t usually involve sexual activity, but modern dating does. Becoming physically intimate doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve also become emotionally intimate, which is an essential sign of a relationship. If you want to know for sure if you’re dating or in a relationship, take into account other differences too, besides being sexually involved.

Dating vs. Relationship: Wrap Up

Meeting someone new is as fun as it is confusing. Especially when you want to move towards a more serious commitment, but are unsure of the other’s intentions. 

These 7 differences between dating and relationships are a good start to know whether or not you're in a relationship with someone.  

Remember that dating is more casual and free in nature, while a relationship is serious and deep. Dating is where you find excitement, adventure, and independence. A relationship is where you find stability, intimacy, and trust. 

If things need further clarifications with your partner, you can invite them to a sincere conversation about expectations, availability, and future plans.

Together Team

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