When I first went to the States, I was utterly confused by people seemingly in a relationship, saying they were “dating”.
I tried to figure out when the turning point was from dating to relationship, and I found that there are 10 important differences between the two.
Let’s take a look at them:
1) Dating isn’t necessarily exclusive, a relationship is
Let’s start off with one of the biggest differences between dating and having a boyfriend.
You see, when you date someone, you’re usually at a stage where you still keep your options open, or in other words, you’re not fully committed yet.
Being with the other person is fun and exciting, but when an especially flirty guy hits you up somewhere you’re not opposed to exploring your options if you know what I mean.
Now: I want to mention that just because you haven’t officially talked about monogamy yet, doesn’t mean either one of you is seeing other people.
Some people prefer to ride one wave at a time, even if it’s still in the early stages.
However, unless you have “the talk”, you can’t expect him to only see you. After all, you haven’t determined whether or not the two of you are monogamous!
If you find out he has been seeing other people, try to not take it personally. Instead, ask yourself if this is someone you can see yourself in a relationship with.
Once you’ve established this with yourself, talk to him!
It’s true, that is the biggest difference between dating and having a boyfriend.
You see, in a relationship, you only have eyes for one another, and the fact that the two of you established the boundaries of the relationship brings a sense of safety.
Sure, some relationships don’t follow the conventional monogamous path, but even then, “the talk” is what will help you understand that he is now your boyfriend.
In those cases, you will also establish boundaries, such as how the openness factor will work for the two of you.
So, unless you talk about it and establish how exclusive you want to be, you are probably still in the dating phase!
2) The three words
Another big difference between dating someone and having a boyfriend is whether or not you say “I love you” to each other.
You see, when you’re dating someone you will say a lot of things like:
- I like you a lot
- I love spending time with you
- You make me really happy
But the words “I love you” might not cross your lips that easily.
For good reason, they have a strong meaning and many fear that they say them too soon, before their partner is ready.
I remember when I was dating my now boyfriend of 3 years it was really hard for me to say those three words.
Coincidentally, the day I first said it back was also the day we officially started a relationship and talked about being girlfriend and boyfriend!
The thing is, sometimes you feel like you love someone right away, but having a feeling and being able to say it out loud are two very different things.
It can take a long time to go from the former to the latter, I’m talking weeks or even months here!
The good news? Once both of you are ready to say it out loud, chances are good you are in a relationship!
And after the initial hurdle of saying it, you will feel like you can’t say it enough anymore.
3) You prioritize each other
You know the saying “bros before hoes”? It doesn’t just come from anywhere.
You see, when guys date a girl, their friends and family will still be more important than anything else.
I’m sure you’re not much different – when you’re dating, you go out when the both of you are free, you don’t usually cancel previous engagements for them.
Here’s the thing: once you become more than a “booty call” (for lack of a better word), it’s no longer “bros before hoes”.
Now you are a priority in his life and he probably is in yours, too.
That’s where things shift from dating to relationship.
The two of you start going out of your way to see each other and spend time together.
The needs of one another are important and you try to make time each day to catch up on what’s going on with the other.
It’s a beautiful feeling, knowing that you’re someone’s priority, and is one of the reasons why relationships are so appealing to many.
However, it’s important to mention here that in order to have a healthy relationship without codependence, family and friends should still be a priority, as well.
4) You let your guard down
When dating someone, it’s a fun time, but it can also get a bit exhausting.
Every time you see each other, you spend extensive time getting ready.
As a girl, you focus on your hair and makeup, the guys spend time picking a good cologne or doing their hair.
When with each other, you are mindful of every single thing you say and do in an attempt not to scare them away.
You hold in your farts, you try not to burp, you eat slowly and carefully.
In short, you try to only show your best side and conceal all the not-so-nice parts as best as you can.
In a relationship, on the other hand, you can let your guard down.
You see each other as your normal, comfortable selves, you feel safe to be yourself and you’re not afraid your quirks will scare them away.
It depends from person to person when this stage is reached. Some are able to relax on the second date already, while it takes others months to do so.
My personal advice? Try to be yourself from the get-go. Sure, you might want to look a little extra nice on those first few dates, but don’t try to be someone you’re not.
You see, if you are destined to be together, he will love you exactly the way you are, and if he doesn’t, he isn’t for you, anyway.
Would you really want to be with someone where you always have to pretend and be careful?
I know I wouldn’t.
5) You are there for one another
Dating someone and being in a relationship has one crucial difference: the emotional aspect.
When you’re dating, it’s nice when they are there for you when you’re sick or something bad happened, but you don’t expect them to, and frankly, sometimes don’t confide in them.
It’s more likely that you simply take a rain check on a date when you’re sick, for example.
In a relationship, on the other hand, your partner will not miss out on seeing you just because you’re not feeling well.
Instead, they’ll show up on your doorstep with your favorite movie and a chicken soup.
That’s also the stage where the conversation goes to the next level.
Work, hobbies, and the weather are not as much the topic of conversation. You dive deeper and open up to each other, talking about god and the world.
The thing is, while you’re dating you can’t really be there for the other, even if you wanted to because you just don’t know enough about them or their situation just yet.
It takes time to truly get to know someone, but once you get to the point where you are there for each other through anything, you usually went from dating to having a boyfriend.
6) Expectations skyrocket
While you’re dating someone, there are little to no expectations.
The two of you go on dates, have fun, and might even have some good sex. As nice as it is, there are usually no expectations for more, let alone for those feelings to last.
Piggy-backing off the last point, you wouldn’t expect them to come to visit you when you’re sick, or to lend you an ear when something is on your mind.
But wait, let me tell you something: once you’re in a relationship, all of that changes.
You have high expectations from each other, which sounds scarier than it is in reality.
- Spending a lot of time together
- Getting gifts (at least for birthdays etc)
- Getting surprises every once in a while
- Meeting their friends
- Meeting their family
- Being there for each other at all times
If you feel like you and your partner are at a point where there are certain expectations you have from each other, he might be your boyfriend!
7) You talk about “us”
When you’re dating someone, talking about the future mostly entails “I” statements.
I will go to Spain next Summer.
I would love to have a dog someday.
I will go on a hiking trip.
Here’s why: you don’t know them well enough yet that they would play any part in your future plans.
Turns out things change once you are not just dating anymore.
The future now is filled with the potential of “us” or “we”.
You start making plans together and talk about the prospect of a joint future.
Even if you haven’t had “the talk” yet, you will know that you are definitely not just having a fling anymore.
Once you start to base your decisions about the future not just on your own wishes, but also the other’s thoughts and feelings, you know that things are getting serious.
It’s an important part of any relationship to consider each other before making certain decisions, especially when you know it will have an impact on your partner.
Now it’s not just you anymore, you’re a team and you will have to start thinking like one.
In case you already do, I don’t think you need any more points to prove that he’s your boyfriend, not just a date.
8) You communicate a LOT
Communication is another factor you should look out for when you’re not sure whether the guy you’ve been seeing is your boyfriend or not.
You see, in a relationship, people tend to communicate a LOT.
Of course, it depends on the couple and everyone is different, but generally, couples tell each other about all kinds of little details in their daily life.
They see a cute dog on their way to work and you’re the first person they tell.
Your boss gave you a compliment and you immediately let them know.
The lives of couples tend to get very entwined to the point that they know a lot about what is going on with the other.
While dating, things are usually different.
They might check in once a day or talk for a bit, but usually, there is not a lot of communication unless it’s about setting up the next date.
That’s the big difference between dating and a relationship.
You can ask yourself this simple question:
When I receive great news, are they the first ones I want to tell?
If the answer is yes, I don’t think I need to say anything else.
9) There aren’t any clear dates anymore
When you date someone, you usually meet up for set dates, hence the name.
That might entail dinner and the movies, going out for coffee, going for a walk, having them cook dinner for you at their place, etc.
Either way, they are specific events that give you a reason to meet.
In my own experience, dating floats over to a relationship once you don’t really have many set dates anymore, you just hang out with each other on a very regular basis.
It’s not a question of being asked out anymore, you text them when you get off work and they ask you what you want to eat when you come by later.
Things get easier and less tense.
Sure, even in a relationship you will make time for specific date nights, but the majority of your time spent together is simply hanging out in each other’s presence.
That brings me to another point: when you’re in a relationship, spending time with each other isn’t necessarily about spending every second with the other person anymore.
Can you imagine finishing a college project on a date at someone’s house? No way!
In a relationship, on the other hand, mainly due to the fact that you now spend a lot more time with each other, you will start doing separate things together, like working.
That’s a pretty telltale sign that you aren’t just dating anymore.
10) The boyfriend/girlfriend title
Is he your boyfriend or are you just dating? Well, the most obvious sign to look out for is whether you use the term boyfriend/girlfriend when referring to your relationship status.
If the title is there already, there’s really not much to worry about.
Oftentimes, getting to the point of calling each other boyfriend or girlfriend requires “the talk”, where you establish all the details of where you stand.
However, sometimes it happens more naturally, like when being introduced to his friends as his girlfriend, for example.
Look out for terms such as:
- The girl I’m dating
- A friend
- The girl I’m seeing
- The girl I’ve been going out with
These usually indicate you’re in the dating stage.
The good news? They might just be too shy to call you their girlfriend, so bring it up with them!
Does it have to be complicated?
The simple answer is no!
Sure, it’s a whole dilemma to figure out where you stand with someone, and having feelings for them doesn’t make matters any easier.
However, things don’t need to be complicated.
Do you like spending time with him? Great!
Does he seem to enjoy your company, as well? Even better!
Do you feel ready to make things official? Talk to him about it!
It’s a myth that it always has to be the guy to make the next move when it comes to relationships.
He might not be sure where you stand emotionally, so talking to him about it when you’re ready will do no harm.
And if he likes you but isn’t ready yet, it won’t sabotage the relationship, believe me! Simply give him time in that case and don’t pressure him too much.
Being on the same page is important when it comes to relationships, it’s what ultimately allows you to become vulnerable.
Having feelings for someone is great, and although you might wish things were a bit more clear right now, try to enjoy the excitement of it all!
If things go well and you end up being together for a long time, you will look back on this time with fond memories in mind.
And if things go south and you feel tempted to give up on love altogether, remember how beautiful even a few days or weeks of being in love feel like.
Wouldn’t you rather feel the whole spectrum of emotions rather than never experiencing the beauty of love at all?
There is someone out there for you and for all you know, it’s the person you’re dating right now!
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