Dating vs Relationship: Which do you prefer to be in

Understand the difference between dating and relationship

By Evelyn
Dating vs Relationship: Which do you prefer to be in

Exclusively dating vs Relationship

Don't you wish to go back in time, where dating and relationship were synonyms? Do you remember those days or have your parents told you about those good old days? It was so simple, if a boy liked you and you liked him back then that was it, you were boyfriend and girlfriend. There was no confusion or games or whatever, you either were in a relationship or you weren't.

Now it's a totally different scenario, getting to be in a relationship is hard work. It's like you have to climb a ladder with lots of steps: first, you do the casual dating thing, then you step to the exclusive dating phase, to finally being in a relationship. Turns out that those three steps are not the same at all, each one has its own rules and expectations.

We know, they sound the same, but there are differences. What would those differences be? Keep reading, we'll try to get you out of all the confusion. wink

What it means to date exclusively?

Simply put, it means you both are not dating anyone else. It can happen without having an explicit conversation about it. You started casual, then after a few dates, you both decide that you really like each other and don't want to see other people, hence the exclusive part. 

Remember the rules we talked about? Well these are not set in stone and each couple could define them to suit their situation but during this period (think of it as a trial run for the relationship phase) you'll do things like: date only him, do things to get to know each other better, you get to meet his friends (and he yours), if you have a dating app, you'll pause it. For all this to be real, you both have to agree on all these things.

There are some things that you don't do in this stage, for example, go on trips together, or call yourselves boyfriend and girlfriend or agree in advance to go together to your cousin's wedding.

During the exclusive dating period, you'll learn a lot about each other (or you should). You'll learn about each other's plans for the future, your likes, and dislikes. You'll also learn about each other's dreams and hopes and which goals each of you wishes to achieve.

If you both find this getting to know each other enjoyable and like spending time together, then you'll probably be ready for the next phase: a relationship. Just be sure both of you are in the same boat.

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What does it mean to be in a relationship?

It means in simple terms that you're ready to put a label on it. Now that you have spent some time together and it's all been good, you want to make it official. When you enter the relationship phase you'll both be thinking seriously about the future, you're ready to make an investment in it. You think marriage and kids.

Your lives are fully integrated into each other, you're each other plus one. You know each other's family (you and his mom are having chats now). You talk about moving together and plan vacations together. All this happens because you both have agreed that being in a relationship is what you both want. In this phase, you don't assume anything, the "talk" has already taken place and you are both on the same page.

Casual Dating vs Relationship

When you enter the dating pool you have options and the decision of what kind of relationship you wish to have is totally yours. As we talked before, they can be confusing because they all seem kind of the same but the truth is they're not.

Casual dating gives you freedom, you're not tied down to anyone. You get to date more than one person. There's nothing serious here and of course no commitment. You get to use your dating app a lot, so you can message and arrange meetings with different guys. The expectation is that the other guy is dating casually too (that should be clear). Casual dating means you're just meeting new people on a regular basis.

A relationship, on the other hand, requires a commitment. It means that things have gotten serious and you both have decided that you want to integrate your lives, you have put a label on it. 

 If you have the option between casual dating and relationship what would you choose? Let's see the differences so you can decide.

1. Monogamy

Two people who are dating casually are not necessarily monogamous. Casual dating doesn't require a commitment so that means you get to see other people at the same time. Always be sure that the guy or guys you're seeing are on the same page with you.

Also be sure that you're are prepared to have this kind of relationship, it can be very unfulfilling if you're not mentally and emotionally prepared for this low-key non-serious kind of relationship.

When you get to be in a relationship, monogamy is a must, you have decided that you're going to commit to this guy and he's on the same page as you. 

2. The levels of trust, love and respect are different

In a relationship, the levels of trust, love, and respect are much stronger. You both have agreed to be 100% in this relationship and are thinking of spending your lives together. You have landed in this scenario because you trust each other completely, you know you can count on each other.

Your level of respect for each other is very high, personally and professionally because you have had time to really know each other. You are in love, you care very much about each other's feelings (in and out of bed), you are certain you can depend on each other no matter the good or the bad.

In casual dating, the levels of trust love and respect are very low. There's no commitment here so there's no need to trust him, you're both seeing other people. There's got to be a level of respect, while you're not spending all of your free time with each other, you still hang out and do things together, so you have to like each other and respect who each one is. Love doesn't enter in this equation, you're just having fun without restrictions and obligations.

Polyamorous Dating vs Open Relationship

These type of relationship, polyamorous and open, get confused with one another. That's because they have a lot of similarities, in a way they go hand in hand. Turns out you can be poly but not in an open relationship or the opposite, you can be in an open relationship but not be poly. It feels like you're entering a twilight zone, we'll try to explain the differences.

The first thing you need to know and acknowledge is that none of these relationships are monogamous. So if you're looking to have a monogamous relationship, poly and open are not a good choice for you. That being said, let's talk about what are them.

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What is a Polyamorous Relationship?

Polyamorous means that you have an intimate and loving relationship with multiple people. Here, there is no primary relationship, all the relationships have the same hierarchy. The people involved in this kind of relationship said to feel love and emotion with all their partners. It's possible that they're having sex with all of them but it's not necessary. 

The boundaries are set according to what each relationship wants but in a polyamorous relationship the partners tend to be more sharing about the other relationships they're in because emotions are involved, in fact, it's important that every partner knows that the other exists. They don't have to actually meet them but all involved have to be OK with this form of relationship.

What is an Open Relationship?

In an open relationship, there's a primary couple in which one or both partners have a desire to explore sexual relationships outside of each other. The key word here is sexual they are not looking to getting emotionally attached to this other person. The encounters are meant to be sexual and casual.

The boundaries here are also according to each couple. Couples involved in an open relationship may decide to talk about their outside partners with their primary partner or not. They may decide that it's better for the couple not to talk about that. Again, honesty is required here, all partners have to know about each other and have to be onboard with the arrangement.

Dating vs Relationship: How to have the conversation for transition

The "talk" aka DTR (Define the Relationship) is most of the time a conversation that can get your levels of anxiety to new heights. This is the conversation you need to have with that guy that you have been dating on a regular basis. You have doubts about what kind of relationship you two have and before anything else you need answers to those questions.

There's no "right way" to do it. But there are some guidelines that can help you make it a less awkward moment. You need to strike a balance, do it too soon and maybe you'll spook him and that's it. Do it too late and maybe he has moved on. You don't want to waste your time with someone that doesn't want the same things you do. So ask the question! We'll help you, just follow these tips.

1. Know when to have the talk

There are some signs that tell you it's time to have the talk. When you act like a couple, you know, you talk to your friends and family about him. Or when you have met each other's friend and have blended both groups. When you assumed you have plans together, or when you "accidentally" call him your boyfriend. All this is telling you that the talk must happen.

2. Be upfront with him

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If you're just wondering if he wants a relationship, you're wasting your time and his. Find the right moment in a conversation about past relationships to ask him something like "What is it you're looking for now? He has to give you an answer, maybe it'll not be what you were wishing to hear, nonetheless you'll have one.

3. Don't assume anything

Especially about the exclusive part, just because you have spent all this time together and have acted like a couple (holding hands and kissing, and going on trips together) until you have verbal confirmation that he wants a relationship just with you, don't assume anything.

4. Let it happen naturally

Having "the talk" is a milestone that a lot of couples wish to achieve but just don't force it. In some cases, the best transition is the one that you let happen naturally.


Have we helped make things clearer for you? Dating is not as simple as the good old days but the ultimate decision lies on you. You can be as upfront as you like from the beginning or you can go along until you're sure that your ultimate goal is to have a relationship.

Good luck out there! smiley