Lauren Naefe

Are We Dating Or “Hanging Out”? Here Are The Important Differences Between The Two

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When I am in a relationship (using that term very loosely) that has progressed beyond a third or fourth date, but hasn't been declared "exclusive," I have no idea what to tell my friends I'm doing when I plan on hanging out with said person on a given night. "I'm going to go have a drink with this guy I'm hanging out with," is totally appropriate, but so is "this guy I've been dating a little bit asked me to grab drinks." So are we dating, or hanging out? And why are there so many terms to choose from?

Realistically, we're "spending time together after a few dates and thinking about finally smushing," but that doesn't seem as straightforward. I usually end up saying I'm "seeing" someone, even if it's been six months and we go on extremely romantic dates — I'm just being sad girl about asking them to make it exclusive or leave me alone forever. )Exclusivity is the new Zika. Nobody wants it.)

Dating can mean anything from being in a committed, serious relationship to simply going on a handful of dates for a certain period of time. Hanging out is what tabloids say when they tell us whom Scott Disick has been spotted with, and hanging out is also something you can do with your friends that does not imply the least bit of sex at all.

It would seem that "hanging out" is just a euphemism for "hooking up," and "dating" is just what we call "going on actual dates, whether seriously or not," but it can be hard to tell. Here's how to know if you are dating someone, or just "hanging out":

Do You Only See Each Other Late At Night?

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You're definitely hanging out. If you're only meeting up once it's dark outside, you're not dating; you're hooking up. Seamless-ing brunch does not a date make.

If you're having fun, though, keep "hanging."

Have You Gone Out To Dinner Together?

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This is textbook old school dating. If it's been more than three dates out in public together, you've been dating this person, for whatever period of time that is. Remember that dating does not mean you are exclusive. Nowadays, we are such weirdos when it comes to labeling relationships, but if you're going on romantic little dates, especially if you aren't even sleeping over yet, you're dating.

Has Your Only Movie-Watching Been Via Netflix?

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You're hanging out. As strange as it is, if you're only watching movies from the comfort of your apartment or your boo thang's abode, you're just hanging. Going out to the movies wouldn't necessarily mean that they want to be with you forever, but it would suggest a certain effort reserved for more traditional "dating."

Do You Usually Do Some Activity Together Before Sex?

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Even if it's just a drink, you're dating. Again, I think having a thing that you do together other than just smashing your mouths together makes whatever you and your person are doing more than just "hooking up." Concerts, walks in the park, museums... these are all signs of the millennially-dreaded "dating."

Do You Have Conversations About Things Other Than Bodies And Sex?

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You're dating. Even if you're just going on a handful of dates within a few weeks and then it ends, the dating part is in the conversation and getting to know one another. You're dating someone if you know where they grew up, their opinion on Trump, and maybe how close they are with their mom. No, you aren't in a relationship with them, but you are getting to know them and thus, dating.

Do You Only Text When You Plan On Seeing Each Other?

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You're hanging out. If your communication nets at zero when you aren't talking logistics for a night together, you're probably not all that interested in being romantic outside of the occasional spoon. There's nothing wrong with hanging out if that's what you feel like doing. It's great to have a "hang out buddy" in your city for lonely nights where all you want is some company (and maybe a warm body, too).

When you're dating, however casually, you're probably chatting away about your interests and how each others' days are going more regularly.

Are You At All Romantic With Each Other?

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You're dating. Whether that's saying "you look beautiful," holding hands at the movies, or making an effort to make them a cup of coffee before they head to work, you're dating. Again, one could do all of these things and not be very interested in you outside of sex, but it's not as likely. Dating means going a tiny bit further for someone than you would for someone you see as just a hook up.

Do You Know Each Others' Friends?

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You're dating. I would feel really weird if a friend brought a guy around my group of friends and then, when describing the night back to someone else, I said, "My friend brought the guy she's hanging out with to our group dinner the other night." No — they're dating. Not exclusively, but I'd call that dating. If you know bae's friends — and not just their roomie from 7 a.m. run-ins at the bathroom — you're dating.

Of course, you could know every last one of your naked friend's friends, go out to dinner regularly, and still just really be "hanging out." We can't give these labels too much importance, because at the end of the day, the only label that really gives a relationship parameters is whether or not you are "exclusive."

It's interesting that "hanging out" seems to be defined by more physical interactions than emotional ones when we are referring to a partner, but when we talk about "hanging out" with a friend, mean a relationship that is entirely emotional and not physical at all. It would seem that dating is the sweet spot in between these two kinds of "hanging out." Dating is when you find a person you'd like to be friends with and get physical with, even if you don't do those things exclusively together forever.

On that note, happy dating/hanging!

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