23 People Discuss What It Means To Be 'Dating' Someone And No One Can Agree

by Candice Jalili

As far as I'm concerned, there are two types of pseudo-relationships you can be in that aren't real, bonafide relationships: You're either "hooking up" (casual booty calls, probably not going anywhere) or you're "dating" (going on dates, getting to know each other, hopefully going somewhere).

I would say my boyfriend and I were "dating" long before we were in a relationship.

I say we were "dating" in the beginning because we were regularly going on dates right off the bat. They started off as casual, and then things got a little more serious when we became exclusive. Then he asked me to be his girlfriend, and boom: We were in a real relationship.

So, the way I see it, "dating" is what happens before you're boyfriend and girlfriend.

Of course, life has a cute, charming way of making things unnecessarily complicated, so there are about one million different stages you can undergo within the "hooking up" and "dating" stages. But overall, odds are you're doing something that falls under one of the two umbrellas.

Life has a cute, charming way of making things unnecessarily complicated.

I thought I had a pretty good grip on this whole "what does dating mean" thing. I thought it was pretty self-explanatory: "dating" is the act of going on "dates," right? Wrong.

The other day, my friends and I were talking (read: extensively gossiping) about an acquaintance and her new boy.

I tried to say they were "dating." Someone else said they weren't dating because they weren't exclusive. Then someone else argued they were going on dates and they were, in fact, exclusive, but they weren't dating because he's not her "boyfriend."

'Dating' is the act of going on dates, right? Wrong.

Apparently this is not as simple as I previously thought.

What do you say if someone asks if you've been "dating" that guy you've been with the past couple of months?! What are you agreeing to when someone asks if you want to "date" them?!

These are all questions we need to have answered if we wish to go forward as INFORMED LOVERS.

For the greater good of humanity, I decided to ask one simple question: When you say you're "dating" someone, what does that mean to you?

Shocker: Every single one of the 23 respondents had a different definition.

It means doing activities together WITHOUT sex.

Going out. Dinner, movie, hiking, etc. Making out. I don't sleep with them unless we are exclusive.

— Sara, 29

It's hanging out in a "boyfriend/girlfriend type of manner."

I would say dating someone means that you and another person are consistently seeing each other in a boyfriend/girlfriend type of manner. I think back in the day, dating was more loosely going on dates with one or many people, but now dating is the past's equivalent of 'going steady.'

— Drew, 24

It means you are in a relationship.

I am in a relationship (exclusive) with said person.

— Camilla*, 25

It could be exclusive... it could also not be exclusive.

Going out to dinner/drinks and hanging out at each other's apartments regularly (~two times a week?), in addition to hooking up regularly. Not necessarily exclusive... though you could be exclusive.

—  Alexia, 23

This is what I like to call "dating purgatory." It's also exclusive.

When I refer to a man that I am dating, it means that we have talked about seeing where our relationship can go, but we also agree that until we figure that out, we will not see other people.

— Libby, 32

It's hanging out consistently.

Dating is spending time one-on-one together, whether it's at a restaurant or going out together and doing it consistently.

— Emma*, 22

It's not exclusive.

Fucking them and hanging out — not exclusively.

— Emily, 23

Wait, no, it IS exclusive.

Exclusively seeing only one person.

— Rich*, 23

Again, it's dating purgatory. Exclusivity TBD.

Dating is when you are seeing someone on a consistent/regular basis with the intention to make that person your significant other.

— Lucy*, 23

It's consistently hanging out with just them.

Consistently going out with them on a regular basis and only seeing them.

— Jessica*, 23

It depends on the tense.

It's interesting because if I say I dated a guy in past tense, that usually means it was someone I was hooking up with and not an ex-boyfriend because I'd just say ex. But if I'm dating someone in the present tense, that's probably someone who I'm hooking up with exclusively and seeing regularly, but we don't have the label yet. I wouldn't refer to a current boyfriend as 'the guy I'm dating.' Past tense is used more loosely.

— Dani, 24

It's not exclusive.

Going out on dates with someone or multiple people. Not exclusive.

— Steff, 52

It involves any sort of hanging out.

It means I'm hanging out with them, whether it be by going out to lunch or dinner, catching a show, sporting event or just going out for a walk and having nice conversations.

— Mel, 32

It involves any sort of hanging out, PLUS sex.

Means seeing one another on regular basis, sharing activities, meals, concerts, museum, movies, restaurants, sex and being good friends, sharing interests and time together.

— Claire*, 71

Here we've got dating purgatory as a definition AGAIN.

Someone you've been seeing but is not necessarily your significant other yet.

— Brian, 24

It's the "getting to know you" period.

Searching for connection, similarities and willing to get to know the person.

— Zara, 30

This is the FOURTH time it's described as dating purgatory.

We're going on dates, but they're not actually my boyfriend (yet). The plan is for that to happen.

— Sean, 25

He's your boyfriend. You're his girlfriend.

We're in a committed relationship. I call him my boyfriend, he calls me his girlfriend.

— Kelli, 23

It's one step before a relationship (again, erm, PURGATORY).

I would say 'dating' is when you are steadily going on dates with someone, not just steadily hooking up with someone. I would say 'dating' is a little more serious and occurs when you both are actually interested in taking the relationship further to a confirmed boyfriend/girlfriend level.

— Tina, 24

Purgatory, AGAIN.

Going out on dates with someone, with the potential of a romantic relationship developing.

— Anna, 24

The act of going on dates.

Hanging out one-on-one together in planned scenarios.

— Jasmine*, 27

It's the act of going on lots of dates with one person.

Going on dates frequently with the same person.

— Sharon*, 30

It's... doing someone's laundry?

Their laundry, probably.

— Taylor, 27

All right, so if we're looking for a trend here, a few people from this roundup seem to agree with me that dating is the hanging out period that takes place before you're actually in a relationship.

Dating is the hanging out period that takes place before you're actually in a relationship.

While hooking up involves a bunch of late-night booty calls that don't necessarily need to lead up to anything, dating is time spent getting to know someone, trying to figure out whether or not you're going to take the next step and pursue a real relationship.

But, as you can see from these answers, people have some pretty different definitions as far as what that "getting to know you" period entails.

To be on the safe side, ASK your partner what he or she thinks you're doing.

Novel idea, I know.


*Names have been changed.