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Home > Relationship Advice > Serious Relationship vs Just Dating: What’s the Real Difference

Serious Relationship vs Just Dating: What’s the Real Difference

A couple in a serious relationship smiling and laughing with each other.

So many of us have been in that totally confusing ‘what are we?’ limbo, between just dating, and being in a real relationship. And is it any wonder why? Dating is messy these days. Far more complicated than it’s ever been. Since dating apps have made it easier to meet new people and see what’s out there, there are a lot of people who prefer to keep their options open instead of committing to one person.

So, how do you know where you are with someone?

One of the biggest differences between dating and a serious relationship is people in a relationship are mutually committed to one another, and have agreed that they are in a partnership.

But it’s more than that. Here are a few key differences between being in a serious relationship vs. dating:

You’ve had ‘the talk’.
This might sound obvious, but so many of us avoid coming right out and talking about what we are in a relationship. We don’t want to be the one to bring it up, so we wait for the other person to, meanwhile, they’re waiting for us to do the exact same thing. If you’re ready for the DTR, also known as the Define the Relationship talk, then have it!

If this sounds too easy, that’s because it is. Dating is great. It’s fun, it’s exciting, and it’s new. But it’s not uncommon for both people to be on different pages pages at the beginning. So if you don’t know where you stand and you want to, find your inner courage, and have the conversation like adults.

You might be afraid of hearing something you don’t want to hear, but that’s better than continuing in limbo.

Neither of you are actively looking for anyone else.
Everyone starts off dating lots of different people, and sometimes you end up meeting someone that you find yourself wanting to see more and more of, to the point where everyone else seems to fall by the wayside. This is a sign that you’re nearing the exclusive relationship talk.

Another sign is if you find you no longer want to message new people, and you’re no longer checking dating sites. If this is you, you’re probably close to relationship territory, but like we said, you need to know you’re both on the same page.

If you’re not sure—ask!

You show each other the real, unedited you.
If you feel you’re able to be your authentic self around each other, and don’t have to edit parts of yourself out of fear of not being accepted, it means you’re comfortable with this person, which usually happens after the initial dating period.

Maybe you meet up right after hitting the gym, or you share something personal with this person, or you feel confident enough for them to see you when you’re sick. This is because you’re confident enough in yourself to be yourself, and you’re confident this person will accept you for it.

You’ve met each other’s family and close friends.
Most people avoid introducing close friends and family to people they’re dating, until it starts getting serious and you think this person’s going to be around long term. And that makes sense, because you don’t want to be introducing someone new to them every week, right?

So, if you’ve met some of each other’s friends or family, it’s a sign that this is moving past just dating and becoming a real relationship.

You’re both committed to each other.
Do you see yourself with this person in the future? Are you fully committed to them, and not looking around at anyone else? Are you making future plans with them?

If you’re both on the same page and committed to being together, then you’re in a serious relationship—so hurry up already and make it official!

Communication is key.
The only reason why people are confused about their relationship status is because we are TERRIBLE at communicating, and tend to avoid it all costs. This is a vicious cycle because the more we avoid it, the worse we become at it.

Do yourself a favor, and continue to talk to the person you’re dating. Check in if you feel you don’t know where you stand, because you deserve to. Anyone who cares about you and is worth being in a relationship with will want you to feel comfortable and secure, and won’t try and keep you dangling as one of many options.

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