Honestly, what is considered “dating” these days? I’m genuinely asking, because I would love to know. It seems like there are far too many definitions floating around and that leads to confusion and miscommunication. For me, if I have been going out on dates with someone somewhat consistently for a few weeks, and we have both acknowledged that we’re romantically interested in each other, then I would say we are dating. Stay with me, because here is where things tend to get confusing: when I say that I am dating someone I don’t automatically mean we are “in a relationship” and label him as my boyfriend. This may seem unorthodox to some and perfectly reasonable to others. If I go out on a handful of dates with one person and he references me as his girlfriend before we’ve ever established that together, then I tend to freak out (no, I do not have a fear of commitment…).
I think especially people in older generations tend to get confused about dating/hooking-up/relationships among younger generations. This is fair, considering how vastly the culture in the modern world has changed regarding love, sex, etc. Here is my very brief take on the distinctions between the three:
- Hooking-up: primarily a sexual or physically-intimate arrangement, sometimes long-term but not exclusive or emotional.
- Dating: some emotional connection and physical intimacy, implies interest in getting to know the person further and possibly to see if they would like to be in a relationship with the other person. Basically, doing more things one-on-one with a person to get to know them and have fun.
- Relationships: usually start applying labels such as “girlfriend” or “boyfriend”, implying deeper emotional connection and physical intimacy. Exclusive and committed to the other person romantically and physically (with the exception of polyamorous or open relationships).
It would be great if we could all agree on these standards as a collective whole and there would be no confusion or miscommunication. Unfortunately, this is not the case, especially not in college. The reality is everyone seems to have some sort of different idea of what different stages of dating mean—this is where the infamous DTR comes in. Having to “define the relationship” can be a painful experience, but if you are on the same page, it can be a quick and easy discussion. You may go into this discussion thinking your S.O. considers you their exclusive partner only to find out they’re still talking to other people—in which case, my condolences to you. There’s a reason why all of those relationship self-help books say the same thing: “Communication is KEY!” If you and your partner are communicating throughout your dating/hooking up/what have you, then conversations to help gain clarity shouldn’t be a problem. That being said, communication today is more accessible than ever and way more interpretive than ever. There are so many ways for people to interpret a single text (is the smiley face passive aggressive, or do you really want me to have a good day?) making things one hundred times more difficult to understand. What needs to happen in order to gain the most clarity is to cut the B.S. and have a real conversation about what you’re feeling. Sure, it may be uncomfortable or hurt but if there is not a discussion continuing with each stage of the relationship about where you stand, there will be much more hurt and confusion down the road.
I know I’m not the most experienced person to be talking about how to communicate in a relationship, but what I do have experience in is the confusion that can accompany different dating situations. I have had miscommunications happen before, and it truly is just better to discuss things as soon as you can form a coherent thought about it and feel they are ready to talk about it too. Again, I am a single girl in college who hasn’t necessarily had the best track record with dating–although, maybe that’s why I do have credibility…Regardless, take everything with a grain of salt. And for the love of God, don’t have a DTR over text.