Putting labels on relationships can be stressful. From strangers to life partners and everything in between, figuring out where you stand with another person can be nerve wracking, embarrassing and, sometimes, disappointing.
So, if you’ve been dating someone for a while, when do you become a bonified couple? After how many dates, or how many weeks should you think about asking that question – ‘where are we going’? And are there any signs to look out for that might help you to figure out when your dating is becoming something more?
Let’s find out.
Dating vs Relationship
It’s important to consider what the differences between dating and relationships actually are. When one turns into the other, what can you expect to change?
Well, as with most things related to romance, this does somewhat depend on the people who are involved. For some, dating is a casual term that allows people to see multiple potential partners in their quest to find The One. For others, dating is a more monogamous term describing the early stages of a relationship as people get to know each other better. In general, though, dating is less serious than being in a relationship.
As such, when dating becomes a relationship, that’s when you might expect labels like boyfriend and girlfriend to be applied. It’s also when your partner might start introducing you to friends and family, solidifying your place in their lives. For the most part, monogamy will be expected from this point on and, further down the line, discussions of marriage and kids might start to come up.
In short, dating is a ‘getting to know each other’ phase. A relationship comes when you know each other well and want to see what kind of a life you can build together.
Naturally, these terms and phrases will differ from person to person and couple to couple. The key thing is to be open and honest with the people you’re dating about what you expect and what is expected of you at different points in your dating/relationship journey.
How long do you date before becoming a couple?
There is absolutely no fixed answer to this question, unfortunately.
The line between dating and being in a relationship is a deeply personal one, and it very much depends on what you and your partner are feeling, where you are in your lives, and your personal ideas about what relationships are and what they mean. As a result, the time between dating and a relationship could be anything from a week, to a month, to a year.
That’s not to say that there is not such thing as going too fast or waiting too long. There most certainly is. But it’s not measured in time, but rather in comfort levels and the way in which you feel towards each other. Put simply, you’re moving from dating to a relationship too fast if either one of you is uncomfortable or nervous about it, and you’re moving too slowly if the lack of progress and commitment is upsetting or frustrating one of you.
As always, the key is to communicate in order to avoid either of those things happening to you.
Signs a causal relationship is getting serious
Though we can’t tell you when that switch from dating to a relationship will take place, we can talk to you about some of the possible signs that things might be starting to get serious. Though none of these are hard and fast rules, they might at least help to give you an idea of what to look out for as you go through the dating world.
Time spent together
People who are dating do spend lots of time together, of course, but that time will often be mostly…. Well…. On dates. During the phase where you are still getting to know each other, defined hours and places where you spend time together provide structure to what can otherwise be a tricky emotional process to navigate.
However, once you find yourself just spending time together without the safety net of defined goals or activities, that can often be an indication that you’re comfortable enough with each other for things to progress. People who are dating might not just lounge around together and may avoid some more mundane ‘life’ things like shopping or chores. People in a relationship, however, usually have a much deeper involvement in their partners’ life, including all of the boring day to day stuff.
In the end, it’s not about how much time you spend together, but rather how easy and comfortable that time is.
Talk of the future
It’s not uncommon for people who are dating to discuss things like kids and career goals, but they often do it in a slightly abstract and detached way to see if they are compatible before investing too heavily.
When you’re in a relationship, these conversations become less a fact-finding mission and more an open and important discussion about what you as a couple will do together. Once your personal goals become each other’s goals, and ‘I’ and ‘me’ turn in to ‘we’ and ‘us’, that’s often a good indicator of things getting serious.
When we subconsciously start to take the needs and wants of our partners into account when considering our own goals and ambitions, it’s not only a good indication of the progress of the relationship, but also an excellent sign of our own feelings. Automatic consideration like that is a very positive sign of love and true partnership, and it’s a key component in the transition from being two people dating to being an ‘us’ in a relationship.
So, are you in a relationship or just dating?
In the end, that’s for you and your partner to decide. There are no fixed rules about the number of dates or the length of time it takes for a relationship to begin. But, there are signs that you should keep an eye out for that might help you to unpack your feelings and figure out what you want and when you want it.
Listen to your feelings and be sure to communicate with your partner, and you will know, together, when dating become a relationship.