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Simply Solo Spotlight: Falling into Romance – The Blurred Line Between Dating and Relationship

April 26, 2011

Photo courtesy of Wink'd

Today’s guest post is written by Danae with Wink’d. Danae says, “Wink’d is a dating site. Sort of. Wink’d is an offline/online dating platform involving cards, snazzy phrases and sassy confidence.” Basically, you can make these personalized cards that include a code to access your dating profile. When you are out, and see someone in which you are interested, you give them a card, and they can check out your info online. Genius! (And no one’s paying me to say that, haha!) I think it would be the perfect tool for recklessly flirting (which we all know I’m a fan of).

Danae’s post is about that fine (and blurred) line between dating and a relationship. Do people still have the “DTR” (define the relationship)? Or at a certain age, is it just assumed? We’ve been seeing each other for four months, and I’m not seeing someone else … I guess he’s my boyfriend? I hope you enjoy today’s post and I’d love to hear what you guys think. And be sure to stop by Wink’d when you have a second!

Falling into Romance: The Blurred Line Between Dating and Relationship

You go on one date. Two dates. If all goes well, there’s date three. Coffee, dinner. Movies. Then four. Then five.

But when do ‘dates’ become ‘dating,’ and when does ‘dating’ become ‘in a relationship?’

This is something I have been thinking a lot about lately. See, I’m working for Wink’d, a company that focuses on romance, dating, love, flirting. Want to know how to start overanalyzing your romance life? Want to know how to spend your spare minutes contemplating what makes hearts go thump thump and palms go all sweaty? Want to know how to drive all your potential romances a bit insane by spending the entire dinner asking: “So, why did you order THAT drink, exactly? Is it because you want to be strong? Approachable? Dashing?” …Yes. Work for an amazing dating company. That’s how.

Lately I’ve been focusing on sorting out when casual dating becomes something more. How do we go from one date, two dates, five dates, to dating? How does ‘open relationship’ become ‘exclusive?’

I blame my friend Becky** for planting the seed of inquiry in my mind. Becky is a nice girl: educated, fun, pretty. She has great blonde hair and a quick tendency to laugh. Becky also had a semi-boyfriend for several months.

“We weren’t together, really…” said Becky. “But we weren’t apart. We just… well, we were just dating.”

“So could you date other people?” I asked her.

“Sure! Technically.”

“Did you?”

“I didn’t want to. But we could. There was never an agreement. We didn’t have ‘the talk.’ We just wanted to keep things casual.”

Casual can be understood. Everyone likes a fun date, a nice dinner, a relaxing evening or a flirty event. But casual for several months? That’s what got me. The more I talked to Becky, the more little bits and pieces dropped out indicating her frustration with the situation. She liked the guy. He kept a distance. She wanted to move closer emotionally. He held her away. Polite and affectionate, always, but away.

“What happened?” I asked.

“We split up. I suggested that he take me on a real date, something more than us just being together. He said he liked the way things were casual. I told him I wouldn’t be exclusive for a ‘just casual,’ and so we split… from the relationship we weren’t really in anyways.”

I’m an optimistic. Dating, especially casual dating, can be quite fun. So I went hunting for more answers.

Enter Tom**. Tom is one of those people who have started to Make His Way in the world. He’s shaping big deals and organizing serious events. Give him a month, a couple months, and he’ll take over some kind of prominent company.

As a result, Tom doesn’t have time for a Girlfriend.

Tom is busy working and doing genuinely impressive things.

“But I like girls. And there are girls I find attractive and interesting. Just no commitment.”

Tom told me this when we were dating, casually, enjoyably. We were more pals than partners. We simply did romantic things together.

As things panned out, I started seeing someone else (can you casually date more than one people at a time? Oh, questions for another post!). Tom and I reverted back to friends.

Last time I spoke to him, Tom-The-Casual-Dater had a girlfriend. “It’s a bit surprising, really,” he said. “It just sort of… happened.”

“How?” I asked.

“We had the same interests. I’m surprised I didn’t notice her before.”

“But did you have a relationship talk? Boyfriend, girlfriend?”

“Not really. We just dated. And now we’re dating exclusively. That means we’re together.”

Again, we have the just sort of happened situation. It’s as though people fall into relationships, or they don’t, or they sort of stumble upon each other, or they don’t.

“English folks just fall into bed together. That’s how you know you’re going from flirting to dating. And then you just don’t date anyone else,” explained Rena**, a friend of mine.

“I have been told that over and over,” I answered. It’s true. I have. All my English friends (since I’m a native ‘merican living in the UK) have more or less said something along these lines.  

“Surely that can’t be right,” argued another buddy. “What makes it different from a one-night stand?”

“Lasts for more than one night!” Rena responded.

According to Illana Gershon in her book Breakup 2.0, dating doesn’t really need to involve ‘the talk’ anymore. Now we have things like Facebook and other social networking sites to declare, in a very official, public manner, when couples go from the casual to serious dating.

It’s like the modern day equivalent of pinning, Gershon argues.

Right. So the way to go from casual dating to committed relationship is to post it in Facebook? Now that’s romantic.

I like dating. I like working for a pretty great dating agency. I have no intentions of stopping the casual adventure anytime soon. But I have started to wonder: Is the relationship talk dead? Do folks simply fall into bed and/or relationships together, then declare it on a social media site? Is casual the way of the future?

Let me know. I’m curious… And it means my next dinner date won’t have to answer all these questions.


28 Comments leave one →
  1. April 26, 2011 8:48 am

    Having just gone through this, I’d say it does! But it was more along the lines of:

    Me: “Soooo….are you my boyfriend.”?
    Him: “I thought we didn’t have to talk about it.”
    Me: “Um…okay, boyfriend.” *commence besotted smiles*

    • April 26, 2011 9:50 am

      Now that’s one way of going about it! Sassy and fun. Perhaps this is the solution I should try next time? ;D

      Wink’d

  2. April 26, 2011 9:20 am

    Were you inside my head this week? WOW. Perfect timing.

    I am ‘casually’ seeing about 4 guys. Yup 4. We’re on the 2-3 date stage. I don’t know if any of them think this is exclusive or not (whoops, haven’t really told them about other guys). I feel like I’m a character in a TV show or movie. Is this what dating is? And when do you realize that you’re probably on the friendship/don’t really feel anything level? And, am I a complete ho for going on dates with more than a few people at once? Do guys assume you’re exclusive after the 3rd date?

    True Life: I suck at dating.

    • April 26, 2011 9:52 am

      I wouldn’t say you suck at dating! I’ve been in that situation so ver often before: casual dating, multiple guys, keeping it fun and friendly. For me, I’ve found it’s always really important to make it clear it’s casual, and that I’m seeing potentially other guys. Otherwise they might get the wrong idea! (…I know this from experience. Danger! 😉 )

      Besides, it sounds like you’re just trying to sort out how you feel. And if you don’t feel that strongly for any of them, then why not have friendly flirty fun?

      Dating. So complicated. 😉

      • April 28, 2011 10:33 am

        Ahhh, so it happened: one of the guys asked (emailed rather) if we should be boyfriend/girlfriend.

        I am not a CP, but I didn’t know how to say that 4 dates was too soon to be going there.

        So complicated!

  3. Ashley permalink
    April 26, 2011 9:37 am

    I’ve often wonderered about this too. When I met my university boyfriend, we hung out and it was just sort of assumed that we were boyfriend and girlfriend – no talk necessary, we just were what we were.

    This past year I dated a guy who told me that he liked me but he only wanted something casual. Great – relationship conversation out of the way from the get go so I knew what to expect. But then I started to wonder when casual ended and serious began. And realistically how long can 2 people date casually without it turning into more? And, when does casual end? When he finds someone else he prefers?

    Having the “talk” at the start actually made things more confusing. It really did my head in and I ended up calling time on the “relationship” because I didn’t want to fall for him when he just wasn’t that into me. I’ll admit that part of me wonders what would have happened if we had continued to see each other…maybe he would have changed his mind and and we would have moved beyond casual. Somehow I doubt it, so overall I think I made a wise choice.

    • April 26, 2011 9:54 am

      You make a great point: When does casual end? When he finds someone else more attractive? I think this is the bit that always gets me about long-term casual dating. I like that we’re both having fun and enjoying ourselves. I don’t like the idea that they’re with me just until they find someone better, someone with whom they’re willing to go into a committed, more-than-casual relationship.

      It sounds like you made the choice that was right for you, and ultimately the right choice.

      Although I did read an article not too long ago, arguing that sometimes it’s better just to let things happen. Our desire to define things can often cage relationships in – or, conversely, end them unexpectedly. I’m not sure I agree, but it was an interesting argument.

      Thanks for your thoughts! 😉

  4. April 26, 2011 10:05 am

    My husband & I never really declared our relationship. We went a few date, he went out of town for a week pretty early on and when he came back it pretty unspoken that we missed each other and that we were in a relationship. it drove my SIL crazy. She kept asking what our status was…BF/GF? That seemed not right since we were both in/near our 30’s. One day he was on the phone to an old friend and called me his partner…which was ok, but didn’t seem to quite fit either. Significant Other…nope. We were just…Us.

    Our talk was a marriage proposal (Read Our Love Story at my blog). Husband & Wife…the best definition of Us. It fit perfectly…we probably should have just gone there and not waited a whole year-ish.

    We were comfortable without a specific label. We knew we were together and that is what mattered.

    • April 26, 2011 11:36 am

      Beautiful success story. How interesting that you never really defined it… but that it worked out for the better that way! I wonder if sometimes, by trying to define it, we force things to be what they’re not and that just results in all sorts of trouble.

      Great response. I found it very interesting! 🙂

  5. April 26, 2011 10:12 am

    I’ve experienced both, “it just happened” and “the talk”. My ex and I casually dated for a few months until one day he introduced me as his girlfriend and that was it, we were “offical”.

    My current boyfriend and I talked about it from day one. But our situation may be a bit different. I was living with my ex for about a month after we broke up while I tried to find another place to live. I had feelings for my current boyfriend but knew I had to wait until after I moved out and until I knew I was ready. So there was a lot of talking involved. When I knew I was ready I told him. I guess we were already “casually” dating, and when I knew that I was ready for a new relationship we both decided we were official.

    • April 26, 2011 11:37 am

      Very interesting process. In the book Breakup 2.0, the author talks about a situation where a girl didn’t realize she was official with her boyfriend until he posted it on Facebook… bit like being introduced!

      It seems like there’s really no clear cut way, is there? Hmmm…

  6. April 26, 2011 11:22 am

    I was a finicky dater (another reason it is fortunate FOR THE WORLD that I am taken). I was put off by men that immediately wanted an exclusive relationship. On the flipside, I took a man’s wanting to just casually date for an extended period of time to mean that he was flaky and not that into me. I never found the balance, the perfect timing… well, until I just sort of did.

    • April 26, 2011 11:38 am

      I have a friend who was so tired of casual dating that she signed up to a traditional online dating site. She found someone, they hit it off after two dates, and by date three they were a couple. They’re still together. She sounds a bit like you: wanting something more serious than not… and successful at it! 🙂

  7. Gentlewoman permalink
    April 26, 2011 11:25 am

    I just got out of a “casual dating” situation. We did this for about nine months. We declared from the beginning that we could see other people. Then later we tried to have the talk from time to time about labels and either he was freaking out or I was freaking out. In the end my feelings got involved and he still wanted the “casual dating” (whatever that really means) thing. I’m still a little confused about that whole thing. Reading your blog has helped me to realize that this is common and I’m not the only one trying to figure it out. Thank you! 🙂

    • April 26, 2011 11:39 am

      Definitely not the only one! I think it’s so hard to keep feelings out of casual dating. I mean, if you’re dating someone, don’t you want it to be a little more special? But what about those times when you just like someone so-so, enough to date, not enough to commit?

      Perhaps the important thing here is to define what YOU want, then figure out how the relationship/non-relationship plays into that.

      Interesting response! 🙂

  8. Random Cook permalink
    April 26, 2011 2:59 pm

    I find that once talk of the DTR even starts, the relationship has gone from dating to exclusive. Why else would there need to be a talk? And as far as dating forever with no talk and “technically” able to date other people goes….good luck with that. I mean, date someone for like a year with no talk and see how awesome it feels when he/she decides to tell you that “oh yeah, I am going out with so and so tomorrow night. That’s OK, right?” Ummm…yes…no….not really. Sometimes people don’t like those exclusive sounding words like boyfriend and girlfriend, so the talk is avoided. My advice to anyone…have the talk or prepare for a big fight in which no one is wrong. Love the blog Catherine!! How’s your DTR going? Haha!

    • April 27, 2011 6:28 am

      Such a great point! I can’t IMAGINE doing it for a year. I think I would be a bit crushed, honestly. And confused and hurt. Hmmm. Complicated.

  9. April 26, 2011 7:38 pm

    I would like to know how to import the British business model over here to our fair shores.

  10. April 27, 2011 6:19 am

    So true! I was told the same thing when I was living the UK and kept thinking “You girls are such ENABLERS! No wonder these guys can get away with murder” (ie “casual” relationships for months on end). Could be why I never snagged myself a British prince harming… lol 🙂

    • April 27, 2011 6:30 am

      It is SUCH a weird way of going about it! Drinking. Sleeping together. Bam, a couple! …perhaps one day I’ll understand? I’m meeting the Queen today (seriously). I should just ask her. 😉

  11. April 27, 2011 6:20 am

    call me old fashioned, but i kinda think that it’s not a relationship unless there’s some form of a relationship talk, even if it isn’t so much a talk itself but he introducing you to someone else as his girlfriend. essentially, it has to be said.

    i think if you’re casually dating someone (and also occasionally seeing other people) for quite a few dates and it hasn’t actually gone into the DTR (nevermind if you’re already sleeping with each other and going on holidays), it just means that you probably aren’t too interested to begin with.

    • April 27, 2011 6:32 am

      Great comment, Jo. I think I agree with you. After a couple dates, we NEED to have the DTR… right? Otherwise, how is it any different from friends with benefits?

  12. April 29, 2011 10:22 am

    AAAh, this is great! This always comes up. I always want labels, and I want to have a conversation about it, and I want whoever I’m dating to initiate it. Except they never do, and then I do, and then I resent them for it. Ah, I miss middle school, when you could just make a guy check a box.

  13. April 29, 2011 11:54 am

    That was something I was curious about. I say ‘was’ because my current relationship took that step form dating to exclusively dating all due to me making a comment and referring to her as my girlfriend. She called me out on it. I said it was something I wanted if she did. Thus we became ‘a couple’ and not casual.

    Then we made the Facebook joke.

    But it’s a valid curiousity because I doubt it happens are fluidly with most couples.

    Sometimes it can probably feel as absurd as asking a girl to wear your pin.

  14. dree permalink
    February 24, 2012 4:30 pm

    Soooo I ‘m assuming most of these experiences are not cross cultural? I am an Indian girl dating a Zimbabwean guy at the moment. We are both in London. We hit it off since December and it’s been a couple of months. I am scared to bring up the exclusivity topic since Indian girls have acquired this bad ( ?) rap about jumping into being “serious” or “exclusive”. I don’t represent the cultural stereotype of being the submissive sorts, getting the family involved or keeping rules about getting physical ( this is what is assumed, I assume) I think this is sort of affecting the person I am. I want to be free to speak my mind but I feel somehow I might make him run the other direction because I will fit into the crazy stereotype put on Indian women. Question: Is asking your partner whether one can go exclusive after a couple of months, too soon?
    xx

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