Dating vs Official Relationship – Difference Explained

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Dating vs. Official Relationship

It can be somewhat amusing to see people struggling to define the parameters of their relationship. 

Are you dating? Are you in an official relationship? When it comes to the two, where do you draw the line?

Both of you need to understand the difference between dating and an official relationship. Having a child or a dog together doesn’t automatically make you the boyfriend/girlfriend.

For those who assume that dating is the same as being in a relationship, you couldn’t be further from the truth.

And… this article will help you understand the difference. 

Relationship ambiguity can be overwhelming. So, clarifying some aspects can help you understand your status.

Why do people think that dating and an official relationship are the same?

dating or in a relationship

Some people’s feelings toward each other may lead them to believe that they’re in a relationship. 

Maybe they’re spending too much time together, doing activities together such as dinner dates, or hanging out with friends. But they have not had “the talk” or defined their relationship.

Also, some people are in a rush to get into a relationship. They can go out with the other person a few times, and because they feel some kind of connection, they assume they’re in a relationship.

What is dating?

Simply put, dating means that two people are getting to know each other and trying to figure out if there’s a possibility of them getting into a serious or committed relationship. 

Dating is an exploration stage. You’re exploring if you like the other person enough to take it to the next step. 

There’s a lot of questioning, hope, curiosity, and uncertainty at this stage.

Dating is like a test drive. You see what your partner likes and what they dislike. Do they like coffee or tea, are they a cat or dog person? How do they handle things? Are they high-maintenance or low-maintenance? etc.

You’re trying to see if you’re romantically or sexually compatible during this period. This phase may or may not lead to an official relationship.

What is an official relationship?

Couple singing in the kitchen
Couple singing in the kitchen.

An official relationship takes exclusivity a step further. What matters most is that you have a conversation and are on the same page about this.

You’re in a serious relationship if you both see yourselves as a couple, you enjoy each other’s company, you’ve discussed the future of your relationship, and you’re committed to each other. 

This phase is marked by commitment and hope. You discuss the serious stuff such as finances, family, career, life goals, and anything else requiring a partnership. 

Difference between dating and official relationship

Let’s have a quick look at the main differences between dating and being in an official relationship.

Difference between dating and official relationship


While dating, you can look around and keep your options open to find the most suitable romantic partner. You may or may not see other people.

In an official relationship, seeing other people is out of the equation. You commit to your partner because the relationship is exclusive, and there’s no space for doubt.

Mutual understanding

Dating doesn’t require the same level of mutual agreement and understanding. You have little to no responsibility.

When you are in a relationship, you must embrace responsibilities. Relationships should have mutual agreements and trust.


The level of intimacy in dating is more physical and less emotional. In contrast, there’s a high level of intensity and expression of both physical and emotional intimacy in relationships.


Communication is basic and casual in dating. It’s minimal and includes a lot of small talk like ‘where are we going for lunch?’ “Where are we spending the night?”

Relationships are different. You want to talk about all kinds of things with your partner, from big things to every little tiny detail. You talk about the past, as well as the future. The conversations are about “us” rather than “I.”

Social life 

When dating someone, you don’t show them off to your friends and family, mainly because you’re not sure about them.

You want to show off your partner to all your friends and family in an official relationship. You want everyone to know that they are your person. If you’re a public person, you even post them on your social media pages for the world to know.


You have a few expectations of the person you are dating. For instance, you might expect a second date if the first one went great. 

Expectations play a major part in any relationship between serious partners. You may have expectations of your partner, and vice versa. For instance, you expect to be treated with respect, love, and kindness.


Dating can be a priority, but not among your top priorities. It wouldn’t have as much weight as family and career.

When you’re in a relationship, it automatically becomes a top priority because it changes everything in your life. 


There’s a difference in how you introduce someone you’re dating vs. someone you’re in a relationship with. While in the dating phase, you’re undecided on what to call them, so you use their name when introducing them to other people.

While in a relationship, you’re comfortable introducing the other person as your girlfriend or boyfriend.

Longevity of the relationship

The longevity of the two is totally different. Dating is usually short-term because there’s no intention of developing the relationship into a long-term one. Relationships, unlike dating, can last for so many years.

At what point does dating become a relationship?

Son introducing his girlfriend to parents
Son introducing his girlfriend to parents

Here are the signs that you’re ready to take your relationship from dating to an official relationship.

  • You’ve talked about your future together. You’re ready for an official relationship if you’ve discussed your plans, dreams, and future as a couple.
  • You’ve met each other’s family and friends. People who are just dating don’t introduce their flings to the people they care about.
  • You’ve talked about deep stuff such as past experiences, painful experiences, deep values, or important beliefs. These conversations show you that you have a really strong bond.
  • You are committed to each other. If neither of you is going on dates with other people, you enjoy each other’s company and envision a future together. It shows that you are ready to take it to the next level.

How do you go from dating to being in a relationship?

Happy couple talking about the status of their relationship
Happy couple talking about the status of their relationship.

The transition from dating to being in a relationship can be overwhelming and scary because…” the talk.” Being vulnerable? Dang.

But your best bet is to have open and honest communication.

  • Do it face-to-face when you’re both calm and relaxed.
  • Tell them how you really feel. You could try something like this, “Hey, I’ve been happy with the way things have been going for us. But I’d like to talk about our relationship. I need to know where you see us going and if you’d like to make it official.”
  • Give them time to respond.
  • If they’re okay with taking it to the next level, define your relationship. “So, does that mean you’re my boyfriend/girlfriend?”
  • If the other party is resistant and doesn’t want to be in a full-fledged relationship, make a decision. You can either cut ties with them if you’re ready for a serious relationship or keep dating them casually.


Dating and being in an official relationship are different things, and these differences must be understood. 

In both phases, couples are at different stages of getting to know each other and developing feelings for each other. 

Assessing all these elements can help you understand the nature of your status.

Photo of author


Over the years, Stephanie has had her fair share of dating experiences. While some turned out great, others weren't so great. She believes that relationships are meant to be fun, exciting, and full of laughter. She wants to help men and women become confident, attractive, and successful in their romantic relationships.