Dating vs. Relationship Definition: Exploring the Differences, Pros, and Cons

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Dating vs. Relationship Definition

Are you dating or in a relationship?

We often use the words “dating” and “relationship” interchangeably, but do they mean the same thing?

Well, dating is different from being in a relationship. The two are related in that one may lead to another. Maybe that’s why we assume they mean the same thing.

Not sure if you are dating or in a relationship? 

I will help you understand what the two words mean, their differences, and anything that helps you figure out where you stand.

Let’s get into it!

What is Dating?

Loving couple dating in a park
Loving couple dating in a park.

Dating means spending time with someone you are attracted to, so you get to know them better, understand their personality, and see if they fit your ideal type of partner. 

However, the two of you should have a romantic interest in each other. So basically, it’s a trial period where each of you is analyzing the other person, hoping they turn out to be your perfect match.

What Does it Mean to be in a Relationship?

On the other hand, being in a relationship with someone means you understand their personality and agree to commit to each other to cultivate your connection.

This means you passed the trial period and found out you two are compatible in different aspects. 

The Pros and Cons of Dating

Like everything else, dating has its advantages and disadvantages. Let’s start with the benefits.

The pros of dating

You enjoy companionship while dating. As you meet up for coffee and learn more about each other, you enjoy the other person’s company.

Also, you get someone to count on. You can share your thoughts or troubles with this person if you feel comfortable doing so.

You get to be the best version of yourself. This is especially so if your date knows little about you, so you don’t have to worry about something embarrassing in your past.

Dating helps you learn how to relate to others. It’s a way of socializing; hence, it improves your social skills as you spend time with the other person.

Besides, you get to test compatibility and learn tolerance. This is crucial, especially if you decide to commit to the person you are dating. 

Sweet Couple Walking on the Sandy Shore of a Beach
Sweet couple walking on the sandy shore of a beach.

You visit new places as you go on dates, so you get a chance to explore and try new things, like food, drinks, and activities.

There are a lot of new things that you may try, like bowling.

As you go out on dates and have fun, you relieve the pressure of work and any other responsibilities you may have.

You may learn a lot about yourself. Probably things you didn’t know.

You generally have a good time as you explore, enjoy each other’s company, and try new things.

Dating may lead to something beautiful if you two fall for each other and decide to commit to a relationship.

The cons of dating

Time spent dating ends up as time wasted if you are not compatible and can’t continue in a relationship. 

You spend money going on dates. Even if the other person is paying, you may spend your money one way or another, for example, paying for transport from your place to the meet-up location.

You may end up with a broken heart if you develop feelings for the other person and they don’t feel the same way. You may like your date, but they don’t find you compatible, which means you can’t pursue it further.

Your date may fake their personality throughout the entire dating period to lure you into a relationship and break your heart in the end.

You trust a stranger who can easily hurt you both physically and emotionally. The popular “Tinder Swindler,” a true-crime documentary, is enough proof. 

You may develop a negative attitude towards dating if it doesn’t work out.

Man and Woman Sitting Back To Back Having A Fight
Man and woman sitting back to back having a fight.

The Pros and Cons of Being in a Relationship

Like dating, being in a relationship also has its pros and cons.

The advantages of being in a relationship

You enjoy sweet true love. We all want to experience genuine unconditional love every moment, and true love gives you that.

You have someone who cares and is there for you all the time. Life becomes easier as there is someone to hold your hand when things are tough and congratulate you on your wins.

You enjoy intimacy. And not necessarily sex, but cuddling, holding hands, and quality time in general.

Man in Green and Brown Plaid Shirt Kissing Woman in Brown Sweater
Man in green and brown plaid shirt kissing woman while playing Chess.

You get permanent companionship for as long as it lasts. But again, you can’t compare this with the kind of companionship you get when you’re dating.

You have someone who values you, your opinions, and supports you in every way. They correct you and help you become a better version of yourself.

When you have a reliable support system, you feel confident and secure, so you pursue your goals better and improve your self-esteem.

In addition, you are less prone to stress, you get happier and more understanding, as well as learn patience both with yourself and the other person.

Generally, a healthy relationship helps you face life with a positive outlook as you are at peace and enjoy the good things in life, no matter how small.

Disadvantages of being in a relationship

You make someone part of your personal life, which can be tricky, especially if you have issues with personal space.

You compromise for the relationship to work, sometimes for very important things.

You may lose your independence in some areas of life as you have to discuss things with your partner. For some, this can be frustrating. 

Relationships are not all cute. There are bad days when you argue, which may affect your mood and productivity at work.

You put a lot of effort into fueling the relationship, and when your goals don’t align, you may have problems that lead to stress. 

You may live in fear of heartbreak if things don’t work out, as people change and things fall apart. 

Couple having conflict on street
Couple having conflict on street.

Relationship vs Dating: The Main Differences

You commit to your partner in a relationship, while there is less or no commitment in dating. 

In the same way, since you choose to commit to a relationship, exclusivity is involved unless you agree otherwise. 

However, with little or no commitment to dating, you are not obliged to be exclusive, which means you can date several people at the same time.

Being in a relationship comes with a lot of responsibilities. You have to be your partner’s support system in almost every way. However, dating involves fewer responsibilities as there is no serious commitment. 

A relationship is more permanent than a date. What I mean is, with commitment and responsibilities, relationships become more permanent and may last longer if partners are compatible. 

The main purpose of dating is to get to know each other, while when you are in a relationship, you aim for stability and a long-term commitment, probably marriage.

When you are in a relationship, you enjoy constant and valuable ‘goodies’ such as a solid support system. 

You can’t be guaranteed this in dating. You will only enjoy things like visiting new places, which you can also enjoy in a relationship. 

In a relationship, you trust your partner, so you are not afraid of dealing with a stranger, unlike in dating, where you barely know the other person. 

In the same way, the trust you put in your partner in a relationship makes you prone to being hurt if things go wrong. Since there is less to no trust in dating, you are keen on being hurt, and if it happens, the damage is not as intense. 

There is more intimacy in a relationship than there is in dating. However, I must acknowledge that there may be more intimacy in terms of sex in dating than in a relationship if those dating agree to it.

Are we just dating or in a relationship?

The level of commitment and attachment determines if you are just dating or in a relationship. But simply put, if you barely know each other and are trying to learn more about each other, you are dating.

When you are convinced that you know your partner and you find you are compatible, you can agree to commit and start a relationship.

Is dating considered a relationship?

Generally, yes. Dating is considered a relationship, but it’s not the same as being in a relationship. It’s a casual relationship with little or no commitment.

Man and Woman Holding Hands While Walking at Park
Man and woman holding hands while walking at park.

Can you date without being in a relationship?

You can, but it’s considered “empty dating,” meaning you are dating for fun with no intention of pursuing a relationship. 

This means you will be dating numerous people at a time, which is not healthy as you may end up hurt. 

What changes from dating to a relationship?

Commitment. You increase the level of commitment when you are moving from dating to being in a relationship. 

Bottom line

Though we often use the word “dating” to mean being in a relationship, the two are different. However, dating can lead to a relationship if partners are compatible and agree to commit to each other.

This means dating is an essential part of a relationship, as you can’t skip to a relationship without dating. And if you do, you are exposing yourself to emotional risk because you skipped the “getting to know each other” part. 

Take as long as you want to date someone before committing to a relationship, so you learn almost everything about them. 

And as you do, remember to have fun and enjoy yourself. 

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.