Officially Dating Meaning: What It Really Means To Be “Official” 

Published on:
Flingorlove is reader supported. When you purchase through referral links on our site, we may earn a commission.. Learn more

Dating is ever-changing and tricky, and sometimes the language surrounding it can be outright confusing. With terms like ‘ghosting’ and ‘cat-fishing’ becoming understood quite well by the masses, one might assume there would be more clarity around the meaning of “we’re officially dating.”

Is it like being in a relationship? Is it exclusive? Can you call the person you’re officially dating your boyfriend or girlfriend? You can know it all by discovering the meaning of officially dating. This article teaches you exactly that so you can be clear about the implications of being official. Let’s get started.

What Does It Mean to Be Officially Dating Someone?

The fact that you’re officially dating is brought up in two contexts. Either the person you’re dating says it to you or to their friends. In both cases, the meaning and implications remain the same. It indicates seriousness and progress.

To officially date someone means taking the arrangement a step further from “just seeing each other” and getting less casual about dating. At this stage, expectations and boundaries are introduced, and the road to a relationship is paved.

There are several advantages to officially dating the person you are seeing. The first among these is the sense of security in knowing that you’re not wasting your time. People who move to the official stage quickly are more decisive and ready to progress. 

Two lovely couples enjoying the view in the terrace
Two lovely couples enjoying the view in the terrace.

Being official also opens up social opportunities as both your friends know about the arrangement. As a result, less sneaking around is required, and you can go on double dates or attend events together. More importantly, you can seek support and advice from your friends once you don’t have to hide your dating troubles from them.

But nothing in life comes without its drawbacks, and dating officially is no exception. The defining disadvantage of being official with someone is that you shut the doors of serendipity and opportunity. When you date someone officially, it is assumed that you’re dating them exclusively. 

As a result, fewer people approach you. In most cases, officially dating and exclusively dating go hand-in-hand. That means you can no longer date anyone else. It also puts the pressure to move from the dating stage to a relationship. Where ‘seeing someone’ and ‘casually dating’ are roads to a relationship, the ‘officially dating’ stage is a short bridge. 

As soon as you get official with someone, the rules are not different from a relationship, making the difference almost entirely semantic. In other words, you’re in a relationship, without the word ‘relationship,’ or ‘girlfriend’ and ‘boyfriend’ being used.

How Do You Know if You Are Officially Dating?

You know you are officially dating if your partner has acknowledged dating you publicly and you have discussed exclusivity privately. This goes both ways, and even your friends need to know that you’re dating before it can be deemed official.

Signs That You Are Officially Dating

One has to be very literal to say “we are officially dating” to their partner. This type of literality is possible but rare. Unless you’re dating someone like Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk, you cannot expect such awkward-yet-straightforward phrasing. The signs below can be handy in figuring out if you’re official with someone.

How Do You Know if You Are Officially Dating?

The Word Dating Has Been Used by You and Your Partner

In order to be officially dating, the fact that you’re dating has to be mutually acknowledged. This requires at least one of the partners to mention the word and the other to agree with it by not protesting or explicitly accepting. 

If you’ve been having late-night dinners and evening drinks with a partner and say something along the lines of, “you’re a fun date,” and they don’t protest, you’re quite likely dating. However, their silence doesn’t always guarantee that you are indeed officially dating. Sometimes, your partner might be too shy or agreeable to outright dismiss the term.

Your Friends Know About the Person You’re Dating

It is almost impossible to officially date someone while keeping it 100% secret because the definition of making it official entails making the arrangement public. If neither your nor his friends know that you’re dating, then the status of your arrangement remains unofficial. If friends of one partner know about the other but the same doesn’t apply in reverse, it could mean that the relationship is skewed.

This indicator also serves as a quality control metric. When your friends know that you’re officially dating, they can give their feedback and let you know if you should get into a relationship with the person you’re dating.

You Are Exclusive or Have Discussed Exclusivity

The stage that precedes ‘officially dating’ is ‘seeing each other, which is signified by the lack of boundaries, responsibilities, and commitments. When moving from that stage to one with an official status, the boundaries need to be communicated. That doesn’t mean you have to “have the talk.” 

You can communicate your preferences and expectations in a few ways, including mentioning things in passing, referencing others, and even using your facial expressions to approve or disapprove of a certain action. But exclusivity remains at the forefront and has to be discussed. 

If you cannot guarantee that your partner is exclusive with you or haven’t mentioned your desire to make the arrangement exclusive, you’re not dating. If you’re polyamorous, then there is a higher need for this discussion as the boundaries of such relationships are more nuanced.

Both the Partners Have Mentioned Dating Publicly

Another excellent indicator of officially dating is that both the partners have mentioned that they are dating. There are levels to this, with the bare minimum being that your partner has mentioned dating without bringing you up. 

At best, you’re introduced to their friends as the girl or the guy they are dating. The reverse is also valid. If you’ve not mentioned that you’re dating, then it doesn’t matter if your partner has mentioned you to their friends. Dating someone officially means doing so on equal footing and publicly.

Officially Dating vs. Exclusively Dating

A man takes the hand of a woman he is dating.
A man takes the hand of a woman he is dating.

Because officially dating and exclusively dating overlap in most instances, it is hard to tell them apart. If you assume you’re exclusive with someone with whom you’re official, you might get hurt discovering that the truth is otherwise. The table below covers the subtle differences between officially dating and dating someone exclusively.

Officially DatingExclusively Dating
It is preceded by seeing each otherIt is preceded by casually dating
Requires public acknowledgment of the other individual as a partnerRequires private agreement between the individuals to date each other only
Usually happens after sexCan happen before sex
It is valid for poly and monogamous couples alikeIs it possible for monogamous couples only
Is never the first stepSometimes, the first date marks the beginning of exclusively dating.

All in all, exclusivity and official status often go hand-in-hand but aren’t inherently exclusive. You can assume officially dating to mean exclusively dating if your partner has remained a monogamist their entire life. For polyamorous individuals, officially dating doesn’t entail exclusivity.

That said, there are plenty of similarities between being exclusive and being official. Both are considered to be indicators of getting serious. They also show progress towards, if not the beginning of, a relationship. Both stages have boundaries and rules. And whether you are official with someone or exclusive with them, there is a sense of security.

How to Know When to Make Your Arrangement Official?

Now that you know how to figure out whether you’re officially dating or not, let’s go over how you can tell if it is a good idea. Knowing the signs of being official, you can steer the person you’re dating away from the official status if you feel like the time isn’t right. Below are the indicators that an arrangement should be made official.

You Have a Good Gut Feeling

“Just listen to your heart” is surface-level advice given by friends regarding matters of the heart, including career choice and partner choice. It is half right. You should not “just” listen to your heart, but you must consider your gut feeling as a prerequisite. Our “hearts” aren’t great at pointing out the right one but are excellent at spotting the wrong one. 

If you do not have a good gut feeling about the person you’re dating, you should not get official with them. In case you have a good gut feeling about them, you should look for neutral, unbiased, third-party indicators that affirm your gut feeling.

Friends Who Aren’t Close to You Think It Is a Good Idea

To make sure that you’re getting a neutral take, you should ask friends you’re not too close to. If they think it is a good idea, then you should probably start dating your partner officially. Do not ask in the group setting because that can result in the “focus group” effect where everyone agrees with one friend. The reason for asking more than one person is to make sure you’re not putting too much stock in one friend’s opinions.

Your Family Members Have a Positive View of It

Girl meets her parents and introduces her boyfriend
Girl meets her parents and introduces her boyfriend.

Asking people who aren’t too close to you might get you a neutral response, but the reasoning behind the said response will not take your personality, taste, and habits into account. Your family knows you better than most, so asking family members if officially dating a specific person is a good idea is in itself a good idea. 

Again, don’t make the mistake of asking your family in a group setting like the dinner table. You need to ask each member individually so that a single opinion doesn’t dominate the assessment. Moreover, you need larger individual input so that no member’s biases can sway your decision.

You’re Personally Ready to Start Dating Officially

Finally, the best indicator that you should start officially dating someone is that you’re personally ready to get official. While your acquaintances and close family members can give their honest opinion about the person you’re dating, only you can tell if you’re ready to take the step. Ask yourself how you feel about moving on from casual dating and making it official.

The coin toss method is an excellent method to determine which way you lean. No, it isn’t as simple as flipping a coin and seeing where it lands. The coin flip method can be used to decide between two options even outside of this context. Simply follow the steps below to check your readiness for officially dating.

  • Step 1: Assign outcomes – If the coin lands heads up, you’re going to get official. If it lands tails up, you’re going to remain casual.
  • Step 2: Flip the coin – This step is straightforward, but the farther up in the air the coin goes, the more time you get to process, so make sure the toss is high.
  • Step 3: Notice which way you hope it lands – The actual landing doesn’t matter. You’re going to pay attention to the side you want it to land on. While the two sides seem equal initially, when there is pressure to pick one, the one you like more becomes a little more evident.
  • Step 4 (optional): If still indecisive, follow the coin – If you genuinely don’t hope the coin flips, either way, you’re truly neutral between both options, in which case you might as well follow the result of the coin flip.

They Are Personally Ready to Start Dating

It takes two to tango. You should also consider the readiness of your partner before you decide to start officially dating. If they like you a lot but aren’t prepared to make things official, your interest in officially dating can persuade them to adopt the status. That’s why, before you express your interest in taking things to the next level, ask them if they are ready.


Officially dating is the act of dating someone while publicly acknowledging them as the person you are primarily (and in most cases exclusively) dating. Before this stage, you’re seeing each other or casually dating with far fewer boundaries. 

The difference between officially dating and being in a relationship is negligible, which is why you should get official only when you’re ready to be in a relationship because you’re going to find yourself in one soon after.

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.