The Differences Between Dating and Being in a Relationship

Often, people may need clarification about the differences between dating and being in a relationship. Whether they have been dating someone for quite some time or just recently started seeing their friend’s partner, it can be difficult to tell whether they are in a relationship. People also may confuse the terms “dating” and “in a relationship” with other phrases that have been used to describe relationships, such as “situations,” “friends with benefits,” “cuffing,” etc.

While there is some overlap in the different types of relationships, a relationship requires much more commitment than dating and should be defined as such. In some cases, there is a distinction between dating and being in a relationship regarding physical intimacy. Some couples that date exclusively before committing to a relationship do so because they want to be sure they are genuinely interested in one another. At the same time, in other cases, it is a way to get close to each other before taking the next step.

The most significant difference between dating and being in a relationship is the level of stability and commitment involved. Typically, if you are in a relationship, you will not date other people and prioritize your relationship with that person over your friends and family members. You may live together, and you will make long-term plans with each other. Sometimes, you may even have said “I love you” to each other. If you are not in a relationship, you may still be dating, but you may not prioritize your relationship, and you may not have said “I love you” to each other.


Many people do not make many plans with each other during the dating stage because they are still determining if they are in a committed relationship. This is because there is a lot of room for error regarding relationships. People can say the wrong things, be insecure and worried about losing their independence, and not be ready to commit. This can lead to people dating purely for sex or not being honest with each other about their intentions when they start dating.

Once you are in a relationship, however, this changes. You should introduce your partner to your friends and family as your boyfriend or girlfriend. You will spend the majority of your time with them, and you will refer to them as such when referring to them in conversations. You will likely make a point of spending time with your friends and family, but you may not do so as frequently as you did before you entered into a relationship. This indicates that you are committing and choosing to invest in this relationship.

About Dominic E.

Film Student and Full-time Medical Writer for