What does dating ACTUALLY mean?

The line is blurry. I myself don’t even really know. I’ve gotten in the habit saying I’m “seeing” someone if I’ve been on more than a couple dates with them because it feels more casual then “dating.” Even though, historically, I’m a serial monogamist the feeling of commitment makes me wig out a little bit. That could be because it wasn’t right last time around // it just wasn’t in the stars, but if we’re being REALLY honest, when my long term ex first wanted to “make things official,” I completely freaked. He went on a business trip right after he bulldozed me into defining our relationship…then, I cheated on him in the few days he was gone. I warned him I wasn’t ready before hand, but he was a pusher, and he pushed me in the wrong direction. Had he given me the time and space, I either would have decided on my own that it was time or decided it wasn’t right. Instead, I made a mistake, we were forced to get over it (or not) and then out of fear of losing him I clung on and we stayed together. Not a solid way to kick off a healthy relationship, that’s for sure.

If we want to go wayyy back. My first long term relationship was with a boy I saw on and off in high school and then started dating right before college (and then probably way too far into college). In high school, we were on and off because he was also on and off with someone else (and so was I because #games — insert eye roll). Talk about thrill of the chase. Thrilling, but so not sustainable and not a great foundation for a lasting relationship. The questions is, is this first big relationship where I developed an anxious attachment type? Or, was I drawn to the situation because I was already on the anxious side of things and that just amplified it? The world may never know but I’m going to guess the latter.

My problem clearly lies in taking a relationship from casual to serious without things getting weird and without falling into anxious tendencies. This problem pops up because I tend to go after avoidants — as most anxious prone people who haven’t done the work typically do.

Since breaking up with Nic (my longterm, live-in ex) last year I’ve gone on a lot of first dates, a fair amount of second dates, slept with more people than I had in my “before Nic” era, ended up what I would call “seeing” two people (so far), had one long term fuck buddy (because we all need one we trust on many levels), andddd I think that about rounds it out. I needed my time to do my own thing and wasn’t emotionally open to a relationship no matter how much my brain and body craved one. The funny part of the whole thing was that I was told someone I was “seeing” and myself were dating by multiple people when in my head AND in his head we were just having fun and letting things land where they land. This example shows how important the expectation conversation is between the two active parties….That said, I started pondering — what does “dating” actually mean, why is the line so blurry, and how can it change so much from person to person?

I took to the instagram ask feature to survey my insta stories audience, because I’m clearly not sure what the real answer is // have a very skewed view of what it is. You know what’s hysterical? Not one of you said the same thing. I made sure to sprinkle a few male POV points in (granted there were less of them) along with the female POV for good measure.

Here’s what came in:

  • “Seeing someone multiple times” [F POV]

  • “A romantic relationship with intent. As opposed to casual dating where there is no intent” [M POV]

  • “Interest, consistency, and effort//energy” [F POV]

  • “Talking to that person daily and seeing each other at least once a week” [F POV]

  • “Consistently spending time together and staying connected even when you aren’t together” [F POV]

  • “Fucking only sexy men” [F POV]

  • “Enjoying someone else’s company and learning about each other with love and compassion” [F POV]

  • “Dating, the verb, and date, the non are two different words. Dating is a mutual understanding” [F POV]

  • “You hang out with them often” [F POV]

  • “He introduces you to his friends and vice versa” [F POV]

  • “Ex is actually an ex” [F POV]

  • “Exclusivity” [F POV]

  • “Seeing each other with a romantic interest in mind!” [F POV]

  • “Making plans regularly with someone who shares romantic feelings for you” [F POV]

  • “Consistency while getting to know one another” [F POV]

  • “Going out//staying in at home for a movie, dinner, ice cream and such” [F POV]

  • “We met on tinder, fell in love on the second date, and mutually agree the first date was when we started dating” [F POV]

  • “Dating is when there is obvious mutual interest and it is expected that you will see the other person with some regularity. Sex has probably occurred before its ‘dating.’ Where it would be awkward and upsetting to run into the other person on a different date” [M POV]

  • “You can be going out on dates with someone regularly so you’re dating but then at some point you define it more and then you’re like dating with a definition — bf//gf//etc. I think of how I’d describe it to someone: we went on a few dates, I’m seeing someone new//the guy I’m dating, my boyfriend…something like that progression wise” [F POV]

  • “Dating can be confusing for a lot of people. I’ve never really dated rather just dived into the next relationship. But dating is important and the length of how long you are in that process is so different for everyone I guess. Murky waters.” [F POV]

  • “So I was pretty much single for 6 years with the exception of several guys I dated exclusively for a few months here and a few months there. Over the past 6 years that defined line has been very blurry! I find that no one wants to talk about whether they are looking for a relationship, seeing other people, etc. People (especially men in my experience and observation) like to keep it vague. I got so tired of that especially coming from a place of knowing exactly what I wanted (a healthy, monogamous relationship). That’s why I started looking for older meant. That’s when I met XX. There was no guessing about what he wanted, how he felt about me, etc. I think when you find the right person that vague line disappears.” [F POV]

  • “I was on every single dating app. I had a date for almost every other night. I loved getting to know people, trying new places, etc. I really wanted someone in my life, but I just wasn’t feeling super connected to any of the people I was seeing. I went on a blind date with my now fiancé and we started seeing each other consistently and talking regularly and within about a month of getting we called ourselves boyfriend//girlfriend and were exclusive. I think “dating” is different for everyone, and I think it’s good to see multiple people when you’re casually dating but sometimes I think people continue seeing other people only for “backup” and somethings you just gotta go all in and risk it for the right person. So long story short I think “dating” means going out with someone, doesn’t have to involve spending money. And I think actually DATING means being exclusive and requires a convo, but until that convo it’s fair game.” [F POV]

  • “When we talked about it and defined what we are to each other :)” [F POV]

  • “Both people initiating shared time. Can’t be one sides” [M POV]

  • “A mutual understanding of where things are and where you want them to be” [M POV]

  • “Actually wanted to hang out after sex” [M POV]

To be honest. I wasn’t sure if the guy I’m currently seeing and I were “dating” or not until I wrote down this list and could say yes to all of them pretty much all of them, and 100% of the answers that he sent in. TMI maybe, but the last three were his. So I HAD to confirm with a follow up — “does this mean we’re dating?” — the answer? “Fuck YAH.” :)

What I will note before signing off. Some of the people that wrote in considered dating to be a boyfriend//girlfriend situation and some considered the step between seeing each other and a relationship. It’s important to check in with the other half of your tango team to decide what dating means to you both. For me and my current boy? It solely means dating. No established relationship yet. We do continually check in with each other. He’s not ready for a relationship and at this moment I’m okay with that. That said, it’s important for me to watch me feelings and relay them to him and vice versa. Communication is everything!

More #NWLDATINGDIARIES to come.

Also, have more modern dating questions? Send them my way. I feel like the millennial wellness version of Carrie Bradshaw and I won’t like, I’m kind of loving it. XO