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Sex + Relationships

love defined: the definition of dating

Don’t be frightened, but winter is coming and there is no stopping it. There is a chill in the air, frost on the ground and all of sudden we feel we must find someone to keep us warm and sane in the coming months. That’s right. Cuffing season is upon us.

Considering all that lies ahead, let’s discuss the term that will jumpstart your winter fling until we hit spring. There is no term with more gray area than the word “dating”—everyone uses it differently. We know the trend of not defining a relationship continues to grow in popularity as we bury our heads in our covers and conceal our feelings in carefully calculated posts for our Instagram stories. But things can only go undefined for so long. “Hanging out” and “seeing someone” is getting old and confusing, and saying you have “a thing for someone” is a little too seventh grade. Eventually one must ask, are you dating or are you not? 

Cambridge English dictionary says dating means “to regularly spend time with someone you have a romantic relationship with.” Urban Dictionary has multiple definitions of dating that range from “dating: when two people who are attracted to each other spend time together to see if they can also stand to be around each other most of the time” to “dating: when two people see each other regularly and have been inside each other.”

Easy enough, right? Wrong. Each definition slightly varies from the other. So, I turned to my peers to see if they would be able to shed some light on the subject, but still, I remain perplexed. When I asked my single male friend to give his definition he said, “Dating a specific person is saying that ‘you’re my best friend and also, I’m attracted to you.’” I then asked if two people who are dating can be labeled as romantic partners? His answer was pretty immediate: “No, it doesn’t have to be that. F— that.” After a short conversation and minimal debate, the general consensus was that the definition depends on the person carrying out such action. 

When I interviewed another male friend he said that the term “dating” qualifies as two people who are exclusive romantic partners. These two men had opposite criteria for what dating is but both of them claimed that the dater should be “your person”. So, we can recognize that such a relationship comes with a deep sense of affection, but does not come with clear do’s and don’ts. 

I also asked two of my female friends what “dating” means and they consider it an exclusive relationship, something more than just simply hooking up. One of the girls went even further to say, “Whatever day that is decided then becomes their anniversary.” This confused me further. “Anniversary”, “best friend”, “one’s person”, all sound very serious to me while some people consider dating as the most casual form of love. Or “like”, rather. Of course, to really understand further, I would need to interview a large, diverse group of Gen Zers but this is an eye opening start to the fact that everyone thinks of dating differently. 

While dating, we can agree that there should be affection between the two partners, but we should also recognize the other criteria for courtship. One must treat the other with common courtesy—respect, honesty, acceptance, all of those fun things. This treatment should be non-negotiable in any relationship. But when it comes to the basic definition of “dating,” it is all about a person’s intentions. Exclusive or not exclusive, committed or not committed, connected or disconnected. That is for the two people engaged in the relationship to decide. 

In Sex And The City, Carrie Bradshaw says, “Every couple has the right to make their own rules.” Considering Carrie’s dating history, it’s safe to say that this statement has merit. Figure out what you like and don’t like, what works for you and what doesn’t work for you in your relationships. Bring open communication and mutual understanding to your dating life. Remember that it should be fun. And if your definition of dating doesn’t match with someone else’s, I know The Bachelor is always accepting new contestants. 



Hey, I'm Caraline!