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Online Dating Magazine > Columns > Date & Relate > When is it a Relationship?

Date & Relate
by Sara Hodon

When is it a Relationship?

There’s nothing like the early days of a new relationship.  The first dates where you’re still learning about the other person.  The hours-long phone calls that you wish would never end.  The butterflies you get in your stomach when you know you’ll be seeing them.  And best of all, the feeling of relief you get when you realize you won’t be the solo one in your group anymore!

Those early days are important, but unfortunately, in most cases those first few weeks of infatuation are all too short.    So what happens when that initial excitement starts to wane?  Does this mean it’s hopeless?  Not quite.  But this does lead to the question of when does “hanging out” lead to “dating”, and when does “dating” become a “relationship”?


Unfortunately, there are few rules or guidelines with matters of the heart.  I’m often not even sure when to start calling it a “relationship”.   It’s always been a bit of a gray area.    I spent 6 months with one guy—exclusively, because playing the field isn’t really my style—but wouldn’t say we ever got past the “hanging out” stage.  There was a lot of interest and attraction on my end, but I honestly can’t say the same about him, even after all that time.  

Another example—a few months ago, I dated a guy for only a few weeks.   It was a little more intense than “hanging out”, but it ended once the initial infatuation started to fade, and never made it to the actual “relationship” stage, either.  

And in a third instance, we were in a “relationship” after less than a month.   So when is it a “relationship”?  In my un-professional opinion but speaking from experience, it’s when you are connecting on all levels.  You are physically attracted, intellectually challenged, and emotionally invested in the other person’s well-being.  You feel comfortable sharing your deep, dark secrets and innermost thoughts with them.  You spend as much time with them as possible, often whole weekends.   There’s no timeline for when you find yourself into a “relationship”, but you usually know when things are moving in that direction.  Still confused?  Below are some general guidelines for how to tell the differences:


  • If your friends call and invite you out, you accept.  You don’t automatically check with your new partner to see if they’d wanted to get together.
  • You make an effort with your appearance, but don’t go all out just yet
  • Your “dates” are still group events—you aren’t quite ready for one-on-one time
  • You eventually get around to filling them in on the happenings in your life
  • You don’t talk every day
  • You spend a few hours together, but they don’t occupy your whole day/evening
  • Intimacy?  Nowhere near ready
  • There’s definitely an attraction, though the direction of the relationship may still be unclear


  • You start to think you want to see one person exclusively
  • You put a lot of time into your appearance before a date
  • You ask if you can bring them to an event with friends or family
  • They’re one of the first people you call when something good or bad happens, but you still call your mom or best friend first
  • You talk almost every day
  • You have the “Where is this going?” talk
  • Intimacy?  Definitely on the agenda! (Or, quite possibly, you can cross that off the list)
  • You start making a list of places you’d like to go on dates to keep things interesting
  • It’s exciting to continually learn new things about them
  • You start dropping their name into conversations
  • Saying “I love you” and hearing it from them gives you a warm fuzzy feeling inside
  • You start getting calls and texts in the middle of the day “just because I was thinking of you”, and you do the same


  • See only one other person exclusively
  • The other person is automatically invited to anything you are invited to
  • You spend much less time “prepping” before you see them
  • Grocery shopping can be considered a date
  • You end every call or date with “I love you” and neither of you feels awkward about saying it
  • They are the first person you call when something good or bad happens
  • You feel completely comfortable asking them to borrow an article of clothing
  • Intimacy?  Most definitely
  • You leave personal items at their place rather than keep bringing things from home (especially shower items)
  • You talk about moving in together, or actually do it
  • Though the initial uncontrollable butterflies have faded a bit, life is somehow better when you are around them
  • You start talking about marriage


Date & Relate is published every Thursday by Online Dating Magazine columnist Sara Hodon.

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