It starts with a smile. Then holding hands. Then a kiss.
A committed relationship is one of the greatest feelings there is. It brings happiness to your life and gives you companionship in your most difficult hour. But for some people, the line between dating and a committed relationship is not clear.
This is especially the case in our era of commitment phobia. People don’t want to tie the knot and settle down. It can be even more difficult to understand when you’ve got something long-lasting–and when you don’t.
In this guide, we hope to dispel all the confusion. Join us as we discuss the difference between dating and a committed relationship.
What Is Dating?
The dating definition should be pretty self-explanatory, but the problem is with the English language and how people interpret the word. If two people say, “We’re dating,” we take that to mean a committed relationship.
But when someone says they’re “dating,” that can also mean they’re on the hunt. This makes what should be a pretty straightforward definition murkier.
Let’s cut to the chase. Dating, as an activity, is when you’re shopping around. It’s when you’re going on dates to get to know potential romantic partners, without any exclusivity or declaration of a relationship.
Some interpret dating as taking a single person out multiple times. Others take multiple people out on dates at the same time. In either case, there is no commitment.
What Is a Committed Relationship?
The meaning of committed relationship is a lot easier to define since there’s no English language confusion. There’s likely to be a lot less disagreement than with the term dating.
A committed relationship is when two people devote themselves to each other. Whether an open relationship or strict monogamy, there’s a special bond here that they don’t share with others. Even in the event of an open relationship, that exclusivity wins out when it comes to life decisions.
The Key Characteristics of a Committed Relationship
Now that we’ve got a basic definition, how do these things work in real life? It’s easy to say the words “committed” but that commitment can include any number of things. So to get a better idea of how this works, let’s look at some hallmarks of a committed relationship.
Mutual Agreement and Exclusivity
To put it simply, there is no ambiguity in a committed relationship. As mentioned above, some people have different ideas of what it means to date. In this case, both people have a clear idea of what is happening between them.
A committed relationship has a label. You’ve discussed things with your partner, and both of you have decided to pursue each other and no one else.
If you’re still in the “what are we?” phase, then it’s not a committed relationship yet. Likewise, if you’re still messaging or seeing other people. You don’t yet have to declare this relationship to the world per se, but you should be focused on one another already.
While you don’t have to be thinking about marriage necessarily, there are expectations in a committed relationship. These expectations in their most rudimentary form include staying together for a prolonged period of time.
These expectations may evolve as time goes on. Two people may choose to live together, introduce each other to family members, or include each other in financial decisions. Marriage may be the ultimate goal or just another step along the way.
Depth of Communication and Trust
When it comes to a committed relationship, you aren’t just sworn to each other. You’re putting more trust in this person than in others. That could mean sharing sensitive information or your deepest, darkest secrets.
If you’ve gotten into very, very deep topics, then this is usually a sign of a committed relationship. Most people are reluctant to give too much information to a third, fourth, or even fifth date–no matter how well you hit it off.
Sharing this information strengthens a relationship and draws you closer. For many, you won’t find these intimate details outside of a committed relationship.
A Change in Priorities
Last but not least, a committed relationship changes what things you value over others. Most people can tell when their friends are in a committed relationship because said friends don’t go out as often. If your friend suddenly goes AWOL after meeting a girl, that’s a safe bet that it’s a committed relationship.
These priorities can include whether or not family comes first, how they spend their free time, or what future plans they make. If you’re devoting more and more of your time to one person, that’s a good sign of a committed relationship.
Signs That You’re Not in a Committed Relationship
Unfortunately, you may have come to believe that you’re special to someone—only to find out they don’t feel the same. Here are a few indicators that it might not be committed:
- They’re still dating other people
- They don’t keep up communication with you
- They prioritize friends over spending time with you
- They don’t make any moves on you (inviting you on dates, initiating physical intimacy, etc.)
- They limit the information that they’re willing to give
- They don’t respond to conversations about getting serious
This is far from a conclusive list. Your situation may be different from the rest. It’s important to realize that your potential love interest may be busy with life or have a lot on their plate.
Whatever the case, protect your heart first and foremost. Don’t make the mistake of giving too much to a person who does not reciprocate. There is a lot of fish in the sea, meaning you shouldn’t settle for those who don’t give you the time of day.
Strengthen Your Relationships
No one enjoys dating, which makes it all the more difficult to gauge when you’ve entered into a committed relationship. Fortunately, a committed relationship has a few key characteristics that you’re not likely to miss. Use these features to determine if the relationship you’re building is going in the right direction.
Finding a relationship balance once you have it is easier said than done. That’s where Mend the Bond is here to help. Check out their free relationship advice for men (and relationship advice for women).