What is dating? What are the stages of dating? Let’s go over some basic terminology and a basic timeline to understand the steps of dating and building a healthy relationship. A healthy relationship takes time to grow. It may sound “old fashioned” but taking the time to get to know someone before getting serious is a crucial step to making better relationship decisions.
Early Dating Stages
- Casual dating is the earliest stage of building a romantic relationship. Dating is the stage of a “relationship” where two people meet socially with the aim of each assessing the other’s suitability as a prospective partner in an intimate relationship. Early infatuation and lust can happen during this phase, but shouldn’t be mistaken for actual love.
The early dating process these days involves online dating, being in more frequent contact with texting and social media, and “going out” dates. Typically this phase should last at least 2-3 months (or about 6-8 “going out” dates). This really depends on how much time you are spending together, but also remember to instill healthy boundaries early and not spend all your time together during this stage.
During this stage you start getting to know each other and figure out your similarities and differences, each other’s likes and dislikes, job, hobbies, music and movies tastes, etc. Having a first date at a restaurant and observing how each other treats the wait staff, if they have manners, etc can be a good “test date.”
- The next stage of dating progress from casual dating (where you may have been dating more than one person) to just dating each other, called exclusive dating. This shouldn’t be confused for a commitment to a serious relationship, just that you’ve successfully past the first stage and have decided to date each other exclusively to get to know each other better and continue growing a relationship. Generally, this phase should last around 3-6 months (for some it can last more than a year).
The intent at this stage is to go deeper, moving past small talk and the basics of getting to know each other (the things one might put on a public dating profile) and into more intimate conversation and beginning to learn what makes each other tick.
You may start to develop inside jokes, nicknames, and other casual forms of communication. Listen to your gut, look out for red flags, enforce your boundaries and make sure the other person respects you and your boundaries.
The Commitment Stage
3. The next dating stage will be a serious relationship commitment. You’ll begin to progress into spending more time together, start using the term “we”, other will see you as a unit, you may go on trips together, etc. Remember to maintain a sense of self. Spend time with your friends and keep up with your own hobbies and activities. Generally, once you’ve been seeing someone for 6-9 months or longer, you will begin to know and develop actual emotional feelings for the person that is deeper than the initial infatuation phase (which generally passes after the first 3 months). If you have children from a previous relationship, it’s best that they don’t get introduced too early, really before this phase of a serious commitment to each other, as you want to have taken time to get to know the person and that they are likely to stick around.
So at this point (about 6-9 months into the dating relationship and making a commitment to a serious relationship with each other) it may be time to meet the children, family, friends (if they haven’t already met them casually).
4. So after the serious relationship commitment comes engagement… Most marriages that occur before a couple is together a full year end in divorce. It’s recommended to consider engagement no earlier than that one year mark, especially with children involved so that they’ve had time to get to know the other person and vice versa, and you’ve been able to to see how they interact.
5. So obviously the next step is marriage… Engagements can really last however long you want them to… some 3-6 months, others a year or longer.
So the key here is not to rush into anything. For those of us who’ve had our share of unhealthy or abusive relationship patterns, we’ve very likely noticed the pattern that these type of relationships happen very quickly. Take your time to go through the dating stages and make sure this is the right relationship for you.