At loveisrespect, we get all kinds of questions about dating. We cover a few of the basics below. If you have questions of your own or need more information, you can always chat with a trained peer advocate!
What Is Dating?
“Dating” means different things to different people, particularly across generations. At loveisrespect, we define “dating” as two (or possibly more than two!) people in an intimate relationship. The relationship may be sexual, but it doesn’t have to be. It may be serious or casual, straight or gay, committed or open, short-term or long-term. We use the gender-neutral term “partners” to refer to people in an intimate relationship, but you might use a different word (and that’s okay)! No matter how you define dating, it’s important to remember that abuse can occur within all kinds of intimate relationships. That’s why it’s important to recognize the warning signs!
So…Are We Dating?
Whether you call it “dating” or something else, all partners should agree on a definition and the same ground rules for the relationship. Keep these questions in mind:
- Do you have romantic feelings for this person?
- Are you and the person you’re interested in both looking for a committed relationship?
- Do you hang out or go on dates without a group of friends?
- Is the status of your relationship something you’ve shared with others in person or online, like on Facebook?
- Do both people in the relationship agree that it’s exclusive?
Does “Hooking Up” Count?
Hooking up is a broad term, but generally it refers to casual encounters between people who can be friends but don’t have to be. They may or may not be your only partner and can include sex.
Even if you are “hooking up,” your partner should not be disrespectful or controlling. You should be able to communicate your feelings without being afraid of negative consequences or abuse. Remember the rules for a healthy relationship apply to hook-ups, too.
How Old Do I Have to Be to Date?
There’s no singular right answer to this question, because everyone is different! Many parents set a dating age for their kids according to their culture, views and beliefs. Consider talking to your parents, family and friends to see what their thoughts are. If you think that talking to your parents might be hard, start with your friends or other adults you trust. Ultimately, what matters is that you personally feel ready and confident to make this decision.
But What If I’m Not Dating?
There are other types of relationships that might not be considered dating that are just as real and valid. Maybe you have a child with somebody but do not consider yourself to be in a dating relationship with that person. Having a child together could feel like more than just dating, or you might have chosen not to be together anymore; there is no one way that relationships must work.
Another possibility is that you and your partner are married. Of course, marriage is different from dating in some ways, but you might be surprised at how similar they really are! What makes a dating relationship healthy or unhealthy usually applies to marriage as well.
At loveisrespect, we focus on dating relationships, but the information on this website is helpful for all kinds of relationships!
Is Holding a Grudge Towards My Partner Unhealthy?
Yes, holding a grudge against your partner is unhealthy, not only for your relationship but also for you. Holding grudges for a long time can result in building up anger, distress, doubt and a lot of other negative feelings that can make you unhappy and stressed. To maintain a healthy relationship, you need to be able to forgive your partner for their past mistakes. The other option is letting them go. Try to remember: being with a person you cannot forgive is not going to do either of you any good.
Is It Unhealthy If I Date Someone My Family Doesn’t Like?
Dating someone your family doesn’t like can be really hard. It may cause conflict that makes you feel like you can’t be honest or even near the people you love. Consider why your family doesn’t like your partner or why your partner doesn’t like them. Remember that feeling isolated and no one else liking your partner can be warning signs of an unhealthy or abusive relationship.
We’re Not Even Dating, How Can I Be Abused?
Abuse can affect all types of relationships, not just long-term or committed relationships. Even if your relationship is casual or you’ve only hooked up once, you can still experience abuse. If something makes you uncomfortable, scared or threatened, you could be experiencing the warning signs of an unhealthy or abusive relationship.
Does Being Pregnant Mean a Higher Risk for Abuse?
Sadly, yes. Pregnant and parenting teens are at a higher risk of experiencing physical abuse. Feeling discouraged? We’re here for you. You can chat with one of our advocates at any time of the day just by clicking the chat button, text us by sending “loveis” (capitalization does not matter) to 22522 or call us at 1-866-331-9474. We are available 24 hours a day!
What If I Don’t Feel Safe Talking to Someone About What’s Going On?
That’s a totally normal feeling to have. Dating abuse and relationship issues can be hard topics to discuss, but in our experience, getting support can be really helpful. You don’t have to go through it alone! Here at loveisrespect, we have trained peer advocates who are friendly, non-judgmental and available 24/7. So feel free to contact us anytime and know that we’ll keep our conversations completely confidential.