Dating definitions & FAQs

“Dating” means different things to different people, especially across generations. At love is respect, we define “dating” as two or more people in an intimate relationship; the relationship might be sexual, but it doesn’t have to be to “count” as dating.

You might use the word “dating,” or you might not. Whatever you call it, you deserve to feel comfortable with whatever type of relationship you’re in. Some commonly used terms to describe dating include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Going out
  • Together
  • Being with someone
  • Seeing each other
  • Hubby/wifey status
  • Bae
  • Just friends
  • Friends with benefits
  • Hooking up

Dating can mean a lot of different things depending on who you ask. It might be serious or casual, straight or gay, monogamous or open, short-term or long-term. We’re not here to define your intimate relationships for you, but we can offer some information about different aspects of dating based on the questions we receive most.

Are we dating?

Whether you’re officially dating, “friends with benefits,” or just exploring how you feel, all partners should discuss and agree on a definition and the same ground rules for your relationship. Whatever you call it is just a word — what’s important are the boundaries, respect, and feelings you have for one another. This is true regardless of whether you have one romantic relationship or several at once.

Keep these questions in mind when evaluating your relationship with someone else:

  • Do you have romantic feelings for each other?
  • Are you both looking for a committed relationship?
  • Do you spend time together or go on dates without a group of friends?
  • Have you shared the status of your relationship in public, either with others in person or on social media? Is this important to you?
  • Do you both agree that your relationship is exclusive?
Do casual relationships count?

Casual encounters between people may or may not include sex, and it may or may not be an exclusive arrangement. These relationships still count! Even if you’re “just” having sex, your partner should never be disrespectful or controlling, and you should always feel comfortable communicating your feelings without fear of abuse or negative consequences.

How old should I be to date?

Everyone is different, and there’s no single right answer to this question. Many families set a dating age for their kids according to cultural context, personal views, or religious beliefs. Consider talking to trusted friends, family members, and even your parents to see what their thoughts are. What matters most is that you feel safe, ready, and confident in making your decision.

What if our relationship isn’t dating?

There are lots of relationships you can have with someone that might not be considered dating. These relationships are just as real and valid and may come with different (or even more) responsibilities than dating would.

While most of our resources are specifically focused on dating, information about abuse and healthy relationships can be just as relevant for people in different relationships, like having a child with someone you aren’t currently dating or already being married. There’s no one way for relationships to work, but everyone deserves a relationship that is healthy and free of abuse.

Is it unhealthy to hold a grudge against my partner?

Holding grudges against your partner isn’t just unhealthy for your relationship; it’s also unhealthy for you as an individual. Keeping resentment built up can result in anger, stress, doubt, and a lot of other negative feelings that can lead to your unhappiness.

Maintaining a healthy relationship requires being able to forgive your partner for their past mistakes. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be held accountable for their actions, just that you both need to be committed to moving forward together (and actually take the steps to do so). Remember: being with someone you can’t forgive isn’t going to do either of you any good. If you’re unable to forgive your partner for their actions, you always have the option to let them go.

Is it unhealthy to date someone my family doesn’t like?

Dating someone your family doesn’t approve of can be really hard, but it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Be aware that it can cause conflict between you and your family and between you and your partner and may make you feel like you can’t be honest (or even near) some of the people you love.

Consider why your family doesn’t like your partner or why your partner doesn’t like them. If you feel isolated or lots of people in your life dislike your partner, you may want to consider if those are warning signs of an unhealthy or abusive relationship.

We’re not dating, so how could I be abused?

Abuse can affect all types of relationships, not just long-term or committed ones. You can still experience abuse even if your relationship is casual, and you should always take steps to ensure your safety in different situations. If someone’s behavior makes you feel uncomfortable, scared, or threatened, you could be experiencing signs of an unhealthy or abusive relationship. Our advocates are available 24/7 by phone or live chat to help you find local resources.

I’m pregnant. Am I still at risk of abuse?

Sadly, pregnant and parenting people are at a higher risk of experiencing physical abuse. Fortunately, there are service providers committed to helping current or expecting teen parents navigate abusive situations. Our advocates are available 24/7 by phone or live chat to help you find local resources.

What if I don’t feel safe talking to someone about my situation?

It’s normal to have trouble discussing dating abuse and relationship issues; they’re tough topics to talk about. In our experience, getting support can help build your confidence to leave an abusive situation or just to express the complex emotions you might be feeling. You’re the only person who can make the decision to reach out, but when you do, we’ll be here to help. All our services are completely confidential and anonymous.

Answers shouldn’t be hard to find.

We're here to help!