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What Is Dating? The Full Modern Day Culture Guide to Dating

What does the word ‘dating’ make you feel? Stressed? Confused? Excited? The waters are muddy where this word is concerned, so what is dating exactly?

what is dating

What is dating? How do you feel about it? Some people love dating, others shy away from it. Personally, I am not the world’s biggest fan. I am not able to go with the flow. As for seeing what happens? Yeah, I’m not the greatest at that either. 

However, we do live in a modern dating culture and it seems that single folk everywhere are putting out the feelers whenever they fancy doing so, and throwing themselves into the dating circle. Good for them! However, what is dating, and what isn’t it?

Dating in 2020 and early 2021 is a very different beast to how it normally is. Socially distanced dating isn’t exactly easy, and for the most part, we’ve had to focus on online dating as a substitute until the world returns to some form of normality. Outside of the pandemic however, what does dating look like to you?

[Read: Date night ideas during Covid to keep you dating safely]

What is dating exactly?

What is the definition of dating exactly? Does it vary from person to person or is there a generally recognized definition of what this strange and rather stressful time actually is? 

To define it simply, dating is a period of time when you’re getting to know someone and trying to figure out whether you think you would like to move towards a relationship with them or not.

It’s a time of fun and frivolities, and it’s a time of no pressure. However, it rarely works out that way.

[Read: Do you have the patience for dating or are you frustrated by it?]

Some people date more than one person, others stick to one person at a time. It’s a personal deal and you can’t tell someone that they’re doing it wrong because as long as nobody is hurting anyone and everyone is being safe, there aren’t any set rules. 

What age do people start dating?

People start dating earlier and earlier these days. However, for regular dating, anytime around 16 to 17 is considered average. If you didn’t start dating until much later, no worries at all. This isn’t a race, and what is dating if it’s not individual?

[Read: Casual dating vs serious dating: What’s your current dating speed?]

Dating vs relationship – What are the key differences?

It’s important to remember that there are key differences between dating and relationships. Dating isn’t meant to be anything solid and is not any type of guarantee of a future with that person. It’s relaxed and a period of getting to know one another. People who are dating can also date more than one person, as I mentioned, but that’s not usually the case with relationships. 

The key differences between dating and a relationship come down to exclusivity, a shared vision of the future, and whether you love that person or not. Most people who are dating don’t love one another; they like each other and there may be an element of infatuation, but there’s no love yet. That’s the key difference. [Read: Is that love in the air? The clearest signs you’re starting to fall in love]

The different types of dating

There are also different types of dating. That’s what makes the question of ‘what is dating’ so hard to really pinpoint down. There’s casual dating, which is exactly what it says on the tin and is likely to be when a person is seeing more than one person.

There’s exclusive dating, when two people see each other exclusively and don’t date others. [Read: What does exclusive mean? 15 signs you’re heading towards this stage of dating]

Then there’s online dating, which is pretty common during the pandemic, and NSA dating, which means ‘no strings attached’. That type of dating is more likely to be about sex, but it can also be a case of ‘no promises’.

We also have long distance dating and sugar dating. Sugar dating is more of a beneficial arrangement between often an older person who is a little wealthy and a younger person who is trying to make ends meet. This is often also a financial agreement in exchange for spending time together. Of course, no judgement. If it works for the two of you, that’s great. [Read: How to be a good sugar baby – 16 secrets to the luxurious life]

How to date without going crazy: 17 steps you should never ignore

What is dating if it’s not enough to send you crazy? Some people can easily throw themselves into the dating lifestyle without feeling like they’re losing their minds with confusion and stress – I am not one of those people!

However, I have figured out a few ways to navigate the dating waters, and I’m going to share those with you now. [Read: How to navigate the dos and don’ts of the early stages of dating]

#1 Keep things in perspective. It’s important to know what is dating versus what it isn’t. Remember, there are no guarantees with dating, and you have to keep it in perspective and realize that. Don’t assume this person is going to be The One, and then become upset when things end. [Read: Dating for a month? Realistic expectations to keep in mind]

#2 Be wary of social media oversharing when dating. You’ll either end up social media stalking the person you’re dating and becoming stressed about every small thing, or you’ll overshare your dating details with friends. Don’t do either. Rein in your social media a little and keep things chilled out.

#3 Focus on yourself. It’s easy to start doing everything for the person you’re dating, but that’s blurring the lines. Keep the focus on you and enjoy the time you spend together. That way, you can get to know them without feeling overly confused about where things are going. 

#4 Don’t lose sight of your friends. This is a huge rule! What is dating? It’s not about leaving your friends behind, that’s for sure. However, it’s something which many people start to do once they become infatuated with a new beau. Keep your friends as involved in your life as they were before, and don’t start cancelling meet ups. [Read: The dating code all girls MUST follow no matter what to be happy]

#5 Keep things light and avoid heavy discussions. You might want to know what’s actually going on between the two of you, but you’re dating, that’s it. Avoid conversations which make it the air heavy and charged, and keep things light and fun instead. [Read: The rules of dating and the unspoken guidelines that create the best dates]

#6 You don’t need a label. Dating is about getting to know someone. You don’t need to put more of a label on it than that. Don’t push for the ‘are we more than dating’ conversation, or try and put a relationship label on things too soon. Let things evolve naturally. 

#7 Remember that it’s possible to not be exclusive. Some people date more than one person at a time, and you need to think about how you feel about that. You can’t blame them for doing so, but you don’t have to be comfortable with it. If you’re not, move on and date someone else. 

#8 Know what you want and find out what they want. In my experience, there’s no point dating someone who wants totally different things to you. Yes, at this point it’s just chilled and fun, but why waste time getting to know someone who doesn’t want the same thing as you in life? [Read: How to open up to someone you’re dating when you’re scared]

#9 Remember that it’s not a job interview. Chill out! You don’t have to be on your best behavior and show your best side constantly. A friend once told me that it’s not a job interview, and she was right indeed!

#10 Stay true to what is important to you. Whatever you enjoy doing, continue doing it. Don’t change because you think someone you’re dating might not like the same thing or might think that it’s boring. It doesn’t matter – if you like it, carry on doing it! Dating is not a reason to change, I know that much! [Read: First date nerves and being yourself even when your heart is pounding]

#11 Look for red flags but don’t pay attention to what everyone says on social media. Social media can be a total dating killer. By all means, look for red flags but don’t believe everything you see on Facebook. Some people just like to cause trouble. Listen to your gut. [Read: 14 first date red flags that reveal a lot more than your date says]

#12 Keep things to yourselves for a while. There’s no need to broadcast the fact that you’re dating someone. If you do and it doesn’t work out, you’re going to feel a little foolish. Just keep things to yourself for a while and save yourself the hassle. 

#13 Focus on enjoyment. Many people mistake dating for something which has to be serious and done ‘correctly’. There is no right or wrong method to dating, so just focus on fun and enjoyment and figure out what is dating for the two of you. 

#14 Avoid playing games. Mind games aren’t fun and are borderline manipulation. Stick to being honest and transparent, it’s the best way to go about this entire dating game. Playing hard to get never works anyway. [Read: Playing games while dating someone – When it’s okay and when it harms you]

#15 Don’t always be the one to text first. You might be thinking this is a double standard because I’ve just told you not to play games but being the one to text first every single time just means the person you’re dating is lazy. Make them do some of the work! 

#16 Focus on your health, don’t let things slip in the excitement and nerves. It’s easy to start with the dating butterflies and as a result, you don’t eat as much, or you don’t sleep. Make sure that you focus on your health first and foremost. Dating is meant to be fun, not a reason to end up unhealthy and lacking in vital vitamins! [Read: How to take care of yourself emotionally and avoid falling apart]

#17 When you start to feel stressed, pull back. When I started thinking about the whole ‘what is dating’ conversation, I realized that most of us think it’s meant to be stressful, but where is the fun in that? My advice is this – when you start to feel stressed out and anxious about it, pull back and focus on your own fun with your friends.

Then, when you feel ready again, try once more. Don’t make it a huge and negative deal in life, it’s not meant to be that way. 

[Read: How to take a break from dating and imagine a better future]

What is dating? It’s meant to be fun and a time to get to know someone. It’s not meant to be a time of anxiety and stress. Perhaps we should all reframe the way we think about dating and focus on having fun!

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Nicky Curtis
Nicky Curtis
Having stumbled from one relationship drama to another throughout her 20s, Nicky is now somewhat of a guru in the crazy world of life and love. Telling it how i...
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