Dating definitions & FAQs

Dating can mean a lot of different things depending on who you ask. 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.

Whether you’re officially dating, “friends with benefits,” or just exploring the possibilities of 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.

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 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?

Casual encounters between people may or may not include sex, and it may or may not be an exclusive arrangement. 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.

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 if possible to see what their thoughts are. What matters most is that you feel safe, ready, and confident in making your decision.

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 for their relationship to be healthy and free of abuse.

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.

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.

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.

adly, pregnant and parenting teens 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.