You’ve met someone, and not just the first date went great, all the following ones did too. The initial burst of infatuation has given way to something a little more solid, something that might even be permanent, but neither of you has taken that step yet. Still, the question is on your mind: how many dates before it’s a relationship? How soon you make the transition to a serious relationship depends a lot more, than a fixed number of dates you’ve been on. But there are milestones that point to whether you’re ready to move forward to exclusive dating or a serious relationship.
1. YOU’RE CONTENT TO JUST SPEND TIME WITH THEM
As the time spent together gets more intense, your relationship progresses and gets deeper. Next to this, there is less pressure on you and your partner to have scheduled, structured dates – rather than always needing concrete activities or plans of dinner, or a movie, or going out to be able to see the other person. It’s not awkward or unusual to spend time together – doing a grocery run, for instance, or hanging out at one of your houses, or even just Netflxing. It’s less a question of how many dates before a relationship than how comfortable you are in said relationship and how much you enjoy this quality time.
2. YOU’VE MET THEIR FRIENDS AND FAMILY… MORE THAN ONCE
Meeting each other’s family and friends is a big milestone in and of itself, but a less well recognized and equally important one. How do you and your partner’s family get along now after the pressure of the first parents meeting is off? Maybe you and his sister have gone shopping together, or you both occasionally have dinner with her best friends and their spouses. In a long-term relationship, you will be spending at least some time with each other’s families, so them being a part of your life is a good indication that it’s getting serious.
3. THERE ISN’T JUST CHEMISTRY BETWEEN YOU TWO, THERE’S COMPATIBILITY
Yes, that initial infatuation is important – who doesn’t love that initial rush of attraction, the way you can’t keep your hands off each other. The way you can’t stop thinking about her or wanting to touch him? But when it comes to commitment, compatibility is more important than any initial dating chemistry – for instance, do you share the same values? Does one of you like to travel, while the other is more of a homebody? How many dates before a relationship shouldn’t be at the center. It’s about compatibility that shows if you have the building blocks of a life together.
4. YOU’RE MAKING CONCRETE PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
Future plans stop being abstract and start becoming more real. For instance, you start thinking in terms of ‘we’ and ‘our’ rather than ‘I’ and ‘mine’ and saying that ‘we’ should do a road trip sometime. Additionally, your plans are even more serious and long-term. Perhaps you can see moving in with this person, or marrying them, or even having kids together. These are undeniable signs that it’s love vs. infatuation.
5. YOU’RE COMFORTABLE SHOWING EACH OTHER YOUR FLAWS
At the beginning of any connection, no matter how serious, you’re both on your best behavior. You want to impress the person you’re dating, after all. You want to give them a good impression, so they’ll ask you out again. Putting your best foot forward isn’t just a good idea, it’s an imperative. But letting him see you without make up, or letting her see your apartment in its naturally messy state are good examples that you are able to relax around each other and be less than perfect. That’s an important milestone when it comes to deciding whether it’s a serious relationship.
6. YOU HAVE INSIDE JOKES AND SHARED MEMORIES
One of the best parts of a relationship? The memories you make with each other, the jokes that only make sense or are even funny to the two of you. Again, it doesn’t matter how many dates you go on before a relationship. What matters is that one of you just has to say a particular phrase to send the other person into fits of laughter, even if it sounds completely nonsensical to anyone listening. Or that the evening that would have been completely unremarkable except that you spent it together. Or the date where everything went wrong but that you can still laugh about later. That’s the kind of solid connection you can build a relationship, and a life, on.
7. YOU’RE TAKING CONCRETE STEPS TOWARDS BEING EXCLUSIVE
How many dates before a relationship doesn’t really matter so much as your mental and emotional state as the relationship progresses. A good indicator that you’re ready for something more serious is a move towards being exclusive – whether just noticing that you no longer have eyes for anyone else, saying no when people ask you out, or even going as far as deleting dating apps off your phone. Even if you decide not to have the conversation just yet, just being in the mental space is a good sign you’re ready for exclusive dating or even a serious relationship.