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Trying to figure out your relationship status with someone isn’t always easy, especially in the age of digital dating when every text and social media post can be painfully analyzed. Between the awkward mixed signals and shy conversations that plague many budding romances, sometimes it's just not obvious when to bring up the topic. The trajectory of every relationship you have is different, and it’s not uncommon to find yourself thinking about—or agonizing over—where you and your partner fall on the relationship spectrum and where your current connection is possibly heading.
"New relationships involve lots of questions, and many people struggle with this topic," says psychologist Ari Tuckman. "Dating apps make it really easy to be talking to and going out with multiple people at a time, so this question has become increasingly relevant over the last decade."
Fortunately, we've drawn advice from dating experts to round up five key ways that can help to clue you in as to where you stand with your partner so you no longer have to wonder, “Are we dating?”
You Spend a Lot of Time Together
If you’re wondering if you and your partner are unofficially dating each other, take a closer look at the time that you spend together. Do you only hang out at 2 a.m. after a late-night text in which this person invites you over? Or do you spend multiple days and nights with one another throughout the week? When you’re dating someone, the two of you will want to spend as much time as you can together and will put in every effort to plan dates and outings.
"When someone is really interested in you for a long-term relationship, they're usually working pretty hard to make sure you know it because they don’t want you getting distracted and looking elsewhere," says Jennifer Verdoli, Ph.D. "We look at how much time one spends with a potential mate to get a clue about whether there is a real relationship underfoot."
If you and your partner hang out from time to time and then you don't see or hear from them for a while, only to receive a random text from them again on a whim, you’re probably just hooking up or are friends with benefits.
You Talk About the Future
When you’re trying to figure out if you’re dating, it’s important to pay attention to the content of your conversations, especially when it comes to discussing your future together. Are you both planning ahead to set up times to hang out, inviting each other to events that are months away, or even discussing going on a trip together?
When you’re actually dating someone, conversations and plans for the future will come naturally. But if you notice that your partner is avoiding these kinds of topics, is vague about planning anything far-off, and refuses to think about anything past a few days or even hours from right now, the odds are that you're not dating this person.
You’ve Met Each Other’s Friends
If you’re dating someone, it’s not uncommon to introduce each other to your respective group of friends. However, if you’ve noticed that you haven’t met any of their crew and that this person tends to avoid the topic whenever possible, you’re likely not yet at the dating phase. "The reality is that if someone is only making time to see you infrequently, or only when it's convenient for them, and doesn't introduce you to friends and family, they're not serious about you," says Verdoli.
In most circumstances, when you’re actually dating someone, you’ll want to introduce them to your friend group, not only to find out what your friends think of your partner, but also to see how they fit in with the other important people in your life. For example, is this person fun, engaging, and outgoing when they're with your friend squad, or is your partner awkward, standoffish, or even obnoxious?
If you've been intentionally introduced to any part of your partner's family, that's a pretty clear sign that this relationship is going somewhere. But it's still probably best to talk about it and not jump to conclusions.
You Open up to Each Other
How much do you really know about the person you’re seeing? When you’re dating someone, you’ll both want to open up to each other and share personal stories and anecdotes in order to get to know each other better and connect on a deeper level. When you're both emotionally investing in each other by revealing more about who you are as a person, this is a clear sign that you're dating.
However, if you find that you don’t know very much about your partner beyond the superficial and feel like they are secretive, aloof, or emotionally unavailable to you, then you’re not really dating. This person is choosing to keep you at a distance and opting to put up barriers between the two of you rather than trying to build upon your connection and bring you closer together.
You’ve Had the Talk
If you’re trying to determine if you and your partner are dating, you can always choose to sit down and have a real conversation about the current status of your relationship. While it may seem scary or intimidating at first, it’s important that you act as your own advocate and speak up for yourself about what you’d like to have with this person going forward. Whether you’re looking for something serious or something more casual, checking in and engaging in a face-to-face conversation can help to manage expectations and prevent potential heartache down the road.
"Too much of the drama in new relationships is about guessing, double-guessing, and triple-guessing what the other person wants, making both people feel crazy. So use your words," suggests Tuckman.
It’s in your best interest to talk about what’s going on between the two of you so that you’re not wasting your time with someone who doesn’t want the same things that you do. This kind of conversation can help to solidify and confirm that you’re both into each other and that you both want to take your current relationship to the next level.