Casual dating is fun, but when you’re looking for the real deal, you don’t want to waste any time.
If you’ve been flirting or dating for a while, it’s only natural to ask yourself when and if this is going to turn into an actual relationship.
You have every right to know where you stand with the person you’re dating; however, it might be too soon for big questions. When you’re dating, you’re still trying to figure out whether you want to be in a relationship or not. So, even if it’s clear to you, they might still have doubts or need more time to decide. Are you willing to wait?
They might string you along or use you for something more casual. This is just one of the many risks that you’re taking, so what matters most is whether it’s worth it to you.
Do you care about this person enough to be in a committed relationship with them? Then here’s how it should go down:
Here are 26 tips to help you go from dating to a relationship:
1. Think about what you really want out of a relationship.
Wanting a casual fling is perfectly fine, regardless of your gender and long-term plans. If you’re okay with just dating, for now, then just date, and don’t rush to commit to anything more than that.
Is commitment what you truly want? Are you ready to settle down, and are you hoping for this to last for a very long time, if not forever? If so, why?
Are you waiting for just about anyone who’s willing to stick around, or are you hoping someone with a more casual attitude will come to their senses?
Take some time to think about what you really want and what you currently have. How could you get to where you want to be from where you are now, and can it happen with the person you’re currently dating?
2. Think about how long you’ve been dating this person.
There’s no specific number of dates you should go on to determine whether you’re going to be exclusive. Some people go on three dates before committing, while others date for two or three months before talking about commitment. Though if it’s been much longer than that, the person you’re dating probably doesn’t want to commit to you.
If you recently started dating, you could talk about relationship goals on your third date and see how it goes.
On the other hand, if you’ve been dating for a month or two, bring it up calmly and even suggest introducing each other to your loved ones. Right now, what you need to know is whether this is the person you can have a healthy relationship with or someone you’re willing to settle for because you’re feeling impatient.
3. Compare them to your ideal partner.
You probably have a vision of your ideal partner. How close are they to the person you imagined for yourself? Are they the kind of person that you could have a long and happy relationship with, or are you hoping for something to change? Can you accept them the way they are, or will you eventually regret settling for less than what you think you deserve?
Compare them to your ideal partner and see if any dealbreakers pop up all of a sudden. If they do, maybe you’re not meant to be with this person forever, and it’s okay if you end up just dating for a while.
Even if you don’t spot any dealbreakers, perhaps they don’t perfectly match the vision you have of your ideal partner. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. No one is going to tick all the boxes you have in your mind. There will always be things they don’t have, or things they do have that you don’t like.
So if you’ve fallen in love with them despite them not being entirely like your ideal partner, that’s great. You have seen all the good things they bring to the table and you have accepted that they are flawed in ways you can deal with. This doesn’t mean you’re settling for less than you could have. Just make sure that you’re both moving in the same direction and have somewhat similar goals and values.
4. Look for signs that they’re into you too.
Okay, so you’re definitely into them, but how into you are they? Most importantly, are they into the whole relationship thing? They don’t need to tell you this using exact words.
Look for signs and hints that they want a relationship with you in the way they treat you, behave around you, talk to you, and their body language.
Are they willing to make time for you and do they try to be near you, or are they distant and hesitant? Do they remember the details that you tell them, or do they glance around the room looking for distractions while you talk to them? Are they available and supportive, or do they ignore your messages?
These things can give you a pretty good idea of how someone feels about you, so consider the signs before proceeding with anything else.
5. Spend more time together.
You can’t instantly know if someone is right or wrong for you, even if it feels that way. Trust your instincts but not to the point that you fall blindly in love with an image of a person that you’ve created in your head based on only a few things you’ve noticed about them.
Flirt with them, but don’t let that be all that you do. Show interest in spending more time together and getting to know each other better.
When they invite you out, make time for them. But don’t make yourself too available by dropping everything just to be with them. Make sure to spend quality time together and have meaningful conversations while engaging in fun new activities.
6. Pay them compliments.
A big part of flirting is paying compliments. Make sure that your date feels attractive and valued when they’re with you. Mention how great they look on the outside, sure, but focus more on all the things that you like about their personality.
For instance, maybe they have attractive legs, but they’re also hardworking or talented at something. Praise them when you notice them doing something you like, and compliment them for it.
Don’t overdo this to the point that your compliments seem fake or make them feel awkward, but be sure to mention the things that you appreciate about them whenever you notice them.
7. Give it time.
Don’t rush into anything. If you’re rushing into committing to this person, ask yourself whether it is because you genuinely like them or you’re just tired of being single. Don’t search for commitment purely as a cure for your loneliness, because your problem won’t be fixed by someone who’s not right for you.
Give it time and get to know this person better before you decide that you want to move on to being in a relationship. Don’t forget, you’re the one calling the shots too, not just them. So, have standards and your long-term goals in sight when looking at the person in front of you.
Take your time seducing them and getting to know them well enough to be able to tell if they’re right for you or not. Don’t try to force the relationship. Instead, be aware what it looks like to come on too strong so that you can avoid doing so.
8. Call sometimes instead of only texting.
When you’re in the talking stage of dating, you’ll probably be texting a lot. Call sometimes instead. If you want to make it romantic, ask them if it’s okay to call them up to hear the sound of their voice. Talking about your days over the phone instead of through text messages is refreshing and research suggests it makes it easier to connect in a meaningful way.
Have a short phone call initially and respect their choice if they’re not comfortable with phone calls. However, if they are happy that you’ve called, call again, and keep in mind that you can do this simply to hear about their day or to put a smile on their face. You don’t need an excuse to call them.
9. Up the ante in terms of dates.
Don’t go to the movies and stare at the screen silently for hours in a dark room. Stare into each other’s eyes during a picnic or even while on a weekend camping trip. Make your dates fun and memorable, and use what you know about their likes and interests to plan the dates right.
Maybe you could rent out an expensive car and go for a drive or test different types of cheese while blindfolded. These are just some of the fun ideas you could try that would make for an exciting date.
You do need to eat something though, so why not test out a new restaurant or a cuisine you’ve never tried before? Introducing new things and sharing memorable experiences can help form a lasting relationship.
10. Show that you care.
It’s not enough to let someone know that you care… Actions speak louder than words. So treat them with kindness and respect, show up for them, and show that you care in other ways.
Perhaps you could take them on awesome dates and buy them a gift that could serve as a memory of that date. Buying them a gift to show that you care is a great idea, but only if it’s simple and inexpensive. This could be a flower, their favorite chocolate, glasses, funny socks, records, a book, or even jewelry.
Being there for them when they are having a hard time demonstrates your commitment too. If they mention a particular struggle or they express how bad their day has been, offer to listen to them talk about it. But don’t try to offer solutions or give your opinions—just listen in a completely non-judgmental way.
11. Shower them with attention.
Giving gifts is one of the ways you can give attention, but make sure to give it in other ways as well. Notice them in a crowd and walk toward them to make them feel like they’re the only person in the room.
Make eye contact and pay attention to their words and their body language. Learn to read between the lines and understand each other without talking.
Try to be close to them when you’re in a group of people and give them extra attention, the kind that you don’t give to other people you know.
12. Invite them into your social circle.
A great way to move from dating into a relationship is to invite your date into your social circle. This is not as huge as introducing them to your family, but it’s still very important since these are your friends.
If you are uncomfortable using the “boyfriend/girlfriend” terms, simply introduce them by their name. You have probably already talked to your friends about them, and they are probably aware of that.
While hanging out with your pals, be sure to avoid making a big deal out of being a couple. You don’t want your date to feel like they’ve entered into an interrogation, so engage in a fun and casual group activity where interview questions can be more easily avoided.
13. Be willing to go the extra mile.
Are you willing to put effort into maintaining a long-term relationship with the person you’re dating? A serious relationship requires serious effort, and you need to invest that effort in something that’s special and important to you.
Is this person special and important? If it seems that way, and they’re giving the right cues, go the extra mile for them. Do them favors and show them how they could benefit from a relationship with you as well. Be there when they need help, even if it’s not convenient for you, and show that you can be a great partner.
14. Calmly discuss an exclusive relationship.
It’s time to have a serious chat if you can see a potential future together. Openly talk about not wanting to see other people and trying it out for real from now on.
You’re not just dating, you’re dating exclusively because you’re in a relationship. It shouldn’t be hard to say and hear, so dare to talk it out.
And while it’s not strictly about how many dates you need to go on before becoming exclusive, it’s best not to ask this during the first few dates. If the opportunity doesn’t present itself, don’t ask for a relationship right away. The first few dates aren’t enough time for a big commitment unless you’ve had a meaningful relationship before this, such as a friendship.
It’s fine to just enjoy the experience of dating until you figure out whether you want to be with this person for a long time and potentially for the rest of your lives. So, don’t rush into anything, and don’t ask for a commitment during the first few dates unless the topic comes up.
15. See the green flags.
Learn to recognize the green flags in a potential relationship and partner. Are they excited to see you, and do they feel good in your company? Do they smile when they’re around you, and do you laugh together? Does their name cause butterflies in your stomach? Do you daydream about being with them? Most importantly, do they feel the same way?
Notice how they treat you and act around you. Read the signs and notice the green flags that show that your relationship has real potential. For instance, maybe they remember specific details about you or they’re always there for you in times of need.
16. See the red flags.
Just like you need to notice the green flags, you need to be aware of the red flags in a new relationship too.
When you first meet someone, you don’t always see who they truly are, especially if you fall for them right away. It’s common for people to fall in love with who they imagine their date to be, which usually leads to disappointment once they realize they don’t live up to expectations.
So, take your rose-colored glasses off and see them for who they really are. Keep your eyes open for red flags, dealbreakers, and other clear signs that this is not going to work out.
17. See how well you communicate.
Do you have what it takes to be in a relationship? How well do you communicate? Do you speak the same love language, or at least understand each other’s love languages so that you can express emotions in ways you can each relate to? Can you understand each other without using too much explanation? Do you speak through body language? Can you sit comfortably in silence, or talk for hours and even passionately debate?
How well you communicate often determines how long you can be together. It’s also important to communicate about daily activities and stay up to date with each other’s lives. This doesn’t mean that you have to communicate often, just that you have to understand each other and communicate effectively.
18. Forge a deeper connection by opening up and encouraging them to do the same.
Actively listen to what your date is telling you and show an interest in what they are passionate about. Encourage them to talk about themselves and ask open-ended questions, but don’t forget to tell stories about your life and open up a bit too.
Keep an open mind because you might not like everything you hear, and don’t try too hard to say the right thing. If you remember the details that they mention, you can use them again or turn them into date ideas or gifts.
View your date realistically, and see if you can accept them the way they are, with their flaws and shortcomings. You’ll learn about these things when you open up, and opening up brings you closer together.
19. Maintain your life outside of the relationship.
It can be tempting to fall into the rabbit hole of new love, but other areas of your life need you too. So, don’t let your whole world revolve around turning a date into a partner.
Until you discuss being exclusive (and you don’t have to do it yet), you can simply let things evolve on their own while assessing how well you could work as a couple.
That’s all that your love life requires from you now, so focus on work, hobbies, self-care, self-improvement, and your interests. Don’t neglect your friends and family because of a new potential partner. While you do want to be available to them, you can’t and shouldn’t be available 24/7.
20. See how well you resolve arguments.
Maybe you are passionate when you speak, but you’re not really communicating, you’re arguing or frequently disagreeing. This is one of the red flags that you should look for in the early stages of a new relationship.
If you can’t communicate and come to an understanding, this is going to make it very difficult to resolve big problems that are yet to happen if you stay together.
It’s normal to get into arguments in any kind of relationship, but what’s crucial is that you resolve them in a calm way.
21. Make compromises.
You don’t have to be right all the time, and neither do they. It’s okay to agree to disagree. Learn to make compromises so that both of your needs are met. In a one-sided relationship, one partner puts much more into the relationship than the other.
When you make compromises, you preserve a balance so that both of you are working on each other’s happiness. Whether you are planning a date or deciding what to eat for lunch, you can compromise to ensure both of you are heard and happy.
22. Set and enforce boundaries.
It’s vital to set clear boundaries right from the start of a relationship. Speak up when you’re not okay with something or when you feel like your boundaries are being violated. Learn to say “no” and be clear about what you can’t tolerate.
You can’t be with someone who keeps pushing your boundaries until they break. However, keep in mind that pushing your boundaries is not the same as giving you an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone. Trying new things is always a good idea, but whenever you say no to something, it should be taken seriously and left at that.
23. Stick to what you want.
If you are looking for a committed relationship, stick to what you want even if your date is attractive and fits your criteria. If they are definitely not interested in the same thing as you, move on to someone who is.
Dating is all about figuring out whether you’re on the same page as the other person or trapped inside an entirely different genre of book.
Don’t settle for a casual relationship unless it’s what you want. If you try it out just for the fun of it, keep in mind that your feelings are probably going to get hurt since it’s not what you are truly looking for.
24. Don’t hope that they’ll change.
Once you get to know each other better and the masks fall off, can you love each other as flawed people? Can you be in love as authentic people, not who you imagined yourselves or presented yourselves to be?
Don’t hope for someone to change so that you can love them then, or so that they can love you then. This is the real you right now, and no one knows what the future will bring. Can you accept each other exactly the way you are now if things never change?
The truth is, people change—but only sometimes, to a certain extent, and if they want to. Ultimately, change requires a lot of effort. What’s more, you can’t change someone, no matter how hard you try.
So, don’t be with someone who is a project that you need to work on when you could be with someone who is already finishing your sentences and reading between the lines. Someone you’re on the same page with.
25. Think about what’s more important to you.
If it turns out that you and this person can’t be romantically involved, the offer of friendship or a casual relationship might still be on the table. Depending on the kind of relationship you’re looking for and how well you get along with the person, decide what’s more important to you.
If you do get involved with them, you will be in a relationship, even if a casual or a friendly one. Do you want them in your world, and do they want to be a part of yours? Or are you just blocking each other’s way?
Decide what’s more important to you—pursuing this person or finding a partner for the kind of relationship you were hoping for.
26. See the signs if you’re already in a relationship.
People are sometimes together, and everyone knows about it, they just aren’t together “officially.” Learn to recognize the signs that you’re in a relationship like this. Maybe you’re not dating anymore, maybe this is the only kind of relationship that you can currently have with this person.
Whether that is okay with you or not is a decision that only you can make. However, have your best interests in mind, and think about what you want for your future.
Any kind of relationship is, in a way, an exclusive one, so by committing to a non-official relationship, you might be missing out on an opportunity for an official one, and maybe that’s the kind you want. If so, don’t settle for something less than you were hoping for.