There’s this person you’ve been seeing. You have chemistry, you’re close, and as far as everyone else is concerned, you might as well be dating.
But you’re not—not yet officially, at least. And you’re starting to worry they’d slip away from you if you delay a bit longer.
To help you find that good middle ground, in this article, I will talk about how long you should talk to someone before you start dating for real.
So how long should you wait?
Dating isn’t quite marriage, but it’s still a commitment so you should avoid rushing into it if you can.
As a rule of thumb, wait at least two months before you go exclusive with someone. It’s not too soon that you haven’t seen some of their negative quirks, but it’s not too late that you’d both start to question the other person’s intentions.
When you’re dating, you’re trying to see how compatible you would be with living the rest of your lives together… and not simply whether you can stand one another or not.
But the truth is, the answer to “how long you should wait” will be different with every person you meet.
The reason for that is that there’s simply a lot of things to consider before you should date someone exclusively. For some, you get this instant “click”, and for others it’s a slow burn.
So you have to know what feels right for both of you.
10 things to keep in mind when figuring out the right time
1) Time isn’t the best metric
While two months is the recommended minimum before going exclusive, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s good enough for every couple.
Some people might even need up to a year before going exclusive or treating a relationship seriously.
There are many reasons for this, but the biggest factor is often how willing both of you are to open up to each other.
For example, there are people who simply don’t trust easily, whether because they were hurt by a previous partner or because they simply had a rough childhood. There are also those who trust at the drop of a hat.
The level of openness can speed things up or slow things down.
When in doubt, trust your gut. Even if you’ve been together for a while, if it feels like it’s too soon for you to act because it seems like they have a wall you can’t get past, it’s probably too soon.
2) You should genuinely like them
Sometimes, people can be so enraptured at someone—or their perception of that person at least—that even when they aren’t exactly enjoying their time together, they’ll make excuses for it.
And it can be hard to be honest with yourself about this, especially when you really do like someone or you like the idea of having a relationship with them.
With a little introspection, however, you might just find your answer.
Try to find a time and place where you can relax and focus on your thoughts. And then think about how much you really enjoy being with them.
Ask yourself if there are any “buts” in your interactions with them.
For example, if you ever think things like “I think them but they talk too much” then you might want to evaluate whether or not you actually enjoy your time with them.
If you enjoy their presence with conditions —with a “but”— then sooner or later those little “buts” are going to pile up.
Do you really think you’ll still like them ten years from now with all their “buts”?
Only time can tell, but there’s a bigger chance of relationship success if you can honestly say “Hell yes!” to this question before you even date officially.
3) You have to know what NOT to talk about
Before you start dating someone for real, you must have a general idea of what things you should avoid bringing up in discussion.
A good example would be your views on contentious political topics. A few other things you might want to keep an eye out on would be certain jokes and slurs.
People may find these things upsetting for various reasons. And while it’s not strictly necessary, it’s also good to know exactly what these reasons are..
You can consider this a test of whether you’re compatible in this regard or not.
Are you willing to avoid talking about certain things, or to stop yourself from saying certain topics to avoid hurting them?
This also goes the other way around. Are you okay with the kinds of things they like to talk about? Are they comfortable having to avoid talking about certain things because of you?
It’s better to make sure you have this sorted out before you go into an exclusive relationship.
Nothing sucks more than getting into an exclusive relationship with someone, only to stumble upon glaring incompatibilities in conversation.
4) It’s important to check if you have chemistry
It’s important that you’ve met each other in person.
There’s a lot you can express through text. And yes, many people in LDRs commit to each other for years before even meeting.
But that’s a risk you’d rather not take if it’s possible to meet!
You see, there’s a lot of chemistry that just isn’t going to come up unless you’re standing there, face to face, smelling and touching and seeing each other in the flesh.
You have to like how they smell, they walk, they feel.
No amount of video calls can replace the real thing. Some people are so expressive with their bodies, for example, that talking to them in person is just completely different from simply talking to them through text messages and video calls.
Body language is also incredibly hard to fake—much harder than faking a personality online.
Meeting in person can completely change your dynamics.
You might have thought you were that compatible when you were still texting, only to learn otherwise when you meet them in the flesh.
5) Your values should be compatible enough
Dating someone simply isn’t going to work out if your morals and values are in conflict.
You at least should have an idea of their values so you’ll know if they’re something you can live with.
You may try, but chances are that one—or even both—of you will have to rush to a compromise on your moral code, or even pretend like it’s not even there to justify being together despite the conflict.
And even then, chances are high that you’ll end up breaking up anyways, and the bigger the conflict between your respective values, the higher this chance.
That’s why you should try to understand where they stand on the things that matter to you and vice versa. Be ready to move on if the conflict is too big, and to adjust if it’s small enough that it’s workable.
Officially dating someone means you’re ready to compromise and work on the relationship, so you better know what you’re dealing with beforehand.
6) You must desire each other like crazy
If you don’t feel strongly for each other at the beginning, it probably won’t improve a year or even a decade from now.
Desire, lust, and attraction are usually at its peak when things are still new—while you’re still exploring and getting to know each other. And it diminishes through time as it’s slowly replaced by love.
Before officially dating, you have to make sure that a man is head-over-heels in love with you and that he’d want to have sex with you. That’s a good way to ensure that you’ll have a good amount of “reserve” so you’ll still have some even if time has worn away your relationship.
7) Use this time to spot the red flags from afar
Another reason why it’s important that you should not rush into a committed relationship is so that you have the time to spot red and yellow flags if they have any.
For example, you might want to be careful if they get upset by criticism, or if they make too many assumptions and have a habit of talking over you or other people.
To make it worse, many people get the idea that some red flags are actually romantic. A possessive and jealous partner might be seen as “romantic” because it’s seen as “this person loves me so much that they’re possessive of me.”
Don’t ignore or even idealize any red or yellow flags that you might come across.
If you see them, then you should probably avoid getting into a relationship with that person.
Don’t think that you can “fix” them, because you can’t.
8) Make sure you’re not just a rebound
Have either of you just left a relationship?
If either of you had just left a major relationship, then you should definitely not go exclusive and start dating for real. This is because there’s a high risk that you might just be getting yourself into a rebound relationship.
Now, it is true that you never truly stop loving people, and the best way to move on is to find something new. And that’s fine, as long as you’re sure that you have healed.
A rebound relationship is one you’re getting into before you have fully healed from your last break-up. You’re still madly in love with your ex, and you might be going after people who remind you of your ex so that you can use them as a replacement.
So first make sure that you’re okay on this front, and then pay attention to them. Do they like to talk about their ex a lot? Do they sound like they’re still madly in love, or even angry at their ex?
If so, then they’re definitely not ready and you should remain friends until they have finally gotten over their previous relationship.
9) Take note of their behavior
Before you date someone officially, take a hard look at their behavior.
Have they been consistent and respectful?
One of the most important things in a relationship is respect. And this is something that you should find out in that time where you’re getting to know one another, but have yet to go exclusive.
Try to think if they’ve been playing mind games with you by going hot and cold, or love bombing you, or trying to make you jealous when they see that you’re hanging out with other people.
Moreover, have they been consistent in how they treat you, or have they been unreliable?
Perhaps they would say that they respect your opinions, for example, but then you hear their friends making fun of “someone” who is suspiciously too much like you.
Respect is not something that you can just “deal with” after you’ve gone into an exclusive relationship. There should be mutual respect before you even start dating for real.
10) A friendship should have blossomed
Most people dread the “friendzone”.
There’s this idea that once a person sees you as a friend, it’s impossible for you to become anything more.
But this is not only wrong, it’s also harmful.
If you’re going to be dating someone, you should be more than just romantic partners—you should also be able to rely on one another as friends.
If you don’t see your partner as a friend at all, then chances are that you’ll become one of those people who would make a career out of hating their spouses and using them as the butt of “my wife’s a nag” and “my husband’s useless” jokes.
The happiest couples are those whose relationships go beyond just romantic attraction, but are also each others’ best friends.
Even should romantic attraction or sexual tension fade as they grow old together, they continue to be there for one another.
Would you still want to hang out with them even if you won’t turn out as lovers? If your answer is yes, it’s a sign that you’ll be good together.
FINDING THE RIGHT TIMING
Patience is a virtue, but it’s not something that all of us have.
It’s important to keep in mind that everything in this article should serve as suggestions, rather than as strict rules for you to follow.
Do you enjoy risks and would rather make your move early, while your relationship with that person is still hot and fiery?
Do you perhaps like to play safe and wait to see if they’re truly the kind of person for you? Are you the kind who prefers slower, more sedate relationships?
Here are some possible scenarios:
If you start dating right away
You found someone you like, and you are so sure that they’re the one so you ask to start dating for real.
Most people would think you’re moving too fast, but he agreed and now you’re exclusive.
Good for you, and it’s not like it doesn’t have advantages either. But it’s a risky gamble.
- You don’t face the risk of them deciding to go steady with someone else instead.
- There’s excitement in discovering things about someone you love, and your relationship will certainly be far from sleepy.
- If you like people who are passionate, yet impatient, then you will have to make your move early instead of making them wait.
- There’s a high risk that they might not be the person you thought they were.
- You’ll either fake your mutual triggers, or have to work through them in a hurry if you don’t want things to fall apart.
- There’s a risk that they’re faking it and relying on your first impressions to get you to like them.
- You’re trapped by commitment even if it turns out you weren’t that compatible.
If you take too long
Perhaps, instead of rushing it, you take your time. Where most would wait for two months before dating, you decided to go four or six months. Maybe even a year!
In fact, maybe you didn’t even see them as a date at first. Maybe you’ve been long-time friends before you realized your feelings.
- The biggest pro is that by this time, they’re probably already a very good friend of yours. They know your boundaries and triggers, and respect them.
- They know what makes you happy, and can better serve your emotional needs.
- You will have known each other’s quirks and have learned to live with them.
- People who want a partner, but don’t have the patience to understand you as a person will have long left.
- They might have decided to see you purely as a friend, so it can be harder to let them know that you’re interested in them.
- They might think you’re unavailable or just indecisive, and it’s possible that they will have chosen to move on and be taken by the time you act.
- If you take too long every time you try to get into a relationship, you might find yourself being single when your peers are already having kids.
- You will have known most there is to know about the other, so expect your relationship to be slow and sleepy.
If you find the right timing
The ultimate goal, of course, is to find the right balance between “too slow” and “too fast.”
As noted before, there’s no set time for “just right”—it differs from person to person and knowing when it’s the right time to strike is something you’ll have to learn through experience and intuition.
- You’ve come to discover enough about yourselves that you know you’re not going to be fighting day in and day out, but at the same time there’s still a lot to discover.
- Those who aren’t serious about you or don’t have the patience to wait will have left you, leaving you with the ones who actually care.
- The effects of shallow primary attraction will have mostly faded, leaving you with the deeper connections built by secondary attraction.
- You trust and respect each other enough that you can be yourselves around one another.
- There’s a somewhat elevated risk that the person you want to date might find someone else in the meantime.
- The excitement of getting to know someone new—primary attraction—will have mostly faded by this point.
- It takes a while to get to this point, and if you’re the impatient sort it will grate on you.
- Likewise, if the person you like has issues with patience, even if they would otherwise be a good partner for you, then they won’t last this long.
It’s important to keep in mind that going exclusive with someone is a big commitment. You’re telling each other that you are going to focus on each other, ignoring any others who may come your way.
So that’s why before you decide on it, you should try to make sure you aren’t going to be wasting each other’s time by making sure that you are, in general terms, compatible with one another.
Good things come to those who wait, and the only real argument against waiting is that if you wait too long they might move on and date someone else instead.
When in doubt, it helps to pay attention to your gut, and to ask opinion from a relationship coach.