Are We Dating? 8 Ways to Know for Sure

Picture it: You’ve been hanging out for weeks, and it’s pretty much a given you’ll see each other every weekend. You make each other laugh. You’ve got an ongoing text thread, and they’re the first person you think of when you want to share something funny or cool. Maybe you’ve even fooled around. It’s definitely not a hookup, but beyond that? What would you call it?

You’ve probably reached the point where you’re wondering what’s up—are you dating, or are you just friends? Maybe it feels like it would be awkward to ask. You like them, but you also feel like you should know something this basic already.

Or you worry that asking the big “what is this?” would spoil the magic. What if asking what’s up rockets you straight to the friend zone? We’ve all wished we could read minds at one point or another, and this is definitely one of those situations where clairvoyance would really come in handy. But without mind reading, you’re left to fend for yourself.

We can help. It’s by no means an exact science, but here are eight ways to know once and for all if you’re dating or not.

Guy and girl taking a selfie on the lake

1. You hold hands in public.

This is a simple one if you live in the US. In other cultures, friends often hold hands. However, in the US, that’s not really a thing. So, if you’re hanging out with someone and you find yourselves holding hands, you can probably safely assume that you’re dating. If not, that’s one of the strangest dynamics we’ve never heard of.

This one is more for people who are trying to figure out if someone likes them or they’re just friends as opposed to someone trying to figure out if you’re actually dating or just hooking up. Most of the following tips are for people who want to know if they’re dating someone who they have been intimate with or with someone they know likes them romantically.

2. You spend life’s big moments together.

If you’re each other’s go-to when celebrating birthdays, promotions, and other important milestones in life, there’s a good chance they see your relationship as more than a casual friendship. Asking someone along for life’s memory-makers is big. It means you’ll be in each other’s pictures, meeting other people that are important to them, and it’s generally a sign they’re expecting you to be along on the ride for more.

3. They tag you on social media.

If you’re showing up on their Instagram feed on the regular, then they’re letting the world know you two are tight. Obviously that’s not a sure fire way to know; you could just be one of their besties.

But if they’re comfortable showing off your status as one of their inner circle, there’s a good chance you’re at least in the running to be something more than just a friend. Likewise, if you don’t eventually show up in their pictures online—or worse, they’ve cropped you out of pictures, they’re either not great friends, or just generally self-centered.

If the pictures are ones that look like you’re on a date (just the two of you) or where there is a little intimacy showing (like holding hands or something), that’s a big checkmark in the yes column for are we dating or not.

4. You meet their parents.

This is a biggie. If you get the parent intro, it’s almost certainly a relationship. Most people wait until they’ve met someone special before they introduce a partner to their parents. There are exceptions: they may just be exceptionally close with their parents and view them as friends more than authority figures, or they just happen to be in town when you’re hanging out.

There’s one thing to keep in mind, though—if you get as far as meeting their parents and you’re not even sure you’re dating, is their communication good enough to make the relationship worthwhile?

Also, this doesn’t refer to accidentally running into their parents unexpectedly. This is more of a, “Hey, you should come over this weekend and meet my parents.”

5. You’re each other’s regular Friday night hang.

If it’s a given you’ll be out them on a Friday night, there’s a chance they’re more than just a friend. It doesn’t have to be a pricey candlelit dinner at a high-priced restaurant; even weekly pizza and a movie at home counts. But be on the lookout for the Netflix and chill—if the only thing you’re doing together is coming over and messing around, there’s a chance you don’t see them the same way they see you.

It doesn’t mean they don’t like you; they just don’t see you as dating material. You may be their favorite Netflix and chill, but you may not be their significant other, or even their Only Netflix and chill buddy.

6. Things happen in public.

A recurring theme you may be seeing here has to do with how often they spend time with you in public. If you are actually dating, they’re happy to “show you off” and don’t really care who sees that you two are together.

However, if they don’t want to be dating and are just in it for the physical benefits, you’ll probably see them limit how often you two are together in public. Why? Well, usually people in these situations are trying to hang out with multiple people, and letting the world perceive that you’re dating doesn’t help with that.

If they are totally cool with spending time with you in public in front of friends and people you know, that’s a good sign you’re dating.

7. They told you that you’re dating.

Some people are clear and to the point communicators. If someone tells you that you’re dating or mentions that they “love dating you”, that probably means you’re dating. Know, there’s always the issue that everyone has different definitions of what dating is, but we will leave that for another day and another discussion.

If they tell you you’re dating, assume you are dating. And if you want clarification on what that means, just ask them! If they are a to the point type of communicator, they’ll love that forwardness.

8. They talk about the future…together.

One of the best ways to answer the “are we dating?” quandary is to see if they talk about things in the future that involve both of you. Now, we don’t mean huge things like marriage and kids (although, those would qualify). What we mean more are planning trips, activities, and things like that in the future. If they regularly talk about and want to plan those things (and want to include you), that’s a good sing you are dating.

When in Doubt, Ask

You’re reading this because you’re confused about your relationship status. You could spend hours sending screenshots of texts to your friends, saying what does this even mean? but maybe you’ve done that and exhausted the possibilities above.

It’s time to stop wasting your energy on wondering if you’re in a relationship and switch gears to actually enjoying the time you spend with that person. And, as anxiety inducing as that seems, outright asking is the only way to really know what your possibly more than a friend is thinking. Communication is key to a successful relationship.

It’s may be awkward, no question. But you’re not a mind reader, nor should you be expected to be one. There are a few ways to approach the question, each with its pros and cons.

You could try being completely straightforward and ask “hey, are we dating?” It’s straight and to the point. It’s also the most risky, believe it or not. The best case scenario is a simple yes, but even in the best case scenario there could be blowback. They could wonder how you didn’t know already—but then again, they could have been wondering the same thing but not have been sure how to ask.

Or your question may catch them off guard and you may see a deer in the headlights situation. They may say something along the lines of “I hadn’t thought about it yet,” or “let’s just see where it goes.” It may also be that they don’t view your relationship as exclusive.

Or the worst case, “I like you, but I don’t really see us as a couple.” In the short term, at least you have your answer. In terms of blowback, the question may leave them feeling cornered, and something they had considered as casual may suddenly be too much to handle. They may get more distant, or even ghost you completely.

It will hurt, but trust us, that’s actually good news in the long term. It may be lonely for a little bit if you lose your Friday night hang, but every person deserves to be treated with respect, and if they can’t treat you like a human being, there’s no reason to waste your time on them.

Moving on isn’t always easy, but time spent with someone disrespectful is time you could be spending with someone who’s actually clear about what they’re looking for. Give online dating a shot—you’re much more likely to find someone who’s there to date—and their profile will tell you that right up front.

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Author: Matt Seymour, MSF

Matthew J. Seymour is a dating industry expert with over a decade of experience coaching singles, reviewing dating apps, and analyzing trends within the industry. Matt is a published author with his most recent work “Get More Dates: How to Master Online Dating Apps” that hit shelves in 2023. With a Masters of Science in Finance (MSF) degree from the University of Florida and extensive knowledge of the innerworkings of the online dating industry, Matt frequently serves in an advisory role to some of the largest dating apps on the market. In Matt’s current role with Healthy Framework, he leads the interview team that regularly interviews key dating industry leaders, and leverages his financial knowledge and dating app experience to review and share what singles need to know to get the most out of dating online.