Dating decoded


It’s a simple four letter word with a simple meaning: An appointment for a particular time, (esp with a person to whom one is sexually or romantically attached).  Yet, somehow all sorts of hotmessdedness follows.

Friendships go down in flames of unrequited passion.  Businesses fizzle as harassment cases fly.  Relationships explode as cheating bombs are dropped.

All because of confusion about what does or doesn’t constitute a date.  Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away…  A long, long time ago…

There was a young woman who had a job.  At this job, she had coworkers. Among her coworkers was a man. An older man. An attractive man.  One day this man offered to bring her lunch.  She accepted.  Another day he invited her to go to lunch.  She accepted. Another day he asked her to go to dinner.  She accepted. This continued.  One day, he called her desk from his office.  He asked her if they could meet.  They sat down in the conference room.  He proceeded to talk for a long while.  Then she proceeded to respond for a shorter while.  Then he asked, “Are you breaking up with me?”  

The young woman looked at him and replied, “I didn’t know we were dating.”

Le sigh.

One of the reasons dating is easily confused is that it’s essentially an innocuous appointment.  And then there’s that (esp with a person to whom one is sexually or romantically attached) part.   That element is not easily defined.

What makes it tougher, is if you’re a really really awesome and honest person who’s totally in love it’s easy to actually turn down your radar for this stuff. Meaning, you’re so focused on and committed to your love nugget and the beauty of your love-fest, the last thing on your mind is whether any one else is relevant.  ‘Cause they aren’t.  ‘Till they are.

To help with this, relationshiptons typically agree to do things that keep them from running around bumping  hearts and tripping over broken pieces.  In a loving, trust-filled, committed relationship boundaries are pretty easy to agree on.

Almost every time, it’s some extrapolation on the simple agreement to be truthful.

That’s it.  Said a gajillion different ways, hopefully not beginning with “Thou shalt not.”

With trust comes the understanding that you won’t know everything all the time and don’t have to…  And the vulnerability of accepting the risk that something will happen you don’t like, which is ok.

The beautiful danger is, real trust leaves tons of room for error.

By definition, neither of you are worried about the possible outcome because you love-birds have each other’s best interests in mind, hearts in love, glittery butterflies flitting.

One day all is well and the next you’re both trying to figure out what the heck possessed you to think it was ok to find yourself on the third, second or even first date with so-and-so.

Sometimes it just ain’t clear.

Let’s adjust our lenses and get the low hanging fruit out of the way first.  These are all the fairly obvious signs you’re doing a little more than the average friend would, and are probably filling in the parentheses after the appointment definition of date.

When alone with a man or woman who ain’t yours, you can be more than 90% certain it’s a date:

  • If either one of you is sexually attracted to the other.  (If you don’t know, heaven help you and your significant other.)
  • If you ain’t told your love-nugget about it or they don’t know where you are.
  • If whatever you’re doing is an exclusive ritual you look forward to.
  • If it takes up a lot of your time.
  • If you’re traveling somewhere fah, a long long way from home.
  • If you’re going somewhere at night.
  • If you plan to pick them up at home.
  • If you’re doing something with lots of real couples (weddings, romantic restaurants, work functions, etc.)
  • When one of you pays for everything.
  • When you dress up extra goo-it.
  • If you feel compelled to play the we’rejustfriends card.

I know.  You’ve totally done some of this, right?  No worries.  Finding yourself in one of these situations doesn’t mean you’ve been untruthful, or done anything wrong.

Now, if at some point two months from now you’re still bumbling around among the rotten apples, that’s a different thang.  So those are the easy signs.

Then it gets murky…

There are some not-date scenarios where there’s a 50/50 chance it’s a date in disguise.  These are the fuel of a million classic moments where relationshiptons try to figure out how they missed the signs.

Some tips you are in fact on a date whether you intended to be or not:

First of all, any time you find yourself flirting in a way you wouldn’t if your man/woman were there, it has become a date.  Check yo’self fo you wreck yo’self.

Daytime one-on-one  (Lunches, brunches, beaches etc.) 

Date flags: Deeply intimate conversation is had.  You completely lose track of time.  Whatever y’all are doing makes passers-by assume you’re a couple and comment accordingly.  No matter how close you are, this is love-nugget land. If you think this is ok, do you.  Don’t call me to cry after the break-up.

Out with a mixed bunch of friends (movies/concert/beach, game night, etc.).

Date flags: Basically any time the group becomes background chorus line for your solo mission.  For example, finding a reason to carpool with a particular man/woman.  Spending more time with them than anyone else. Checking-in on each other for drink refills, food, comfort etc.  If you’re out with friends there should be balance… Why else are you leaning so hard?

Work meeting (conference/drinks/dinner/etc).  This is particularly tricky, because it’s safe to assume you can bend the low-hanging fruit rules. For example, spending a lot of time together,  dinners, traveling, etc. all ok.

Date flags:  You aren’t dressed for work (or depending on your line of work, the opposite.)  You say or do things inappropriate for your work environment (or depending on your line of work, the opposite.)  There is heavy drinking involved. You spend more time talking about stuff that isn’t work than stuff that is.

Great. Now what?

Most of the time, you won’t know until you’re already in the middle of it.  Yep, we just laid out a million ways to make mistakes you can’t prevent, take back, or feel bad about.

So what can you do?



Be honest, truly honest with yourself. Be honest, truly honest with your love-nugget.

If it turns out one of the above scenarios has been on instant reply in your life, one or both of you will recognize it.

Then comes the fun part.

You get to love it out.


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