What is a date: flirting, friend zoned or just fooling around?

Today, with the evolving nature of dating and relationships, it can be increasingly difficult to tell the difference between what is a date and when is it just hanging out! Hanging out is a nebulous term covering a casual relationship that has risen to popularity recently and is often used as a catch-all tag phrase. Whereas dating implies a deeper level of commitment by both parties, the implication that the goal is actually a relationship. Let’s understand the key differences.

What is a date and what’s hanging out?

With the rise of dating apps and dating websites, dating has become increasingly accessible. Trying to understand a new potential partner’s intention can be a challenge, with the predictable days of courting or traditional dating sometimes feeling far away.

To clarify the concept ‘date’ as a basic dating definition can be useful from the outset. “Dating is a stage of romantic relationships in humans whereby two people meet socially with the aim of each assessing the other’s suitability as a prospective partner in an intimate relationship or marriage”.1 So to begin with, there is an intention to test out compatibility, with the view of considering someone as a potential partner. And this is a key difference between dating, and the more casual version of hanging out, which does not necessarily have any long-term considerations.

How you go about dating someone can change across location and generations. However, “it is a form of courtship, consisting of social activities done by the couple, either alone or with others”.2 There are many versions of dating, but the consideration of each other as a partner is at the heart of it. “While the term has several meanings, the most frequent usage refers to two people exploring whether they are romantically or sexually compatible by participating in dates with the other”.3

So, hanging out can be understood as a more casual version of dating. It’s spending time with someone that you are attracted to, but don’t necessarily see as a potential relationship partner. Casual dating, or hanging out, usually has a focus on ephemeral fun whereas dating someone has a focus on a potential partnership and future together. With a clearer outline of these terms, what then are the signs of a proper, romantic, I like you and you make my heart race, kind of date?

What is a date: 5 signs it’s a romantic date for couples

EliteSingles breaks down the clear indicators of what is considered a real date.

It’s just the two of you

One of the telltale signs of what is considered a date is that it’s only the two of you meeting. If it’s a social occasion, with a group of you getting together, chances are you may be in the friend zone. However, if the occasion involves only you and your crush – date away, the game is likely on!

Plans are in place

If you’re trying to answer ‘what is a date for couples?’, a good indication is the level of preparation. If the details are organized beforehand, this shows thought has gone into it. Has your date asked what you like to do, what kind of food you enjoy or other personal details that could influence the location/activity? If so, bonus points – they plan to impress and aren’t only going after casual dating convenience.

You feel the butterflies

Your gut instinct can often provide the best guidance. Consider, what is a date to you? Does it meet your expectations for date criteria? Secondly, how does it make you feel? Are there those revealing butterflies, or do you feel completely calm and relaxed? It isn’t good to be highly anxious or lackadaisical about the date! A suitable mix of excitement and intrigue should accompany a date – so check in with your natural intuition!

Effort for outcome

How much consideration and energy has been put into the meetup? Yes, there are different types of dating and different stages, but at the baseline a certain level of effort should be involved in organizing a pleasant dalliance. This could be as simple as making a reservation, arriving on time or putting in the effort to present yourself well. Signs of trying to create a good impression is a good gauge for the intention – is it important enough to be a real date or are they hoping to get away with just hanging out!

Phones are a no go

Phones should be off the table, out of sight and out of mind! If someone is scrolling through social media, texting, or, the worst, making calls when they are with you it’s a bad sign! If phones are put away, and you are the center of attention, it says you are important and this is our time. With advances in technology, taking distraction out of the equation is a clear sign of interest and intention of a date.

What is a date: 5 signs you’re hanging out or in the friend zone

Here’re the danger signs that you’ve veered out of real date territory and could just be hanging out or hooking up…

It’s coincidental or last minute

You should know that any text message to meet up that you get after 9 pm at night is probably a booty call. In the beginning stages of meeting someone, the familiarity of wanting to meet up last minute can probably be interpreted as a more casual intention as does not take the time and effort to ensure you are made to feel important, are available and the meeting is suitable!

Ulterior motive

Do you get the feeling that maybe getting to know you isn’t the top priority? Do you feel pressure to head back to his place as soon as possible or feel personal consideration is somewhat absent? An unfortunate reality of casual dating, or just hanging out, is that hooking up can be more of a focus then interpersonal conversation and interaction.

There is no follow up

Did your date disappear off the radar? Going silent after your meet up is not only rude but can also be confusing. Keep in mind, if there is no follow up, your date probably wasn’t taking it seriously and considered it only hanging out. It could also have been a date gone wrong. Either way, if there’s silence on the airwaves, best to keep on walking!

It’s a regular thing

Sometimes familiarity and habit can be the quiet death of romance. If you and your crush seem to be hanging out with some regularity that isn’t progressing towards a more committed relationship, you could be stuck in the friend zone or seen as an easy go-to option. If you feel you’re not getting what you want, and this has slowly become a pattern, it’s probably high time to take a step away.

Flirt free zone

What is a date if it doesn’t have a good dose of flirting! Flirting is one of the best parts of the fun. A major sign of flirting is the body language of attraction – leaning in, imitating and brushing touches being some of the clearest ones. Teasing and joking with each other is also a common flirting technique. However, if you find yourself stuck in a flirt free zone, chances are high it isn’t a date!

Looking for compatibility and chemistry? Join EliteSingles and go on a real date!


1,2,3. Dating. Wikipedia. Found at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dating

About the author: Zoe Coetzee

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