How many dates before your relationship official?

When's the ideal time from going from a casual dating relationship to a serious one? How do you know when you're ready to take things to the next level? In this blog post, we'll give you 10 tips on how to gauge whether you're ready for an official relationship.

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What’s an acceptable time frame for going from casual dating to a committed romantic monogamous relationship? Is there such a thing as too many dates? And when is the right time to have “the talk”?

As we age and mature, our relationships shift and the ways we navigate them also change. 1 And so do the time frames for how quickly we want things to happen. The transition between adolescent dating and entering into a committed romantic relationship can be both exciting and scary. For some, it happens quickly and easily; for others, it’s a bit more complicated and can span a decade or more. 2

There’s no right or wrong answer, but if you’re wondering how many dates it will take before your relationship is official, here are a few things to consider.

1. The 10-date rule

1. The 10-date rule

You may have heard of the 10-date rule, which is the idea that you should go on at least 10 dates with someone before you decide whether you want to pursue a relationship with them.

While there’s no hard and fast rule about how many dates you should go on before getting into a relationship, the 10-date rule is a good guideline to follow. This rule gives you a chance to get to know someone pretty well before deciding whether you want to take things to the next level. Between adolescence and adulthood, relationships are typically longer in adulthood, and may differ in quality from those formed during adolescence. 3

However, for some people, 10 dates may be too many, and others may need some additional time. It depends on your attitude toward dating, your level of interest in the person you’re seeing, and how ready you are to move forward with a committed relationship.

The average time it takes to go on 10 dates is about six weeks, but it could be shorter or longer depending on your schedule and how long the gaps between dates are.

2. Focus on dating milestones instead of the number of dates

Instead of fixating on a certain number of dates, it can be helpful to think about specific milestones that you want to achieve before moving from casual to serious.

For example, you might want to have had at least one serious conversation about your future together or met the friends of your potential partner. Have you known your partner enough that you know what traits you both value in a relationship?4 Perhaps you’ve discussed whether or not your levels of commitment align with one another. 5

These are all important things to consider before entering into a committed relationship. By focusing on these milestones, you can get a better sense of whether or not you’re both on the same page and ready to take things to the next level.

3. Pay attention to your gut feeling

One of the best ways to figure out if you’re ready for a relationship is to pay attention to your gut feeling. If you’re constantly thinking and talking about your potential partner, and you’re excited to see them and spend time with them, then chances are you’re ready for something more serious. You might also start investing more time and energy into the relationship, and you might find yourself feeling more emotionally attached to your partner. 6

Conversely, if you find yourself constantly making excuses to avoid spending time with them or you’re feeling uncomfortable or pressured, then it may be a sign that you’re not ready for a relationship.

If you’re not sure whether or not you’re ready for a relationship, it can be helpful to talk to a trusted friend or family member about your feelings. They can offer some outside perspectives that can help you make a decision.

4. You’ve already made plans for the future

4. You've already made plans for the future

If you find yourself making plans for the future with your dating partner, it’s a good sign that you’re ready to take things to the next level. Planning ahead shows that you’re committed to spending time together and that you’re confident in your relationship.

Often, individuals in developing and continuing relationships start to factor into account long-term goals for the relationship as an entity in addition to the needs and desires of the two individuals. And this is how you often see two people come to develop their identity as a couple, which can take many different forms. 7

Some couples may merge their social lives and become inseparable, and they may start planning to move in together. Others may have simpler future plans like going on vacation together or taking a trip to visit each other’s families.

No matter what your plans are, if you’re making them with your partner, it’s a good sign that you’re ready to take things to the next level.

5. You feel at home with this person

When you’re around the person you’re dating, do you feel like you can be yourself? If the answer is yes, then that’s a good sign that you’re ready for a relationship. Being comfortable around someone means that you trust them and feel safe with them. It also means you two connect on an emotional level.

Love is often associated with feelings of safety and security, and if you feel that way around your partner, it’s a good sign that you’re ready for something more serious. 8 Being authentic is an important part of our relationships with others and can influence our self-esteem, and if you feel like you can be your true self around your partner, that’s another good sign that you’re in a good place for a committed relationship. 9

Check in with your feelings and ask yourself if you feel comfortable and safe around this person. The feeling of being at home with someone is more important than the actual dates you’ve been on.

6. You’re okay with being vulnerable

Part of being in a relationship is being vulnerable and sharing parts of yourself that you might not share with others. Self-disclosure and intimacy is a strong indicator of positive health outcomes, so if you’re able to share your thoughts and feelings with your partner, it’s a good sign that you’re on the right track. 10

Sharing vulnerabilities can be anything from telling them about a previous relationship to sharing your fears and insecurities. When you’re vulnerable, you’re putting your trust in your partner, and you’re saying that you’re okay with them seeing all of you.

For some people, it takes months of dating before they feel comfortable being vulnerable, while others may feel comfortable being vulnerable from the start. If you’re okay with being open and honest, then it’s likely that you’re ready for a committed relationship.

7. You hang out with their family and friends

7. You hang out with their family and friends

Meeting the people who are closest to your partner is a big step in the relationship. It shows that you’re both taking the relationship seriously and that you want to include them in your life.

If you’re months into dating and you’ve yet to meet their friends and family, it’s a sign that they may not be as serious about the relationship as you are. Of course, there are always exceptions to this rule, but meeting the people closest to your partner is generally a good indicator of where things are headed.

8. You’re exclusive

If you and your partner have decided to be exclusive, then it’s a good sign that you’re both ready for a committed relationship. Being exclusive means that you’re not seeing other people and that you’re only focused on each other, and this is a natural step in relationship that progresses from casual to something more serious. 11

When you’re exclusive, it’s a good idea to have a discussion about what that means for both of you. Are you only seeing each other? Are you allowed to date other people? What are your expectations for the relationship? Having these conversations can help to ensure that you’re both on the same page and that you’re both ready for a committed relationship.

Making the decision to be exclusive is a big step in any relationship, and it’s a good sign that you’re both ready for something more serious.

9. You already had “the talk”

If you already had a conversation about being in a committed relationship, then this is a pretty clear sign that you’re both ready for something more serious. The talk generally includes topics such as exclusivity, monogamy, and future plans.

It’s a conversation that can be awkward and nerve-wracking, but it’s a necessary one if you want your relationship to move forward. If you’ve already had this talk, it means that you’re both on the same page about where things are headed.

10. You’re honest with each other

10. You're honest with each other

Being honest with your partner is one of the most important aspects of any relationship. If you can’t be honest with them, then it’s likely that the relationship won’t last very long. 12

Honest communication includes being able to share your thoughts and feelings openly, as well as being able to trust each other. It’s also a sign that you are not afraid of conflict and that you’re willing to work through disagreements. It builds trust and can strengthen your relationship. 12

If you and your partner are able to be honest with each other, it’s a good sign that you’re both ready for a committed relationship.

So, how many dates should you go on before getting into a serious relationship? As we’ve seen, there is no one definitive answer to this question. It depends on the couple and their unique situation.

What’s more important than following arbitrary rules is focusing on relationship milestones and your gut feeling. If things feel right, then don’t be afraid to take the next step. If you have any doubts, it might be best to wait a little longer. Ultimately, only you can decide when the time is right for a serious commitment.

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  2. Meier, A., & Allen, G. (2009). Romantic relationships from adolescence to young adulthood: Evidence from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. The Sociological Quarterly, 50(2), 308-335. ↩︎

  3. Seiffge-Krenke, I. (2003). Testing theories of romantic development from adoles-Testing theories of romantic development from adolescence to young adulthood: Evidence of a developmental sequence. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 27, 519-531. ↩︎

  4. Stewart, S., Stinnett, H., & Rosenfeld, L. B. (2000). Sex differences in desired characteristics of short-term and long-term relationship partners. Journal of social and personal relationships, 17(6), 843-853. ↩︎

  5. Stanley, S. M., Rhoades, G. K., & Whitton, S. W. (2010). Commitment: Functions, Formation, and the Securing of Romantic Attachment. Journal of family theory & review, 2(4), 243–257. ↩︎

  6. Rusbult, C. E. (1980). Commitment and satisfaction in romantic associations: A test of the investment model. Journal of experimental social psychology, 16(2), 172-186. ↩︎

  7. Kelley, H. H., & Thibaut, J. W. (1978). Interpersonal relations: A theory of interdependence. New York: Wiley. ↩︎

  8. Dush, C. M. K., & Amato, P. R. (2005). Consequences of relationship status and quality for subjective well-being. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 22(5), 607-627. ↩︎

  9. Koole, S. L., & Kuhl, J. (2003). In search of the real self: A functional perspective on optimal self-esteem and authenticity. Psychological Inquiry, 14(1), 43-48. ↩︎

  10. Hook, M. K., Gerstein, L. H., Detterich, L., and Gridley, B. (2003). How close are we? Measuring intimacy and examining gender differences. J. Couns. Dev. 81, 462–472. ↩︎

  11. Buss, D. M., Sternberg, R., & Weis, K. (2006). The new psychology of love. ↩︎

  12. Debnam, K. J., Howard, D. E., & Garza, M. A. (2014). If you don’t have honesty in a relationship, then there is no relationship: African American girls’ characterization of healthy dating relationships, a qualitative study. The journal of primary prevention, 35(6), 397–407. ↩︎ ↩︎

Author picture of David Hall
Dating Expert

David Hall

David Hall is a self-taught dating expert who works as a freelance writer to help people improve their love lives. He has always been interested in dating, physical attraction, and …

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