Is There A difference Between Dating & Being In A Relationship?

Ask an average Nigerian, possibly in a year long relationship what he/she is doing with their partner and their default answer will probably be “Oh, we’re going out”. Going out? Where to? When? Why?

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Today, I have yet another interesting discussion for us. After reading the comments from this post on people breaking up after dating for nine years, I realized we have a very fundamental problem in this society. I read Reni’s post on whether or not taking relationship breaks is a good idea and while looking through the comments, I read something from Larz, a regular here. Like I promised, I’ll start off this dialogue with her comment and then build on from there. Here’s what she said:

First of all, I think we need to stop seeing breakup as bad. Dating is a means to an end. Let’s be simplistic here and assume that the aim is to marry and stay married then wouldn’t you say dating is to find out the person we are meant to be with and weed out those we weren’t meant to be with. Doesn’t that mean the end of every relationship is a success because you managed to dodge the bullet? We need to see past our hurt and embrace it. Aluta continua as they say (continue your hustle). 

Whenever I read comments like this on TNC, I just feel like walking up to that person and giving them a big hug. (So there’s your IOU Larz). It’s no secret that we have serious issues when it comes to relationships in this society but I guess we already know that. What you may not know is just how fundamentally flawed our understanding of the basics when it comes to relationships is. I’ll just give one example – ask an average Nigerian, possibly in a year long relationship what he/she is doing with their partner and their default answer will probably be “Oh, we’re going out”. Going out? Where to? When? Why? How? Before you jump at me and say cammman, that’s just the Nigerian way of saying they’re in a relationship, ask yourself this, is there a difference or shouldn’t there be a difference between these phrases:

  1. We are going out/ We are in a relationship
  2. We are dating

The answer for me is YES. Dating is the prelude to a relationship, because you go on five dates with some guy doesn’t mean it’ll end up in a relationship. Now if the popular term for being in a relationship in Nigeria is “going out” which ideally should mean ‘going out on dates’, doesn’t that somehow infer that Nigerians don’t see relationships as ‘permanenent’ or shouldn’t get so workedup when they end? The comments from my post last week totally contradict this because so many people came out to say if someone broke up with them after being together for nine years, they’d probably kill the person. Yes, it’s an exaggeration but like a common Yoruba proverb says “The truth is revealed while we play” excuse my poor translation.

Now going back to Larz’ comment. I think we all really need some sort of reorientation when it comes to things of the heart. We need to get off our emotional high horses and start thinking logically. I wrote recently about how instead of regretting and seeing your past relationships as mishaps, you should look deeply and find out the lesson(s) you were really meant to learn from it. If you do that, you might just realize that like Larz said, you just dodged a bullet. Of course it is going to hurt like crazy. I mean, even if you get locked up with a monster for nine years, as long as it doesn’t threaten your life, after a while, you start developing some feelings for it and if after nine years you get to leave, you’ll feel emotional about it; that’s what makes us human.

Trust me, I’ve done A LOT of research on relationships; I’ve met a lot of couples, interviewed them and drawn my conclusions. You have a few people out there who maybe only experienced one or two relationships before getting married. Truth is, one very few of them DO NOT regret this. And NO I am not talking about all their regret from all the sex they could have had with all those other people, it’s just simple logic. Here’s a simple analogy. Close your eyes and dip your hand to pick from a sack full of oranges. Chances are, you probably won’t pick the best at your first attempt. It may be a little bit sour, dirty or completely rotten. You have another go at it and you could be second or third time lucky. Of course just like everything in this world, you have the exceptions. Those are the lucky ones who’ll pick the perfect orange at their first attempt and you also have those who will only come close to lucky after seven attempts.

And just incase you were wondering your eyes are closed because we all go into dating or relationships blind. You’ll never really know who a person is or if you are compatible with them till you experience them for a while. Also, it is important to note that with this analogy, some will develop a strategy as they continue to pick. After the first attempt, you could then decide to use your fingers to feel each orange for sores before picking. But you’ll only get to this point if instead of sulking over your first pick that turned out rotten, you take time to go over the experience till you remember that you actually felt a sore on it before picking but you ignored it and still picked it anyways. And finally, after picking seven terrible oranges, most will start feeling bad and just want to stick to whatever comes out next (aka settling). People will laugh, point fingers and make fun of you but remember if you go at it once more and your eighth pick turns out to be the sweetest orange ever, those same people who mocked you will come begging.

I feel like Jesus telling y’all parables today. I know it’s hard likening relationships, emotions, heartbreaks to picking oranges out of a sack but I sincerely hope you understand what I’m getting at. Just to throw this conversation open, I have a few questions for us – Do you think there’s a difference between dating and being in a relationship? If yes, tell us. Do you see anything wrong with DATING seven guys/chics before ending up with one relationship? If yes, tell us why and if not, what if you end up going through three relationships before marriage, meaning by then, you’d have dated twenty-one guys/chics – is there anything wrong with that? Use the comment box to express you.

Responses

  1. larz
    That was quick. Thanks toolman. I think I want some chapman (no rose) too lolz

    I got a virtual hug from thetoolman! Not bad for a Wednesday.

    Ok- lemme go read the rest. Brb

  2. Yemisi
    By your definition, if you decide to take me out on a date/ask me out on a date I.e start dating and I agree(say yes), I believe its you trying to get to know me in the hopes of asking us to become exclusive I.e be in a relationship with each other.

    I dont expect you to take other girls out I.e date other girls at the same time you dating me even if I dont have the girlfriend title yet.

    I want to believe you pursuing me and me alone!

    we make mistakes, we fall in love with the wrong person. The amount of relationships one has been
    in before marriage shouldn't matter anymore.

    1. Jo!
      No darling, No
      SO if one guy asks you out on a date, and another one does so too, a week after, you'll say no because you're waiting for the other guy to call you? Now apply that from the guy's angle…
      1. Yemisi
        well, I see your point.

        But I don't know how I'll feel walking into a restaurant and see the guy I went out with a day before having dinner with another lady.

        1. thetoolsman Post author
          Your emotional side will feel hurt but your logical side should push up your chin and ask if you think the guy is worth putting up a fight for. If he is, just keep being you and hopefully he'll see reasons to pick you over her. If not, move on.
          You need to stop assuming dating means going the whole 9 yards (Yes, with the level of promiscuity out there, it probably is) but whether we like it or not, we're all sampling one way or the other, at least until you commit to marrying someone.
  3. King Push
    Well its official toolsman is a relationship surgeon…..see dissection ooo!(pun intended (p.s I don't care if i used it right but have always wanted to use that shit ever since))
    Well my relationship scenario is a funny one and I wouldn't wanna talk about it here given that I send every tnc article I like to my gf.
    I think I should just shut up cos am starting to blab.
    Long story short you drilled down to basic elementary stuff and I think everyone should be able to relate with this!
  4. Lade
    Yes. There's a difference between dating and being in a relationsip. And you already explained the meaning. We can date many people but we can only be in a relationship with one person. But we nigerians have concluded that dating means being in a relationship which is wrong. I feel like a guys sorta know what they want so they wouldn't date the way girls do. They just go after that one girl whereas girls can date 10 guys and pick one eventually to be in a relationship with. Its tricky sha. And a game of chance. We walk into these things blind and hope for the best even while expecting the worst except you're happily ever after kinda person who always expects the best.
  5. John Doe
    Everyday is a struggle between our logic and our emotions.
    Its what makes us humans.
    At one end of the scale are neurotics/hysterics at the other end sociopaths/narcissists.
    Married > engaged > In a relationship (where the bastardized terminology girlfriend/boyfriend is used) > dating > going out > 'friends' > acquaintance (People that have been together for 9 years usually erroneous count from the first stage).
    Its easy to get confused because the average youth sees attaching yourself to a member of the opposite sex as a rite of passage, its what is expected.
    They venture into it clueless, with the aims of conformity, having fun +/- sex and whatever else goes on in their inchoate minds.
    On the other hand the average girl usually see this as the first avenue to put all those motherly skills they have practiced on their dolls on real life human beings.
    They start their experiences on the worst possible note.
    I know these are broad generalization but they hold true in a vast number of cases.
    Those that are married that regret not dating more have such reservations because of marital lapses.
    In the game of relationships, practice rarely makes perfection.
    Because no two people are alike and we are creatures of habit.
    Your analogy is apt because that is what most people do which is contrary to your call for logic.
    People pick blindfolded by what they see.
    Irony.
    Why don't you open your eyes, get to know the orange, smell it, touch it, ask it questions, observe it, test it before making the decision to sleep with it.
    Or before saying you are in a relationship with it.
    There are basic preparations to be made before embarking on a journey.
    Know your goal, know your terrain and stop aimless wandering.
    1. thetoolsman Post author
      Really like the first part of your comment however, I disagree with you when you say practice rarely makes perfection in the game of relationship, not because you're wrong but the way you explained it… not quite right in my opinion.
      Yes, no two people are alike but truth is, we can probably put all of us into 5-7 major buckets personality wise. Now Im not saying everyone needs to get into a relationship with at least 7 different kinds of people. What Im saying is, by experiencing relationships with different people, even if it's 2/3 of the same, you learn new things about YOU. So the practice you spoke about is more for you and not in the "art" of being in relationships.

      Reason why I said we all go into dating blind is because you dont get a chance to fell the orange, smell it etc before hand. The "dating process" should involve the smelling, touching asking etc and biting into it, is the actual process of going into the relationship.

      That being said, there's still no guarantee that things will turn out great when you bite into the orange and thats why you probably have to return to that sack to pick another orange.

  6. larz
    You once said that everyone is fair game until they say seal their faith with the words “I do” or something like that. If that is the case, then doesn’t that mean permanence doesn’t start until you are married?
    A lot of the time, people say they are going out but I don’t think they mean anything by it. Having said that, I have come to realise that a lot of people who are in serious long relationship tend to be more picky in their choice of words that define their relationships. They use terms like other half, significant other, hubby, wifey, and even fiancé(e). What is in a name you say? The aim is to communicate how important this person is to you either in your choice of words or emphasis placed on the word (this applies to boyfriend/ girlfriend description).
    1. thetoolsman Post author
      Great point about people in serious long relationships being picky about words they use to define their relationships. I've also noticed this. Most will say it's a western thing and even if his mother calls you "our wife", that doesn't mean things wont go south. True but when you guys are alone, what does he call you, how does he define what you have with him when he's alone talking to this friends?
  7. Chinweike
    This is interesting. Well the truth is that to fully discern the difference between the two would involve delving into the semantics. You already outlined the concept of dating, however I feel your definition narrows it down. For me, both terms are rather ambiguous, can be used interchangeably and shouldn't be tied down to one definition, as the meanings vary with context. A relationship for instance exists not only between a boyfriend and girlfriend, but in fact with each and every thing in existence, there's a relationship between you and your parents, your dog, you mobile phone (yes) you as the writer and we as the readers, it goes on and on.

    Now let's say it's in the context of romantic forays, I believe both terms can be used interchangeably. Take for instance, when you say "we used to go out" or "we used to date" clearly the meaning inferred is that both parties used to be in a relationship of some sort, not just go out a couple of nights before realising one was a jerk or didn't call back or all that other nonsense. Now if you say dating is the prelude to a relationship, what do you call it when people in relationships go on "dates"? Relationship exams for the next level?

    Another instance is when you go out on a date with a family member or co worker or something, See? The word has refused to be tied down to being just a premise to a relationship, same way the word "relationship" has refused to be limited to that between lovers.

    Anyways, with these few points of mine I hope I have convinced you that all that matters is context really, sometimes they could mean the same thing, other times not so much.

    1. thetoolsman Post author
      Thanks for the comment. I see you chose the academic approach here. My response is pretty very simple. So I go on a date with my girlfriend or even wife – it's "a date" one off, not exactly expected to lead us towards anything. It's not a verb, not an action word in that context. Same goes for going on a date with a family member etc. The moment this becomes a continuous thing with some sort of expectation involving you and the other party, then it's 'dating' and then it's what should precede a relationship.
      1. Chinweike
        I understand what you're saying, but you don't seem to understand what I'm saying. Okay let's say you're on a date with someone, say a family member, in that context, the "date" there is a noun, not a verb right? So what happens when you're in the middle of the date, would it not qualify as "dating" when you want to describe it, in the manner of a transitive verb.

        This is going back to the same semantics I mentioned. I'll just conclude by saying, let's assume you're right, and dating is really supposed to be what you do before a relationship, and that people use it wrongly.

        Now let me again mention you to the concept of "semantic shift", which is the evolution of a word in such a way that it's modern day usage radically varies from its original use.

        So let's just say that's the case here, that the term "dating" has ameliorated to include a "relationship" as one of its several meanings.

        Now you might argue that this is wrong, and you might be right, but I'll have you know that people make language and that language and people change. The term "guy" for instance was formerly a pejorative, referring to a grotesque male, then later it became the norm for referring to a male, now it's more accommodating to include females as well (read about guy fawkes). So maybe that's what's happening with the term "dating", which I still stand can be used in various forms and contexts. Sorry about the length of my comments, concision has always been an issue for me.

      2. Chinweike
        I understand what you're saying, but you don't seem to understand what I'm saying. Okay let's say you're on a date with someone, say a family member, in that context, the "date" there is a noun, not a verb right? So what happens when you're in the middle of the date, would it not qualify as "dating" when you want to describe it, in the manner of a transitive verb.

        This is going back to the same semantics I mentioned. I'll just conclude by saying, let's assume you're right, and dating is really supposed to be what you do before a relationship, and that people use it wrongly.

        Now let me again mention you to the concept of "semantic shift", which is the evolution of a word in such a way that it's modern day usage radically varies from its original use.

        So let's just say that's the case here, that the term "dating" has ameliorated to include a "relationship" as one of its several meanings.

        Now you might argue that this is wrong, and you might be right, but I'll have you know that people make language and that language and people change. The term "guy" for instance was formerly a pejorative, referring to a grotesque male, then later it became the norm for referring to a male, now it's more accommodating to include females as well (read about guy fawkes). So maybe that's what's happening with the term "dating", which I still stand can be used in various forms and contexts. Sorry about the length of my comments, concision has always been an issue for me.

  8. Rollykay
    Aha! Thank you o Toolsman for putting dating and being in a relationship into perspective for me.
    I always thought it wrong that some guys just start assuming ownership of you after a few dates. Worse of are the guys with the galls to ask a lady out without trying to know the basics about her. While being in a relationship can be likened to buying black-market (no warranty) it's just somehow to go into a relationship that blind. To simplify all these ambiguities about dating / relationships, it's safe to say dating is like hanging out with a new friend without "zoning" them and being in a relationship is being exclusive or not
  9. larz
    Difference between dating and relationships
    Dating- this is all about now, making each other feel good/ special in the present. This does not have to include sexual relations. Nowadays, there are different variations of dating. Hooking up, hanging out, friends with benefits, friends with no benefit, friendzoning, chilling together, etc.
    Relationship- this is about sharing your life with another and planning a future together. I am talking time, finances, food, visions, plans etc. It is all about taking all (or most) you hold dear to you and pooling it together and then divvy up amongst yourself. I am talking the switch from what is best for me to what is best for us.
    I am not the one to talk, I have dated a few people that didn’t proceed into a full blown relationships. What is bad for me is good for another. We are on a journey so to each their own
  10. kemz
    in other news…i will so miss the "weekend news" here on tnc.was looking forward to seeing comments on the brazil vs germany game.*sad*
  11. ijebuPrincess
    This brings to mind the common misuse of 'double dating' when Nigerians really mean 'two timing' or 'double dealing'.
  12. Steavihn-Uzochukwu
    Yo Toolsman! You the man!

    You never know what you have till is gone is often interpreted as not appreciating a good thing but can’t it be not seeing a liability for what it really is until it’s no longer strapped to your chest?
    This article right here makes me wonder exactly what I’ve been up to for the last couple of years. Getting hurt has become such a theme song I even swore off the relationship scene. Lol! Seriously though, I agree that failed relationships are dodged bullets painful as they may have been. Running this rule over my past relationships has helped me see things differently.
    Yeah, it hurts when he/she leaves but honestly? Why buy a pair of shoes that’s a size too small when you can walk over to another stall and pick a pair that’s the perfect size for a bit more than your previous pick?
    Orange picking time people.

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