I think the weirdest part of dating is the fact that everyone has a different definition of what each stage of the process consists of — you never truly know what the hell you’re doing. We’re all basically Sims pacing back and forth, waiting for someone to tell us what to do, which is very fun but also kind of terrifying. I, for one, would love to get some clarity about all of these confusing dating terms, but since it seems no one can agree on anything, I’d settle for gathering the below people in a room for a debate.

Talking

This is what happens before meeting someone IRL. I usually like to talk to someone a bit (over text) before going on a date. It helps ensure there’s some chemistry and enough to talk about.” —Daniel*, 31

“You’ve been on three-ish dates and are still seeing where things are going but haven’t made up your mind about the person. Unsure if it will turn into dating.” —Sammie, 25

“We just met, and there might be a possibility for dating. Treat it like an interview for dates one to three.” —Sean, 25

“Texting with someone regularly.” —Jess, 26

“Two people just beginning to get to know each other and talking daily or every other day to feel out each other’s vibe. You’re definitely into the other person at this point, but it’s not serious yet, so you can see other people.” —Emma, 24

“Texting, never verbal. I don’t think you have to have done anything sexual or intimate, or even be dating, to be ‘talking.’ I feel like you can meet at a party, get someone’s number, and still be talking without anything more.” —Adam, 27

Dating

“You’re comfortable calling someone your boyfriend, girlfriend, significant other, etc. and introducing them to others that way.” —Emma, 24

“Regularly seeing a person two to three times a week and thinking about making it a relationship, but not ready to commit just yet.” —Sean, 25

“Consistently seeing someone for at least a month, but have not fully defined the nature of the relationship (exclusive or not). At least five or six dates. But can also apply after things have been defined.” —Sammie, 25

“You are boyfriend and girlfriend. Or boyfriend and boyfriend. Or girlfriend and girlfriend.” —Jess, 26

If you’re dating someone, that means you’ve gone on two-plus dates and there’s some chemistry, but you’re not sure what the future holds. It’s OK to be dating a couple people at once (if you have time), as it’s typically just the initial stages of something more serious.” —Daniel, 31

“This is the act of going on dates. You can be dating someone, dating around, etc. I don’t think ‘dating’ means you are necessarily tied to one individual.” —Adam, 27

Hanging Out

“I don’t think this applies to dating or dating terms. I can hang out with anyone at anytime.” —Adam, 27

“The point right after you start talking to someone and maybe go on a date with them for the first (or second) time. Trying to get a feel [for] if you should be closer to exclusive.” —Emma, 24

Typically, [it happens with] someone you know or have gone on a couple dates with, but it’s clearly sexually driven and likely won’t lead to anything else. But you never know…” —Daniel, 31

“Not wanting a relationship but wanted to spend time. A fuck buddy.” —Sean, 25

“You’re hooking up but haven’t had the will-you-be-my-girlfriend/boyfriend conversation.” —Jess, 26

“Non-exclusively seeing someone, more like a friends-with-benefits situation. This means something casual to me, and I would definitely say I was single if someone asked.” —Sammie, 25

Seeing Someone

At least five dates and there’s potential for more. You’re interested in this person, you know about their life, friends, family, etc., but you haven’t had the what-are-we conversation. You’ve probably met some of each other’s friends and just maybe have told your parents about this person.” —Daniel, 31

“The limbo between ‘dating’ and ‘we’re together.’” —Sean, 25

“I usually use this to get out of going on dates with someone else or to bail myself out of doing something I don’t want to do. It is usually paired with “I’m kinda…” because if I actually DTR-ed, I wouldn’t ‘kinda’ be seeing someone. I’d be seeing them, at which point, I’d have a girlfriend. When others ask, if I’m seeing someone, I will usually say no unless I feel it is serious enough to qualify.” —Adam, 27

“You’re going on dates but not dating.” —Jess, 26

“The midpoint between ‘talking’ and ‘dating’ where, if asked, you’re not exactly sure how you’d introduce someone to a friend.” —Emma, 24

“This has more of an exclusive vibe but is really similar to ‘dating’ in that I’ve consistently been [going] out with them for at least a month. The relationship has not necessarily been defined, but it’s clear it’s going in the exclusive direction. I would probably only be seeing one person if I described it this way.” —Sammie, 25

Hooking Up

“You’re having adult sleepovers.” —Jess, 25

“Hanging out but without any strings attached.” —Daniel, 31

“See ‘hanging out’.” —Emma, 24

“I feel like it is intercourse related only. I would never use this anymore, but probably would have in college or high school to describe a relationship.” —Adam, 27

“Just sex, even more casual than hanging out. Hanging out is nonexclusive, but there’s a friend element to it. Hooking up is purely sex — probably just a booty call, no date element (dinner, drinks, etc.) is involved.” —Sammie, 25

“Just casual sex. No dates or anything outside the bedroom.” —Sean, 25

Together

“Official declaration of relationship, and for me, a monogamous relationship.” —Sean, 25

“This means exclusive. We are only seeing each other, have been dating for several months, and have had a conversation defining our relationship as exclusive.” —Sammie, 25

“You’re dating or about to be.” — Jess, 26

“This usually comes [up] when someone hits on someone’s else significant other. ‘Oh sorry, we’re together’ (and points at that person). That’s probably the only time I’d use it, and it would have to be a time where I felt comfortable enough to say that, which is post-DTR.” — Adam, 27

Things are real. The talk has happened, and you are now boyfriend and girlfriend. No more dating, hanging out, hooking up with other people. You tell your family, since they’re going to meet them.” —Daniel, 31

“Semi-exclusive but not ready to introduce as a girlfriend or boyfriend to your family just yet.” —Emma, 24

*Names have been changed to protect innocent daters everywhere.