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The ins and outs of pre-dating

What you should know about the ‘just talking’ stage of a relationship.

The 'just talking' stage of a relationship is a time to test the waters.

Speak to the younger generation about the steps to dating and you’ll probably come across the phrase “just talking”. In other words, the phase before actually dating – or ‘pre-dating’ as it’s also known. This is the phase after you know you like someone but before you actually ask them out.

Since the rise of dating apps and messaging services on smartphones, pre-dating has become an identifiable stage of getting to know someone; you’re keen on them but still trying to figure out if you want to commit to a fully fledged relationship yet. You chat with them every day but haven’t actually been on an official date yet.

There’s no single timeline for pre-dating

The problem with pre-dating (and labelling any stage of the relationship journey) is that the timeframes are obscure. Everyone generally agrees that you should date someone for a few years before getting engaged and that you should be engaged for about a year before getting married.

How long do you ‘just talk’ to someone before committing to a relationship? When do you draw the line and realise that you’re being strung along during the pre-dating stage? How many dates do you need to go on before entering an exclusive relationship?

The answer is entirely individual. Everyone has their own cut-off points and commitment timelines. Some people will push for exclusivity after a few weeks of ‘just talking’. Others are happy to go along with the situation for as long as they need. Both parties need to be invested if the pre-dating stage is going to lead to an official relationship.

Pre-dating lets you suss out the situation

The great thing about pre-dating is that it’s a time to test the waters, keep your options open, decide if you like the other person and enjoy the banter with no expectations. However, there are issues too. People often read into text messages too much, and the lack of physical cues can be confusing as to what the other person really wants.

One thing is unavoidable; this is generally how dating works in the age of smartphones and connectivity. ‘Just talking’ has become a part of getting to know someone. Dating apps such as Tinder start interactions with text messages, immediately putting two people into the ‘just talking’ stage.

To be truly satisfied during this stage of the game, you have to get rid of any expectations and understand that a possible relationship in the future is not set in stone. Everything can change and the other person needs to be willing to take it to the next step as well.

Until you both reach that level of trust and commitment, pre-dating is a way to test the waters. It gives you some time to really see if you can make it official, or if you’d rather look elsewhere for a romantic partner before feelings get too deep.

One piece of advice for the pre-dating phase; if you took smartphones out of the equation, would you still want to spend a lot of time with the person? This will help you see if you really like the person, or if you just like the idea of them.

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Written by Joshua Oates

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