Life / Health

The stages of modern love: They're complicated

When did "dating" become such a hard thing to define?

Professional matchmaker Sofi Papamarko says “hanging out” is what unofficial, non-exclusive dating is called today.

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Professional matchmaker Sofi Papamarko says “hanging out” is what unofficial, non-exclusive dating is called today.

One of Metro’s editors recently made a big mistake. She referred to her nephew and the woman he’s seeing as “dating.” No, he corrected her fiercely. They’ve been on dates. They’re not dating.

It seems like those two things should be synonymous, but in modern parlance, they’re not. We enlisted professional matchmaker Sofi Papamarko to explain the dizzying array of dating terms.

The way people define the stages of relationships has changed a great deal, even in just the past couple of years.

As recently as the 1990s,  “If two people had gone out to the movies a couple of times, they were ‘going out’” exclusively, Papamarko said; the same status their baby-boomer parents would have called “going steady.”

But nobody says, “going steady” with a straight face anymore.

Couples go through an increasingly common, and growing, limbo stage of dating/not-dating at the beginning of their relationship, especially if they meet on an app or website. 

“Nowadays, ‘dating’ means exclusivity and exclusivity is … a lot more hard won,” Papamarko said.

“You can be seeing a lot of someone for months and if someone asks you if you’re dating, vehemently deny it and say you’re just hanging out.”

“Hanging out” is what unofficial, non-exclusive dating is called, Papamarko explained. Until the dreaded “what are we” talk, you’re free to explore other options and assume your partner can do the same. This trend has affected how Papamarko advises singles who are looking for love.

“I tell my clients that a couple of great dates does not make a relationship.” 

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