More about this episode

A Conversation on Casual Relationships

Different people have different ideas about when a relationship really turns serious. Some people mark it by meeting the parents. Some people mark it by the first time they say, "I love you." Sometimes people mark it by when they first go on vacation together.

The actual length of time to each of these milestones varies for each couple. According to a recent study, one in five (22%) of couples surveyed said that people should wait 1-3 months before introducing each other to their parents and close family, while another 22% think couples should wait until they have been dating for 4-6 months before making the introduction.

In the same study, 19% of the survey population stated that the earliest a person should tell their partner "I love you" is 1-3 months into dating. Another 18% said the three words should only be said after 4-6 months of dating.

In regards to another relationship milestone, going on vacation together, 21% of the respondents said a couple should wait at least 4-6 months before taking that step. Another 14% think it is okay to travel together after only 1-3 months of dating.

Overall, most of these milestones happen between 1-6 months of dating. While a "situationship" can go on for longer periods of time than this, most relationships get serious or fizzle out by the six-month marker.

Transcript

Dr. Judy:

Opinions. We all have them, especially when it comes to love and sex. So what happens when two people who've never met get to share their opinions in an open and honest conversation. Maybe they learn something about the other person and maybe they learn something about themselves. I'm Dr. Judy and this is Well, In My Opinion. Today, we're asking the question. When does a relationship turn serious?

Gentel:

Well, I think when you start spending a lot of time with your other person, that's the time when it becomes a little bit more serious. And when you start meeting their friends and that they meet your friends, because when they go away, your friends are gonna start asking, "Hey, where's so-and-so?" And if you're not in a relationship, you're going to be like, "well, don't really know what happened to them."

Jesse:

There's like verbal and nonverbal things that correlate into things, moving in a serious direction. Nonverbal being someone, bringing clothes over, toiletries, keeping them there or asking for a key or giving a key. That's huge. But verbal communication, like saying that "I love you" statement, that right there is like, that's dead serious.

Gentel:

But, what if you're spending like more than six months or a year? It's still not serious or you're just kind of like, what, what are we doing? We're not in a relationship?

Jesse:

Well, that's where communication comes into play. You know, because you can have friends with benefits, you know, and you could be in that for six months, but if you guys aren't communicating, it can not be serious.

Gentel:

What if a person is emotionally unavailable and they don't really communicate with you, but do you know they like you, but it's still kind of prolonging after months and months?

Jesse:

I honestly feel like, if one person isn't' communicating, it's also the responsibility of the other person to communicate that too. So important for communication to figure out where you guys are at and if it's serious or not. Because if two people aren't communicating and you guys are just hanging out or having sex, it could just be fun, you know? And no one knows where each person stands, but until you have this conversation of, "Hey, I really like you. I want to, you know, move forward or I want to date you exclusively," if there's any of those types of conversations, then it goes into a serious, real quick; zero to a hundred, real quick.

Gentel:

Real quick.

Jesse:

But I feel like there's, non-verbal things too. Like someone moving all this stuff slowly into your place or giving you a house key, I think…

Gentel:

You're in a relationship by that point.

Jesse:

Oh yeah. You're locked in.

Gentel:

And loaded.

Jesse:

Ball and chain.

Gentel:

Yes, for sure. Have you ever spent time with somebody that long and thought you were in a relationship?

Jesse:

Yeah, my very first relationship, but that was, just because I was inexperienced, I didn't know the right questions to ask. I think I was really nervous of how I was going to be, how it was going to be received. So if I brought it up too early, maybe it would ruin the relationship. But I just learned that communication is key and being real with people, just keep it 100 the whole time and just say what your feelings are, because at the end of the day, if that scares someone off, that person's not meant for you anyway.

Gentel:

Gotta move on.

Jesse:

Yeah, cut the cord.

Gentel:

For me, it's like the six month period, like after six months, if we've been going steady and we know we're exclusive with each other, it's common to have the conversation, because no one has time for the games. I don't have time for the games. I don't have time for my feelings to get hurt. When your emotions get the best of you, your whole world goes into a whirlwind.

Jesse:

She says, "Christmas is over. Reindeer games? We're not playin' these."

Gentel:

Nuh uh, not at all.

Jesse:

No, I mean, I'm with that. You know, I feel like people have different priorities and different expectations. But I think when people start putting expectations on you, I feel like at that point it starts getting serious and you gotta have a conversation.

Gentel:

Yeah. I think so too.

Dr. Judy:

According to one study, couples who made it to three months were statistically far more likely to end up dating for four years. And couples spend an average of 4.9 years dating before they make the next step to marriage. Ultimately every couple just needs to move at their own pace.

Suzanna:

I think when you just have that talk, that's like, are you seeing other people? Are you sleeping with anyone else? Just like that. But it also depends on what serious means. Like, I'm in a relationship that's exclusive right now, but I don't consider it serious because we haven't been dating. Like I think once it's like over the year mark, it feels a little more serious. And then if you're like, if you can see yourself with them, like having kids with them.

Trisha:

It's exactly that, where I think there are different stages. So I think it's like going from dating to serious is when you get into a relationship, but then like there's a difference between a relationship and then the next step up, which is a serious relationship. I won't put a title on something, unless I'm certain that it's what I want. And so I like to hold on to dating as long as possible before I enter the relationship.

For me, my last relationship we were dating for months and months. And then in my head, it went from dating to serious because I was out one night and I ran into the guy that I had dated right before him. And he and I were sitting there talking and he was getting a little flirtatious. And the thought went through my head, "If the guy that I'm dating were a fly on the wall, like he, I feel like he would be, this would make him sad. And I don't want to make him sad because I care about him. And then I was like, "Oh crap. I care about him. I guess I'm ready to get serious."

Like, it was like, once I started thinking about how my actions would affect him, then it went from dating to serious for me. And so then I was like, guess I'm ready to be serious. Like, dang it. We turn into children again when it comes to having that conversation, because it's like, how do you even word that? Like, yeah, you could be like, "Okay, are you seeing other people? Neither am I. I'm ready to get in a relationship." That's probably the best case scenario. But I've been in so many situations where they're like, "Do you want to be my girlfriend?" And I'm like, "Do I want to be your girlfriend?"

Suzanna:

That's cute.

Trisha:

I know. Then it's awkward because it's like, "Yeah. Okay. You're my boyfriend."

Suzanna:

I know it's super weird. Yeah.

Trisha:

I don't want to be in this conversation anymore.

Suzanna:

I did. Until you asked me.

Trisha:

I also think it's like, it really, really is dependent on age, because when I was in my late teens, early twenties, it was kind of like when it's Facebook official.

Suzanna:

Oh my God. That's right.

Trisha:

Yeah. And then now I'm like, no, my status has been single forever because I don't think about needing to change it.

Suzanna:

Or you can just make it private. But I remember, you learn your lesson quick when it's like that one high school relationship and you break up two months later and you have to change it. You're like, I'm never putting it on again because I don't wanna have to change it.

Trisha:

I think it, you know, once you reach a point where you start considering the other person's feelings in your own life, that's when it goes from dating to serious.

Suzanna:

That's a good way to say it.

Trisha:

Thanks.

Dr. Judy:

Different people have different ideas about when a relationship really turns serious. Some people mark it by meeting the parents. Some people mark it by the first time they say, "I love you." Sometimes people mark it by when they exchange keys to each other's house. Whatever the case may be, I think the relationship turns serious when you have that conversation about a deeper commitment. I'm Dr. Judy and this has been Well, In My Opinion.

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