6 Crucial Differences Between Hanging Out And Dating

Shutterstock / Nejron Photo
Shutterstock / Nejron Photo

Ahhh, romance! The wonderfully complicated world of dating, or as Larry David once summed it up in an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, “A date is an experience you have with another person that makes you appreciate being alone.” I jest, because dating can actually be one of the best things in the world. But unfortunately, we live in a time of uncertainty and being afraid to ask for clarification, so dating and “hanging out” are becoming one in the same. But here’s the catch: they are COMPLETELY different beasts, so make sure you understand which one you’re falling into.


Hanging out: Um, nonexistent. You could technically hang out with anyone…or anything. You could hang out with Netflix, your dog, strangers you’re forced to stand in awkward, elevator silence with. There’s nothing special about it.

Dating: You might be fully committed to one another, or both still keeping it open. But you’ve likely at least discussed it, and some sort of decision has been made.

Level of effort

Hanging out: Maybe they’ll clean up their room for you the first few times or let you pick the movie. You’re sort of just coasting along. It’s not bad, but not amazing. Just kind of existing, like Blake Lively.

Dating: It’s pretty high. I’m not saying this means caviar infused lobster tails every night, but you’re both trying. Maybe it’s something as simple as offering to drive to them because they had a really long day at work, or they remember your favorite show is on that night and ask if you want to watch. When you’re actually dating, you go the extra mile.

Being introduced

Hanging out: “Oh…yeah, this is my…friend.”

Dating: One of two things will happen: 1) This is my girlfriend/boyfriend (eeee!!) or if you haven’t quite gotten there yet, 2) This is *insert your name*

Activities you do together

Hanging out: Generally nothing that really requires too much commitment or planning. Maaaybe a bar every now and then. But if you’re mostly getting, “ayy, come over” texts, the person you are talking to just wants to “hang out.”

Dating: Stuff. You actually go outside into society and do STUFF. It’s not even about the actual thing you’re doing (seeing a movie, dinners, hikes, etc), but the experience of doing it TOGETHER, and then having that further cement your bond.


Hanging out: None. This doesn’t mean you won’t have them, but remember, you’re just hanging out. Nothing has been promised, so you can’t expect otherwise.

Dating: Whatever ground rules you’ve established. Whether this is honesty, carving out time to spend together, or being monogamous- these things have at least been discussed, or will be soon.

Level of security

Hanging out: Again, none. When you’re just “hanging out” with someone you really like, it can drive you a little nuts. You start interpreting the choice words they use, analyzing text messages. WHAT DOES THIS EMOJI MEAN?!?!??! EGGPLANT?! WHAT? You constantly feel like Taylor Swift in this scenario, like just tell me, are we out of the woods yet?

Dating: This is dependent on the individual relationship, I get that, but hopefully you feel comfortable and secure with your boothang. You don’t NEED to interpret signs in everything your partner says because you just trust them. There’s no greater feeling than that. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

✨ real(ly not) chill. poet. writer. mental health activist. mama shark. ✨

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