Are We Dating? Is It Exclusive? When A Casual Relationship Turns Into Something More

Updated June 16, 2024by Regain Editorial Team

Casual dating can have different meanings for different people. For most, it means that you’re still just seeing each other to have fun and get to know each other better. People casually dating each other aren’t always dating exclusively; one or both parties may also be dating others. 

What happens when you start developing deeper feelings but aren’t sure if it’s time to take it further? Some try to quantify their plan by citing the “two-month rule” as the optimal time to date someone before making things official. 

However, some people casually date for years without deciding to date officially, while others immediately make things official. It can be challenging to determine if the person you’re seeing is ready to take things to the next level. If you know where to look, there are likely to be clues as to whether your dating partner wants to be something more, too. This article discusses those signals and, if it’s the right time, how to move forward together and cultivate a healthy, serious partnership.

It isn’t always obvious when casual dating evolves

Signs that the relationship has deepened

One way to determine whether things are shifting toward something more serious is to examine the changes in the frequency with which you see each other. You might not have spent too much time together when you first started seeing each other. Perhaps you went on dates now and then, but then you'd go many days without seeing each other. When things get a bit more serious, you'll likely notice that you'll see one another more often.

Instead of meeting up once a week or a few times per month, you might be going on dates multiple times weekly, which is one of the best signs that he wants to date you exclusively. Perhaps you're even spending most of your days off work with this person now. When a romantic interest starts spending more time with you and you find yourself drawn to them, it's a sign that there is chemistry there. You like being around each other, and your casual relationship may be headed toward something more substantial.

If you were dating other people at first, you might even find that your desire to seek others will diminish. Have you stopped seeing other people due to wanting to focus on the person you’re dating casually? Has the person in your life stopped dating others as well? This is undoubtedly a big sign that changes are taking place.

You might even notice that the topics of conversation are getting more serious between you two. Casual relationships might be about something other than developing a deep emotional bond. Some people seek an emotional connection in those situations, but it will be about casual fun for many.  If you have started to open up to one another emotionally, then that's a big sign that you might be ready for a serious relationship. 

If you still aren’t sure, you can always check out their social media accounts for more information. If you want to get more serious, but they’re flirting with other people online, that might be a sign they’re not ready to move forward. However, suppose they mostly seem to be “liking” posts regarding their interests and hobbies or posts of family and close friends you already know rather than chatting up other people. There’s a better chance they’re serious about you in that case.

Search your feelings

Searching for your feelings is an integral part of the process. You may be unable to tell outright how your romantic interest feels without directly asking them. Before taking that step, the best thing to do is be honest with yourself about how you feel.

What do you want out of this relationship? Are you merely attracted to this person, or do you desire something more? When a relationship becomes more about having sex or spending quality time together exclusively, it may become something more profound. You might sense this is where the relationship is heading, but you must consider how you feel about it first. 

Remember that your feelings on the issue are essential. If you feel you might love this person you have been seeing, you shouldn't deny it. This could be a chance for a  life-altering romance, or it could be something fleeting. Ultimately, your heart will know the answers.  


Talk about it

Determining whether you're officially dating can be as simple as discussing it. Take the time to sit down together and talk about how things are going between you. Mention that you feel things have become more serious lately, and if the time is right, don't be afraid to mention that you like where it’s going. 

You can then ask if your romantic interest would like to date officially instead of casually being involved with you. Confirming that your new partner wants to be in an exclusive relationship with you during this conversation will potentially be necessary. Keep in mind that some people do prefer open relationships or polyamorous lifestyles. If this isn't for you, and that's what your partner wants, your relationship might be unable to move forward.

Talking about these issues should help you figure out if you're dating. Dating someone seriously will involve a lot more commitment than a casual relationship. Your expectations are likely different, and you must ensure your partner knows what to expect. You also want to meet your new partner's needs, so a good conversation is necessary to determine that.

Getting into a committed relationship doesn't mean you must discuss moving in together or having children. Even so, it's crucial to understand what your partner desires out of life. If you're going to date someone seriously, you want to ensure that your core values and desires for the future align. 

Start dating seriously

Starting to date seriously seems strange initially for some, but this will be natural for most people. If your casual relationship naturally evolved toward becoming more serious, things might not change that much. You can now explore your feelings for your partner more thoroughly and feel good about getting to know each other more deeply.

It might be good to try to spend more time together than usual to explore this ever-strengthening bond. You don't have to spend every waking moment together but seeing each other more often during the week will be nice. Take the time to talk and try to see where things are going. Do special things for your significant other and tell them what they mean to you. Dating seriously will open doors, and exploring these new avenues together should be exciting.

Remember that serious dating does sometimes come with complications as well. Communicating more regularly can lead to a greater chance of miscommunication. Seeing someone more often can be great, but it can also be challenging when you aren't used to dating seriously. If you love your partner and want this to work out, you should never be afraid to reach out for help if your relationship needs it. Every relationship goes through struggles from time to time, but you can overcome the growing pains of a new serious relationship with the help of professionals.

It isn’t always obvious when casual dating evolves

Get relationship clarity in online therapy

When you’re struggling with the uncertainty of whether your relationship is headed in the direction you want, it can take a toll on your mental well-being. But it’s important to remember that you and your partner see each other for a reason, and the person in your life may feel the same. The truth is, you may not know for sure until you have a candid conversation about it. 

Many people have difficulty talking to others about issues such as these to the point that they feel “frozen” or physically distressed when faced with the idea. There could be many reasons for this, from self-esteem issues to past traumatic experiences in relationships. If you want to let your casual dating partner know how you feel but can’t do it without significant discomfort, seeking support from a professional counselor specializing in dating and intimacy can help.

If you are experiencing trauma, support is available. Please see our Get Help Now page for more resources.

Due to its convenience, affordability, and effectiveness, many people choose online counseling. The rise in popularity of telehealth allows platforms like Regain to help more people than ever. Regain can match you with a licensed, certified professional with experience tailored to meet your needs. You can speak to your counselor from anywhere with a reliable internet connection. Your counselor is available for appointments via phone, text, online chat, and video chat when it best fits your schedule. 

Virtual help through Regain is often more affordable than conventional therapy without insurance, and a growing body of research shows it’s as effective for treating a wide range of mental health concerns. 


If you need help with your love life, it’s important to understand that you’re not alone. Dating can be complicated, especially when intense feelings are involved from one side. Speaking with a professional can help you build self-esteem so you can go forth and date confidently. 

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