Your Everything Guide to the 9 Main Types of Dating Styles

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From friends-with-benefits, hook-up culture, situationships, to the talking stage and beyond, it seems there have never been more types of dating. Where in the past, relationships fell into committed and not-committed, things have changed dramatically in the past decade, explains couples therapist Stephanie Manes, JD, LCSW. “Now committed relationships can be either monogamous, open, or polyamorous. Casual relationships could include friends with benefits or hook-up partners,” Manes adds.

Different types of relationships are also becoming more popular, Manes says, like people who prioritize the non-romantic relationships in their lives, like their “person”, best friend, and more. What feels right for your dating type may look very different from someone else’s preferred dating style, and that’s totally okay! We now live in an era where not only do we have the most options available to us—we also have names for more nebulous kinds of dating types and types of intimacy, which can be great in helping you discover what works best for you and makes you feel the most emotionally and physically fulfilled.

Experts In This Article

If you’re curious about what kind of relationship you might be in or what type of dating you prefer, you’re not alone. We spoke to the experts to discover what the main types of dating are, what the differences are between committed and non-commmitted dating, and what the five major kinds of daters are.

What’s the most common form of dating?

Nowadays, online dating seems to be by far the most popular and common form of dating. “Online dating is so common these days because it really exemplifies the world we are living in,” says psychologist and therapist Patrice Le Goy, PhD, LMFT, MBA. “We are more isolated in a lot of ways than we have ever been before,” Dr. Le Goy adds, explaining that because of this, we’re less likely to meet potential partners at work or through colleagues thanks to things like remote work.

“Online dating is so common these days because it really exemplifies the world we are living in." —Patrice Le Goy, PhD, LMFT, MBA, psychologist and therapist

But online dating is also convenient for other reasons, therapist Rachel Goldberg, LMFT, explains, such as accessibility and perceived safety. For those who have social anxiety, online dating can provide a more comfortable alternative than trying to meet partners at a bar or organically elsewhere in the world, Goldberg also suggests.

What are the nine types of dating?

When it comes to dating, there are nine general types of dating ranging from casual, committed, blind, group, double, speed dating, online dating, long-distance dating, and exclusive dating.

FYI: some of these monikers describe the specific kind of date or outing you’ll be on one night (like blind dating, or double dating), while some of these are meant to describe the kind of relationship you’re in (casual, committed, long-distance, exclusive), but because they’re all referred to as “types” of dating, we’ve put them together in one list here:

1. Casual dating

This is the term used to describe dating of the least serious nature. If you’re casually dating someone, this could mean you’re casually dating a bunch of people to see if any one person is a better match for you, or you might be dating for the sport of it. This term is kind of a catch-all, as you could be on the dating apps, but not seeing or going out on any dates and still be “casually dating." You could also be seeing the same person “casually” a few times a week and also refer to it as “casually dating.” Both are valid, it just depends on your own definition.

2. Committed dating

“Committed dating implies an emotionally invested relationship, similar to monogamous relationships, though it doesn’t necessarily imply sexual exclusivity,” Goldberg explains, adding that this means that two people could be committed to each other and have an agreement that allows romantic behavior outside of their partnership — if that’s something they’ve both agreed falls within the boundaries of what commitment means for them.

3. Exclusive dating

As Dr. Le Goy puts it, “exclusive dating is when you are beyond casual dating, but not yet in the phase of being fully committed to each other.” Also of note, Dr. Le Goy points out that “the people in the relationship can also define what parts of their situation will be ‘exclusive’ — for example, they may agree to not have a sexual relationship with anyone else, but they can still date other people.”

4. Long-distance dating

Long-distance dating usually refers to a couple in a committed relationship where they live away from each other. By long-distance dating, they make a point to still engage in a committed relationship, albeit, physically away from each other. Couples may be long-distance due to work, school, or other life events such as family obligations. Couples who date long-distance can still text, call, and FaceTime or video call one another to keep in touch.

5. Blind dating

Blind dating refers to when you and your date’s friends set each other up or otherwise play matchmaker. The resulting date is then referred to as a blind date, as you and your date have never previously met. Blind dating can be a great way to expand your social circle and meet others you otherwise wouldn’t know, and it has the bonus that a mutual friend vouches for you both, so you’re not meeting a total stranger.

6. Group dating

Group dating refers to several couples going out as a group together. It’s very similar to double dating (more on that below) but includes several couples, as opposed to just one other couple. When all your friends are in committed relationships, group dating outings like going bowling, group dinners, or game nights can be a fun way to get face-time with friends and their loved ones.

7. Double dating

Double dating is when two couples go out together, like a more intimate version of group dating. Your date is still your partner, but you’re just basically hanging out with another couple in the mix. Common double dates can include dinners or movie double dates, and allow for more time to catch up than bigger group dates.

8. Speed dating

Speed dating refers to a local event where people are partnered up with potential mates for a “speedy” period of time of a few minutes. The idea is to chat for a short amount of time and see who strikes your fancy and if you’d like to get to know anyone better after your speed date. You can usually find these events by looking up “speed dating events” or “singles mixers” in your city or town, however you may have to RSVP in advance or pay for a ticket.

9. Online dating

Online dating is one of the most popular types of dating, if not the most popular kind these days, and refers to meeting people via dating websites or dating apps. As our experts pointed out above, online dating has become so normalized, in part due to remote culture, and even before that, because of the popularity and convenience of finding mates online. For the first time in history, you can sort through potential life partners from the comfort of your bed while in PJs. Pretty convenient!

Types of dating relationships

Within the world of seeing other people, there can be many different types of dating and and nuances to relationships, including monogamy, non-monogamy, open relationships, casual relationships, and committed relationships. We asked the experts to help explain the differences between each of these.

1. Monogamous relationships

“Monogamous dating is when you are only with one partner at a time, and do not date or have a physical relationship with anyone else,” Dr. Le Goy explains. Goldberg adds that in these relationships, partners expect emotional and sexual exclusivity with one partner at a time.

2. Non-monogamous relationships

“Non-monogamy encompasses various relationship dynamics, including ethical forms like polyamory, unethical instances like cheating, and ambiguous situations such as casual dating without commitment,” Goldberg explains.

You may also have heard of the term “ethical non-monogamy,” which is a specific kind of non-monogamous relationship that “requires honesty, boundaries, consent, and respect among all parties,” Dr. Le Goy explains. “Not all non-monogamous relationships are ‘ethical’ under this definition”, she adds.

3. Open relationships

An open relationship falls within the spectrum of non-monogamy, Goldberg explains, and “represent[s] a specific type of non-monogamy where partners agree to engage with others romantically or sexually while maintaining a primary emotional connection.”

4. Casual relationships

“Casual dating is when you are in a situation where you may just be getting to know each other or have agreed that you do not want a serious relationship,” Dr. Le Goy explains. In this type of relationship, “all parties are free to date and have emotional and physical relationships with other people and may or may not choose to inform anyone else they are seeing about their other relationships,” she adds.

5. Committed relationships

“Committed dating is similar to monogamous relationships in that it is serious and clearly defined,” explains Dr. Le Goy. “However, monogamous relationships are often focused on planning a future together, and committed relationships may be more focused on the present,” she adds.

Do keep in mind, “everyone will have their own ideas about what each label really means,” Dr. Le Goy says. Therefore, “the most important thing is that they have open and honest conversations about what they want (and don’t want) in their relationships and have clear boundaries established regardless of the label they give their relationship,” she adds.

Goldberg agrees, adding that “it’s important to emphasize that definitions can vary based on social norms within one’s community and across different generations.” If your entire friend group or community has different defintions for a casual vs serious relationship than what we’ve outlined here, that’s okay! Again, these labels and categories aren’t black and white and can differ from person to person or couple to couple.

“Furthermore, it’s important to recognize that no one should assume they fully understand a relationship status term without discussing it directly with their partner,” Goldberg adds. If your definition of exclusivity differs from your partner’s, it’s best to communicate directly rather than both of you guessing. Open, direct, and honest communication will help everyone better understand what they’re looking for.

What are the five stages of dating?

Aside from the nine types of dating, there are five stages of dating that you might often see referenced or come across. “The five stages of dating serve as a tool for individuals to gauge where they might be in a romantic relationship,” Goldberg says. “Having a name for the stage they’re experiencing can assist those who are new to relationships or unsure about theirs,” she adds, explaining that these stages are “more of an art than a science,” and that there can be nuances to the progression of each stage for every couple or individual. Here, Goldberg explains the five stages of dating.

1. Attraction

“This initial stage is marked by strong physical and emotional attraction,” Goldberg says. When you think of the “butterflies in the stomach” feeling of a new crush, this is what stage you’re probably in. You might be filled with excitement and promise at little things like getting a goodnight text from them, Goldberg adds, or you might put extra care into how you look when you go out if you know you’ll see them around later.

2. Uncertainty

Here’s where the honeymoon period begins to wear off and real life sets in. “As the relationship progresses, some of the initial novelty wears off, and doubts may creep in about whether the relationship can continue to grow. Questions about mutual commitment compatibility often arise,” Goldberg explains.

3. Exclusivity

“In this stage, the relationship becomes official as both partners commit fully to each other, aiming to build a deeper connection that could lead to a long-term partnership.” Goldberg says. This is also the stage where you might start introducing more family and friends to each other, she adds.

4. Intimacy

“During this stage, partners become more vulnerable, sharing deeper fears, desires, and internal struggles. They lean on each other for comfort and integrate their lives more deeply around each other,” Goldberg explains. This stage of dating can also be thought of as the time “true colors show,” where people may “reveal more of their true selves, including how they act under pressure or in moments of excitement, or conflict between them.”

5. Commitment

“The final stage involves making long-term plans together, looking forward to and planning a future as one unit,” says Goldberg, adding that for each couple, this can vary, but for some it’ll mean adopting a pet together, marriage, or planning for a child.

What is dating but not dating?

Dating but not dating can fall into four main categories of non-committed dating: friends-with-benefits, hook-up buddies, a situationship, or being in the talking phase. All of these phases focus on seeing a partner but without the “dating” aspect as much (AKA these pairings probably aren’t getting dinner together that often).

1. Friends-with-benefits

This is when two friends begin hooking up or otherwise having a sexual relationship. This differs from having a hook-up buddy, as the friendship and any pre-existing relationship to the sex comes first.

2. Hook up buddies

As the taxonomy here suggests, hooking up is the first priority here and any feelings of friendship or camaraderie come second. Think of it like friends-with-benefits but flipped.

3. Situationship

This is when you exclusively sleep with one person but are not in a committed relationship with one another. There’s more emotional involvement than a friends-with-benefits or hook-up buddy situation, but this isn’t a person you would take home to meet your family.

4. “In the talking phase”

The newest of the “dating-but-not-dating” family, the talking phase describes what is essentially, flirting. The name comes from when two people interested in each other talk to one another enough exclusively that there’s an ongoing texting/phone/social media conversation. This phase is usually before anything physical has happened with either party, although one or both members are usually interested in exploring that option.

What are the five types of daters?

Beyond the casual dating-but-not-dating relationships above, there are five main types of daters people fall into, according to our experts. These are Rebounders, Recreational Daters, Maximizers, Hesitators, and Romanticizers. Here’s how to tell which category you fall into.

1. The Rebounder

Much like the name implies, this is a person who is a person trying to get over a breakup or a broken heart, Manes says. Rebound daters usually fall into one of two categories, Manes adds. The first will usually quickly get into a relationship in order to get over their previous one. Manes explains that this relationship “usually falls apart after the new relationship excitement wears off.”

The second kind of Rebounder, Manes says, has no intention of actually being in a serious relationship, but instead wants to fill their empty hours or feel positive attention in order to compensate for their bruised ego from their prior breakup. While not all rebound relationships are doomed, do be aware that dating someone fresh out of a serious relationship may make things difficult for both parties.

For the Rebounder, Manes suggests slowing things down. “It’s okay if you’re still putting some pieces back together (including managing feelings of loss) as we are all works in progress!”, she says. However, it’s important to have a sense of identity separate and apart from relationships.

2. The Recreational Dater

Once the work week is over, some people head to the pickleball courts, and some people…head to the apps. Manes says the second type of dater, the “recreational dater” approaches dating like a weekend sport: a pleasant activity to fill spare time. These daters usually aren’t interested in getting into a serious relationship, but, like the Rebounder, simply can’t tolerate being alone. There’s definitely nothing wrong with dating around, but Recreational Daters would do well to remember that the people they date are also people themselves and may be looking for more serious connections.

Manes’ advice for the Recreational Dater is similar to the above. “Be honest. Make sure [the person you’re dating] knows what your intentions are before they make the effort to show up for a date.” And if they say they’re okay with dating someone who sees people for sport but you get the vibe that they’re hoping your feelings will grow, you should consider cutting it off, Manes says.

3. The Maximizer

Imagine if Goldilocks went on a mission to try every literal bed in the village before committing to one, and you’ll have an idea of what the Maximizer is like to date. These folks “have unrealistic expectations of their partner,” explains behavioral scientist turned dating coach Logan Ury, author of How To Not Die Alone and director of relationships at Hinge. They wish their partner were more ambitious, or shared more interests, or made more money, or were otherwise perfect in “more” ways. Maximizers believe that if they haven’t met the “right person” yet, it's just a matter of not having dated enough people. This dating style is unideal, she says, because searching for perfection (which likely doesn't exist) can keep someone from building a healthy relationship.

Ury encourages Maximizers to remember that great relationships are built, not found: “It's more about…understanding that everyone comes with strengths and weaknesses and putting in the effort to build the relationship you want, not just waiting for that great relationship to be discovered."

4. The Hesitator

While a Maximizer has unrealistic expectations of their partner, the Hesitator has unrealistic expectations of themselves, Ury says. They might wait until the “right time” to start dating, whether that means first securing an impressive job or looking a certain way before putting yourself out there. “There's always a reason why they can't date yet,” says Ury.

“Dating is a skill. You only get better at dating by actually going on dates,” says Ury, who recommends Hesitators make a timeline of when they’ll download (or re-download) the apps, buy clothes for dates, and actually make plans to go out with people.

5. The Romanticizer

The romanticizer is the person who loves love, says Ury—but this often leads to them having unrealistic expectations of what a romantic relationship is and how they should start. These romantic types sometimes shy away from dating apps or putting in work and asking someone else out on a second date because they have an unrealistic view of romance. Unfortunately, life isn’t all Rom-Com meet-cutes and waiting for sparks to fly at the farmer’s market cheese stand may have you standing there for a long, long time.

Instead, be open in an effort to find love, date outside your type, keep an open mind, and Romanticizers just might find their happily ending after all. “There are many people who you could be with and have different lives with,” Ury says. Once these daters realize that putting effort into romance is in and of itself, romantic, they’re likely to be happier.

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