How Do Y'All Feel About Dating?

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 14.472% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

So my friend and rock star Monica Byrne (author of the upcoming The Girl In The Road) posted this question:
If you say you’re dating someone, what does that mean to you, at a minimum? The word “dating” seems to mean such different things to different people.
And what I said it meant to me was, “I am smooching this person regularly whenever we meet.”  Which wasn’t really accurate, but then again I live in a poly world.  In my world, “dating” is a nebulous zone hovering between “You have say in who else I date,” as my wife and my girlfriend A do, and “We’ve played together at a BDSM club and think fondly of each other.”
To me, “dating” is frequently a way to avoid putting a relationship in a box, because it’s no commitment to go out on a date with someone.  You can date and walk away.  But to be dating is to say, “You are, however vaguely, on the track to having my girlfriend and wife okay you for sex.”  Which is a long process.  Because I tend to be attracted to the drama-prone, I’ve instituted a six-month waiting period before any sort of serious sexual shenanigans happen, and usually that time is more – the last person I got the approval for, I dated for over a year before opting to make the move.
So I’ll use the term “dating,” but I don’t like it, because to be it’s redolent of pressure: this nice evening out is a shaped charge, pointing towards an officialized relationship.  Whereas I’ve found what works better for me is if I just hang around you for a while because I like you, not trying to push the relationship towards OMG WE MUST HAVE TEH SEX but rather “You’re cool, you’ve continued to be cool after several dates, and now that we’ve connected on every level but sex, let’s see how whether that’s something we wanna pursue.”
And Lordy, does that sound weird, even to me: “Things are really good right now, do we have to mess it up with sex?”  But that’s my poly-bureaucracy for you: Asking for new partners stresses my current ones out, so I choose to ease back on that.
But it does mean that I’m often “dating” a variety of people, my life peppered with occasional smooches, because I like smooching and I like people and I especially like smoochable women.  My love life is a Gordian knot of attractions, often incomprehensible even to me.
So I don’t like the term dating.  Yet I wonder what dating is like for you other people.  Is “dating” a threshold one must pass to get to somewhere, or can you be “dating” someone you’ve gone out twice with and intend to have a third get-together?  Does dating signify some commitment, however loose to you?  Or is dating an irritating term you use because there are no better ones available?
Tell me.  I’m curious.


  1. Terri Jones
    Nov 11, 2013

    Well… The problem with the question (for me) is that you want me to define something nebulous with one word, and I can’t.
    I have been on one classic date, dinner & dancing. It was okay, he was very boring. That was decades ago. I have never dated in the classic sense. I make friends. Some of those friendships intensify. We get to sex when we’re ready to, typically a year for my partners (now 32 years and 31 years and counting), and ongoing um-friends with two others, both of whom I’d known for a decade.
    I too am interested in others’ interpretations of the question. 🙂 I guess I’m not qualified to answer except to say, dating strangers feels like it would have a poor return for me. I spend time with friends. With some, it intensifies with more and more contact until we’re something past friends. It’s an open, organic, fully poly process that won’t work for everyone. It seems to be critical for me.

  2. Skennedy
    Nov 11, 2013

    In theory, I am pragmatic about it. If we have been on a date before and intend to do so again, we are dating. In actuality, my relationships tend to go from flirtatious friendship straight to something more intentional than just “dating”.
    I can’t say whether that is just what works for me out a matter of the relationship status I’ve held at the time of those encounters.

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