How Many Dates Before Your Relationship Is Official?


Last Updated: May 1, 2024

Relationship Advice

Any time you’re dating someone new, you may find yourself googling: how many dates before relationship status is official. If you really like this person, you may be eager to put a label on things. Or, if you don’t feel much of a connection, you may want to know how much time to invest before calling it quits. You may even wonder if things are moving too fast!

No matter what you’re feeling, we’ve got some helpful insight that will give you a roadmap for how healthy relationships develop over time.

Disclaimer: every relationship is different!

Before we get started, it’s important to note that every relationship is unique. Couples follow their own trajectory to come to the conclusion of whether they want to be together officially or not. For some people, this happens much faster than average, while others will take longer because of life circumstances or personal experiences.

So, if your current situation doesn’t align exactly with the milestones or timelines in this article, don’t overthink it! We’ll also give you a few non-time-related ways to know whether you’re on the track toward a relationship.

What is an official relationship, anyway?


There are so many different ways to define a relationship in the modern dating era, that you may find yourself questioning what makes one “official.” After all, modern relationships can be exclusive or they can be open. They can have marriage as a goal in the future, or not. With modern technology, they can even take place largely online or at a distance!

But the thing that all official relationships have in common is that they’ve been agreed upon by the people in them. Having “the talk” about whether you’re ready to be official can be uncomfortable, but it’s a necessary step that will move you from casual dating (or a situationship) into a relationship. For the rest of this article, we’ll talk about timelines and milestones that will help you find the right time to have the talk!

What is the 10-date rule?

One way that some people differentiate between dating and being in a relationship is with the 10-date rule. The idea behind this is that if a man is willing to plan 10 individual dates, it means he’s serious and ready to commit. And we’re not talking about Netflix & chill, here. These have to be out-of-the-house, pre-planned dates such as dinner at a restaurant, tickets to a concert, a hiking trip, etc.

Of course, there’s no hard science behind this. It’s a theory that’s come from popular culture and a few relationship coaches. It can also get confusing when you consider that it’s not just men who plan dates these days. If both partners switch off on coming up with date ideas, does that mean that the rule doesn’t apply? Or that you’d need to go on double the amount of dates before having the relationship talk?

To make things simpler, let’s set aside the idea that a man organizing 10 dates is a sign that he’s interested in a relationship. Instead, think about some of the other reasons why 10 dates might be a good marker for when to consider making things official:

  • You’ve spent enough time together to know what they’re like in multiple contexts. After 10 dates, you can get a pretty well-rounded picture of what a person is like. Based on the kinds of dates you went on, you’ll know whether they’re active or more of a homebody, a morning person or a night owl, nostalgic or more in-the-moment.
  • You’ve seen their little quirks and habits. In the first few dates that you go on, both of you might be so nervous and infatuated that you don’t get a sense of what the other person is really like. It’s also normal that you might not show up as your authentic self right away. But 10 dates are usually enough time to start letting your guard down. You might notice little habits that will either be endearing or intolerable.
  • You’ve seen how they react when things don’t go their way. In the span of 10 dates, the chances of something going wrong are pretty high! It could be as simple as one of you showing up late or your reservation being lost. Maybe the wrong food was delivered to the table or you ran into your ex during a date. While these moments are unpleasant at the time, it’s important to know how a potential partner will react. Do they become reserved and moody? Do they lash out? Or do they take things in stride?
  • You’ve had moments of silence. If you have chemistry with someone, the first or second date might have had very few breaks in conversation. In fact, the time probably flew because you were so focused on chatting. But, it’s completely normal for longer pauses or breaks in conversation to appear the longer you date someone. In fact, 10 dates is a pretty good amount of time to test out whether you can enjoy comfortable silence together. If not, maybe you’re not as compatible as you initially thought.
  • You’ve both put in a fair amount of effort to continue seeing each other this long. One of the ways that the 10-date rule falls short is that it doesn’t give us any kind of general timeline. For some people, 10 dates might take place over the course of a very intense two weeks. For others, 10 dates could span the course of 2 or 3 months. But, in both cases, it’s evident that both of you have put in a significant amount of effort to continue seeing each other. After all, planning 10 unique dates, whether you planned them separately or together, takes thoughtfulness and creativity. That’s a clear indication that you both see the value in being together.

So, as you can see, the 10-date rule is something that you don’t have to take literally in order for it to be helpful. The important thing is that you’ve spent a significant amount of time together and that clear effort has been put into planning dates.

What is the 5-date rule?

So now that we’ve covered the 10-date rule, what is the 5-date rule? Well, the confusing thing is: that there are two versions of this rule! One version states that you use the 5th date as a defining moment in your dating timeline. The other version of the rule suggests that you wait to be intimate with a new person until the 5th date. Let’s talk about them individually.

First, the 5 Date Rule Version One. With this rule, you’re going to go on 5 dates with someone new. After the 5th date, you make a conscious choice: continue to date or end things permanently. This doesn’t mean that you have to make things official after the 5th date. Only that you’ll make an intentional decision to continue dating them. Here are a few reasons why some relationship coaches suggest this method:

· 5 dates is generally enough time to gauge whether there’s genuine attraction. The excitement and thrill of the first and second dates have worn off enough for you to know whether you’re actually interested in the person across the table. What do you like about their personality? Are there habits that you think will be a problem? You’ve had enough interactions to think about these things carefully.

· Ending things after 5 dates isn’t likely to cause deep emotional pain. Unlike the 10-date rule, you probably haven’t spent enough time together to have formed a deep emotional connection. This can make it easier to say goodbye before one of you gets more invested.

· You can refocus your efforts on someone who is more compatible. We all know that dating takes time, so you want to be strategic with yours. Going on many dates with someone with whom you don’t have romantic feelings is a waste of everyone’s time, so it’s best to end it before things go any further.

You can see that the 10-date rule and the 5-date rule can actually be used together! If, after 5 dates, you decide to continue dating someone, the next 5 dates will be when you start moving from more casual dating to making things official.

Now, let’s talk about the 5-Date Rule Version Two. In this version of the rule, you will wait to be physically intimate with a partner until the 5th date. Here’s the reasoning:

  • Safety. Sleeping with someone before you have a chance to get to know them is a risk. This person may have red flags that you haven’t seen yet, so it’s not a bad idea to spend time with them before being alone in a room with them.
  • You have a tendency to put on rose-colored glasses after being intimate. Science shows that the brain releases love hormones when we experience physical touch with a partner. And that can be a wonderful thing…if you’re with the right person. But, if you’re not, experiencing this sensation can leave you feeling strongly bonded to someone who isn't a good match for you. You might, then, overlook their flaws or red flags.
  • You take a while to feel comfortable with someone. Physical intimacy can be a very vulnerable experience for many people. And you may be the kind of person who feels nervous or closed off when you’re not comfortable with your partner. If you move forward with physical intimacy before you’re ready, it could lead to an unpleasant experience.
  • You’re worried about giving a partner the wrong impression about what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for something long-term and serious, rushing into physical intimacy can sometimes give off the wrong impression. Your partner may get the idea that you’re looking for a friends-with-benefits kind of relationship because you haven’t had the time to build a romantic connection. This, of course, is not always the case. There are many relationships that deepen regardless of when you were first intimate. But some people feel that they’re making a statement about their intentions by waiting.

Like the first version of the 5-date rule, this version can also be compatible with both the 10-date rule.

Common relationship milestones


Looking for an alternative to rules involving set numbers of dates? As we mentioned, one of the shortcomings of thinking of how many dates before relationship status is that the number of dates can be arbitrary. The dates can be spread out at different intervals and numbers don’t always correlate with emotional intimacy. So, here are a few milestones that might be more useful. If you’ve experienced these while dating someone, it might be time to make it official:

  • You’ve seen how they live (like really). When you first start dating someone, they might deep clean their house or apartment every time they know you’re coming over. But, over time, they’ll feel more comfortable with sharing how they really live.
  • You’ve met their friends and family. Someone who is serious about integrating you into their life will want you to meet their social network. There are a few exceptions to this. For instance, if they have a complicated relationship with their family of origin, they may not want to expose you to that part of their life. But you should at least know their close friends and other positive relationships they have in their life.
  • You know important things about their past. Emotional intimacy is an important part of building a relationship with someone. As you grow closer, you’ll start to learn more about their childhood and key moments in their life.
  • You talk about a shared future. What exactly that future looks like will vary from couple to couple. You may talk about someday getting married, having kids, or buying a house together. Or, you might be imagining plans of traveling the world together or starting a business. Even something as simple as planning on going to a wedding together next year can be considered future planning.
  • You often include each other in your plans automatically. If you see that your favorite band is playing next month and automatically buy two tickets for you and your partner, there’s a good chance that your lives are already interconnected enough to be in an official relationship. There are many other examples of this, such as being automatically invited to your partner’s work party or family BBQ.
  • You’re each invested in the other’s success. Couples who are in a committed relationship root for each other. And that will require each of you to know about and keep tabs on what’s going on in your lives and work. If your partner follows up on a story you told them last week or if they call you immediately after a big job interview, you’re probably on track to becoming an official relationship.
  • You’ve established that you are each other’s go-to person for certain situations like emergencies. You don’t necessarily have to be your partner’s emergency contact, but there should be an understanding that you can rely on each other in times of need. If you’re having car troubles or have to take your pet to the vet, this person will likely be your first call and vice versa.
  • You’re starting to form a special language. This one may sound silly, but it’s actually scientifically proven. Couples with high levels of satisfaction often develop their own secret language of inside jokes, nicknames, and mirrored speech patterns that create a sense of cohesion and intimacy. If you’ve reached this milestone, it’s time to talk about making the relationship official.
  • You’ve said (and meant) “I love you.” Finally, the milestone that takes the cake: saying the L word. When you get to a point where you know you love this person, it’s time to sit down and talk about what you mean to each other and where your relationship is going.

As we keep saying, these milestones are not one-size-fits-all relationships! Some couples will take longer to reach some milestones than others. And you may never experience certain milestones; they’re not actually required for an official relationship. But in general, if these things are popping up between you and a partner, there’s a good chance you’re building the emotional intimacy that lays the foundation for a relationship.

What to know about love bombing

You might be looking for more information on how many dates before a relationship is official because you feel that things might actually be moving too fast! If this is the case, it’s possible that you’re experiencing something called “love bombing.”

Love bombing is a set of conscious or unconscious behaviors that ramp up the emotions in a new relationship to extreme levels. This can take the form of lavish gifts, affection, excessive compliments, displays of jealousy, constant communication, and saying “I love you” very early in the relationship. The person who receives this shower of love can feel overwhelmed and may not be able to see the relationship realistically.

Whether unconscious or intentional, love bombing is a form of manipulation. The love bomber is able to sweep their new partner off their feet as a way to gain control over them. Often, once the person being love-bombed reciprocates with genuine feelings, they can then be more easily isolated from friends and family, manipulated out of money, or abandoned once the love bomber is ready to move on.

Love bombing can happen to just about anyone. That’s because one of our best attributes as humans is the capacity to love and build connections. But some people are more susceptible to being swept up in love bombing tactics. For example, anyone who has low self-esteem, deals with loneliness, or has been treated poorly in the past will be more prone to love bombing.

So, with love bombing in mind, how many dates should you expect to go on before it’s safe to make things official? If you’re someone who is more vulnerable to love bombing, don’t be afraid to pump the brakes and take things slow. Someone who is interested in having a healthy relationship with you will be willing to go on a number of dates until you build a genuine connection. You also won’t breeze through the relationship milestones, but rather move through them slowly.

If, on the other hand, someone becomes defensive or angry that you want to take things slow, proceed with caution! Pressure and guilt campaigns are a red flag that someone is trying to manipulate you.

Should you continue dating people until you’re official?


It can be tricky to know when to take yourself “off the market,” as you develop feelings for someone in particular. Overall, until the two of you have had a discussion about exclusivity, the choice will be yours about whether you want to continue dating other people or not. Here are a few indications that it’s time to stop dating other people and bring up exclusivity with your partner:

  • You’re feeling overwhelmed by the effort required to date multiple people. If you’re having trouble keeping track of details, dates, and other things, it might be a sign that you’re struggling to keep up with dating multiple people at once.
  • You’re starting to develop strong feelings for one person. Realizing that you feel strongly for one person in particular while losing interest in others is a sign that you’re ready to make it official.
  • Your feelings are becoming confusing. We humans are capable of complex emotions, and you may even develop deep feelings for multiple people at once. Unless you’re interested in polyamory, this is a sign that it’s time to choose or take a step back from dating until you have more clarity.

Remember that talking to your partner about seeing other people isn’t just for people interested in exclusivity! If you are polyamorous, you’ll want to talk to your partner about any guidelines and safety precautions.

What to do if you think you’re in a situationship

When you delay having the conversation about making things official, you’re at risk of being in a situationship. Unlike other styles of dating, such as casual dating or friendly hook-ups, situationships are typically confusing and painful because you’re going through all the motions of being in a relationship without the relationship being formally defined.

If you want to get away from this uncomfortable and unfulfilling situation, take the following steps:

  • Ask yourself honestly what you want from this person. Many people in situationships experience denial as a way to protect themselves from painful emotions. They may say that they’re fine with someone casual when deep down, they want to make the relationship official. So, be honest with yourself.
  • Talk to your partner about what you want. We know, it’s easier said than done. But at a certain point, it will be time to stop searching “how many dates before a relationship” and actually take the leap of telling your partner you want a relationship.
  • Be willing to walk away instead of accepting less than what you want. The most painful thing about a situationship is that there’s a chance of losing this person when you tell them you want a relationship. But, trust us when we say it’s better to move on than settle for an unfulfilling situationship.

You can learn more about situationships in our recent article, Situationships: What They Are and How to Avoid Them.

Overall, how many dates before your relationship is official? That’s for you to decide!

In this article, we’ve talked about a few different timelines that you can use to determine when to make your relationship official. But at the end of the day, you and your partner have the final say about when and if to formalize your relationship.

Remember to stay true to your own needs and desires and don’t put too much stock into arbitrary numbers and timelines. You’ll know when it’s time to have the relationship talk. And, you’ll be so glad that you took the leap to stop wondering how many dates before a relationship and tell your partner what you want!