What the Dating Cycle Looks Like in 2021

The 13 Stages Between “First Hello” and “I Do.”

We’ve progressed a long way from how dating was even a decade ago. We now have what I like to call 13 stages of dating. 

It’s important to be aware of these stages, because a lot of people assume that they’ve made it into a different stage than they actually are. And, people might not admit this, but being ignorant to which stage you’re in is actually the number one reason why your date might ghost you. And not because you’re putting pressure on them necessarily. Instead, they feel out of alignment with you. 

Having mismatched expectations can feel awkward both ways. So let’s make sure that doesn’t happen to you! Here is a rundown of each stage and what you should be able to expect.

1. Hello

This is the obvious first time you meet someone. You start talking and getting to know each other. Whether you meet online, at Starbucks, through a mutual friend, etc., you exchange numbers and start getting to know each other. You become aware that the other person exists.

2. Hanging Out

After you’ve been chatting for however long, you decide to chat more and ultimately schedule a “hangout” in person. Some people might consider this a date. But some people might consider this more informal. A hang out can be anything from getting a drink, going on a walk or hike, or even getting to know each other in a group setting. If things don’t work out with them, it doesn’t really require a “break up” or announcing that you’ve had a change of heart.

3. Chemistry

After you’ve been hanging out for a little bit, you might want to see if there’s any chemistry in the relationship. Generally, this is determined with some form of physical contact. This can be a kiss, heavy petting, touching, holding hands, etc. This is a check on your progression to see if there’s something there.

4. Casual Dating

For some, this is the stage that might be considered a “hookup.” Though that is not the case for everybody. For more relationship-minded people, there’s a hope that it can and will turn more serious in the future. However, for some others, they prefer to stay casual and it will be difficult to convert them. They want their intimacy needs met without having to feel responsible for another person. Either way, this is the place where you will determine which kind of person your date is and whether or not you can move forward.

5. Dating

This is where your relationship becomes more public, and you start to go on real dates. For example, to leave the house and get food together.

6. Catching Feelings

We’ve all been there and experienced this moment in one way or another. You’re dating someone and you start having really strong “love” feelings. For people with anxious attachment styles, they might say that they get attached really easily and quickly to someone. For others, they might say that it takes a lot or that they have never fallen in love. Most choose not to express these feelings immediately, because that requires being vulnerable without knowing if the other person will reciprocate.

7. Monogamy

You for sure have feelings for this person, and you naturally feel a little possessive. You want your relationship to feel special. This is where you define your relationship with your partner. Don’t assume that you are in a monogamous relationship or that you are boyfriend or girlfriend unless there is a specific statement about it. Otherwise you’ll get hurt.

8. Boyfriend / Girlfriend

Yay, it’s official! You’re off the market. Get off the dating apps. You can put it on social media and start taking the cute couple pics if that’s what you’re into. You can start meeting each other’s families.

9. Courtship

A lot of people say that courtship of the olden days is dead. I don’t think that to be true. Instead, I think oftentimes it happens at this stage. This is now when the man starts to really care. He wants to make you happy, and any money or time he spends on you he doesn’t feel is a waste. You’re talking regularly, hanging out all the time, maybe even going on vacations. Relax, have fun, and enjoy the relationship.

10. Deepening the Relationship

This is where you start having conversations about intimate topics, such as your childhood. What your needs are. Who are the key players in your life? Your partner is becoming your person. You want to have their back, and they want to have yours.

11. Limbo

This is where we start to get a little too comfortable. The relationship gets a little stagnant, and this can become a point of friction.One person usually wants more, and the other isn’t necessarily thinking about the future at this point in time. Relationships take maintenance. And so this is where I would encourage you to have a “define the future” talk with your partner. It’s time to talk about what comes next, because otherwise resentment will build.

12. Engagement

Your partner is proposing! How wonderful. It’s an exciting time filled with bliss. While you’ll be planning the wedding and such, this is the one part that he gets to plan. Will it be a surprise? Will it be insta famous? Sit back, relax, and let him have his moment. All you have to do is say yes!

13. Marriage

This stage is pretty self explanatory. You spend months planning your wedding, you get up to the officiant and say I do in your beautiful dress, and then your marriage begins.

I know there’s a ton of different stages, but I hope this quick little guide helps you figure out where you’re at, and what it might need to look like to move forward.