Dating Someone VS Seeing Someone: What’s the Difference?

So I’m dating this guy.

Or so I thought….

Maybe we’re actually seeing each other.

Juries out. Turns out this syntax is maddeningly unclear.

As if there aren’t enough gray areas in dating! As if labels with a romantic interest aren’t difficult enough already! Recently I realized I don’t even know how to talk about potential fellas to my friends

“Dating” VS “Seeing”

I’ve been on a handful of dates with a person. Things are going well, but it’s still new, still casual. It’s reached the point where I’ll mention him to my friends, the dude’s got potential. But suddenly I feel lost on the girls’ brunch staple: What’s up with your love life? Am I seeing this guy or dating him?

Instead of consulting Urban Dictionary, I asked Facebook and Twitter. I asked my friends. I considered standing on a street corner and asking NYC strangers but a blizzard made me scrap that idea.

fb poll

It’s a subtle difference, I’ll admit. But important. Like the difference between the B and D train: one easily gets you to the American Museum of Natural History, the other zooms you up to 125th leaving you wondering what the hell you did wrong and OMG am I in Harlem!?

I certainly think of DATING and SEEING as different in my mind. 

Dating is occasionally buying things on Amazon, it’s a pay-per-ride Metrocard.  Seeing is a Prime Membership and an unlimited monthly.

When I’m dating someone, I can still count the number of dates.
When I’m seeing someone I’ve lost count.

DATING: NO WAY do my family members know about him.
SEEING: I might tell my aunt about him when she asks, “Any men in the picture?”

DATING: I hope he’s not a serial killer.
SEEING: I’m like, pretty positive he’s never murdered anyone.

DATING: I may still be dating other people too. 
SEEING: It’s exclusive.

Turns out a lot of people agree with my take on these two words! Annnnnd….a lot of other people think the exact opposite… The conclusion of my (extremely) limited study (“study”) was a shockingly even divide between the two camps.

Included in the number who totally disagree is the guy I’m dating/seeing. Yes, I told him I was writing this post and asked his thoughts. Turns out we have polar opposite views on these two confounding words. He thinks we’re seeing each other, I think we’re dating: Communication Fail.

OMG does that mean we don’t understand each other!? DEAL BREAKER!?

I jest, I jest! We’re both on the same page, just uh, looking at different words?

I’m a writer, I think that’s why this confusion bothers me. I want to be clear with my words! Not mean different things to different people! So I gave this stupid syntax wayyyyy more thought than it ever deserved. I wanted answers. Thankfully, it wasn’t too hard to figure out.

The explanation for this dating/seeing confusion, as I see it, seems to lie in the biggest scapegoat of modern romance: Hookup Culture.

No one dates anymore!” Hookup Culture says. 
We’re not dating, we’re just sleeping together!” it continues.
No strings attached!” it insists. 

Put it together and POOF the word “dating” elevates to a greater level of seriousness. “Seeing” can be applied to your friend with benefits, your ex, and tonight’s Bumble date. It could even just mean using your eyes! Totes cas’.

“Dating”? OMG no! That word alone is enough to make anyone with the slightest fear of commitment hide under the covers!

Thus the confusion? Thus my conclusion:

“Seeing” used to unequivocally hold more weight. Evidence: the cliché question, “Are you seeing anyone special?” plus the dialogue in your average rom-com. 

But now, Hookup Culture has reversed the playing field between the two words.

As a 30-year-old blogger who’s watched too many episodes of Sex and the City….I might feel a little old-fashioned in my DATING vs SEEING beliefs. Maybe I need to change my wording when I write about dating, since I frequently do…

Or maybe I’ll just slip on some elbow length gloves every time I sit down to blog, and tell you I’m not old-fashioned. I’m classic. AF.

What do you think? Which one do you think is less casual: “Dating” or “Seeing”? Do you think my point of view on this is dated (pun intended) and I should change it to reflect dating in this app area? Or tell me potato, patahto- let’s call the whole thing off!



About New York Cliche

NYC lifestyle blog by Mary Lane. Events, adventures, epic mistakes, dating, life, humor. A 20-something trying to make it (and make out) in the city of dreams.

28 thoughts on “Dating Someone VS Seeing Someone: What’s the Difference?

  1. I hadn’t thought about this question for a minute, to be honest, but I felt the exact opposite with the meanings of the different phrases. It doesn’t mean that your wrong just that I may more socially awkward than I thought. And either way, it leads to that uncomfortable, “what are we ?” conversation, where you feel like you want to pluck your eyes out.
    Trudy recently posted…One Book One New York Gets NYC ReadingMy Profile

    1. Hehehe, the more I’ve thought about it, the less sure I’ve felt about my interpretation!

  2. I think dating, as you say, is super casual, you might be dating a few people, playing the field, just seeing what’s out there. Seeing someone on the other hand is much more exclusive, that sort of limbo stage between dating and making it official! This is a really great and amusing post to read! I really enjoyed it! And loved the ‘Friend’s with benefits’ gif in there! It’s one of my favourite feel good movies!
    PaleGirlRambling xo

    1. You’re so sweet, thank you! I’m glad you liked it! I’ve actually never seen “Friends With Benefits” so your recommendation means a lot!

    1. I’m not sure what I think any more! You opposite side people have definitely swayed me 🙂 And I’m glad you like the gifs! I spend wayyyy more time picking them than I should – but it’s so fun to find just the right ones!

  3. Mmmmm I’m inclined to agree that “seeing someone” is the more “serious” phrasing. Like, “dating” is you’re going on DATES. But SEEING them means that you see them frequently in situations that aren’t typically considered DATES, for instance, you go to Trader Joe’s together because you both need groceries! Or you accompany them to eviction court! (yes, I’ve done that, true story). That’s way more serious than the ol’ coffee & museum “dating” thing!
    Meghan Sara recently posted…I Hear Dead People: The PlaylistMy Profile

    1. Exactly! Yessss I thought of it this way too but didnt do a good job explaining it in the post, haha. So glad I have you to perfectly explain it in a comment! And TJ’s accompaniment is an ultimate test, obvi (Are we hummus and salsa compatible!?)

  4. I have no idea… to be honest, I never thought about it. I think each culture has really different terms and phases. In Italy seeing someone is going out or courting that someone and is casual. It takes a great deal of time before going to the next phase which is more serious. I’d say that dating is less casual as in they are a romantic framework: dates, dinner, drinks. While seeing could just be like fun buddies… I don’t know… though question ahah xx corinne
    Corinne & Kirsty recently posted…Edinburgh’s Hidden GemsMy Profile

    1. Oh wow, when you bring in different cultures, it gets even more complicated! No one ever says courting in the US anymore! Thanks for the scoop on casual relationships in Italy! All very unclear but all VERY interesting to think about! 🙂

    1. Hahaha I’ve DEFINITELY overthought the whole thing and can’t make up my mind anymore too!! It’s awesome you studied linguistics at university and I love that your perspective comes from that knowledge! I find it fascinating too!

    1. Yes, I think it’s only something one would think about when they’re in this situation where it’s easy to obsess over every little thing!

    1. A lot of people agree with you and after thinking about this way too much, I think I might too! All so confusing haha

  5. I love, love, love this article! Can we please just confirm a universal meaning to differentiate these two words please?! It’s so confusing isn’t it, especially if the person you’re seeing/dating has a different idea of what the words mean. Are you even on the same page?! As if love lives weren’t crazy enough already!
    Bisous, Faz

    1. Thanks so much for the love! <3 And that would be great, I'd HAPPILY agree on universal meaning, either which way! But no. EVERYTHING when it comes to dating has to be stupidly complicated! (UGH!)

  6. OMG I enjoyed reading this article so much!! you’re so funny 😀
    I hate labels and I always tend to ‘go with the flow’ but sometimes (just like your case) a little talk with the other part is needed to clear the vision for both of you.

    1. If there’s one thing I <3 more than NY, it's being called funny! 🙂 Thank you!! I totally hear what you're saying about labels and tend to agree. But since I do write about's hard for them not to come in to play!

  7. I was reading along, thinking I knew what you were going to say, and then you said the opposite! I’m curious if there is a regional twist here, where people who grew up in different areas have a more generally similar perspective on the difference btwn the two.

    1. YES! I wondered that too! My super informal poll was very “liberal coast” centric, I wouldnt be surprised at all if it varied by location! This is such a littler thing- the difference between dating/seeing- but it opens up a lot of interesting questions, right? Thanks so much for reading and joining in the convo! 🙂

  8. Up to interpretation I think! Personally (and I can’t really explain why) – ‘seeing’ someone seems more casual to me – couple dates, nothing to really shout from the rooftops. But if you hear me say I’m dating someone; that implies more of a relationship with exclusivity. Who knows; it’s all so confusing!

    1. It’s seriously like every little stupid thing in dating, down to the smallest trivial wording, must be turned as complicated and confusing as possible. Sure, I’m being a little dramatic there…but only a little! But yes, if there is one thing I learned from this post, seeing/dating is 100% open to interpretation! Thanks for your input!!

    2. That’s how I feel about it too. Seeing is very casual to me, no commitment. Dating is more serious.
      But then again, I’m a Canadian, and English is my second language, so what do I know LOL.

  9. I totally relate to this. Recently, a guy I was regularly going on dates with wanted to make sure my friend knew he and I were “non-exclusively dating”. The weird thing is he was saying it like it’s an actual title. Like a pre-boyfriend maybe? The biggest difference is on our off-nights, I was sitting around waiting for him to call and he was going out with other people. Clarifying what a relationship is becomes pretty important…especially after about date 3.

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