Is It a Date - How to Tell for Sure (2024)

It’s Saturday afternoon. You’re feeling excited and a little nervous about meeting up with someone you’ve had your eye on for a while. Now that they’ve agreed to it, you start imagining the possibilities of taking it to the next level.

But then it hits you with an icy chill. Wait, was I completely clear about what today is? Is it a date to them or do they think we’re just hanging out casually? Luckily, we’ve put together a checklist of twelve things to look out for to answer the question, is it a date or are we just friends?

Table of Content

  1. Modern dating is blurring the lines
  2. 12 signs it’s a date and not just hanging out

Modern dating is blurring the lines

Courtship and friendship used to have vastly different structures. But modern dating etiquette and how we socialize have merged many common aspects of relationship building.

Dating is more laid back now, and there are fewer preconceptions about the kind of friendships we pursue, across all genders. So, the is it a date or just hanging out question comes up more and more, because when you ask someone out, you may not go for dinner and a movie anymore but rather suggest coffee or going to a park.

We often do this to dampen our fear of rejection and make dates feel like less of a big deal. While this has generally been good for the dating world, it has left some ambiguity in its wake.

12 signs it’s a date and not just hanging out

Let’s look at three stages of a meet-up that can help you find out, is it a date or are we hanging out? Before the date, during it and after.

Does it feel quite pre-planned?

Both parties tend to get a tingle of nerves before a first date. You’ll both try to address this in certain ways. You’ll put a lot of effort into making sure the day is fun for them and they’ll likely keep in contact with you before to check in on things.

So by the time the day rolls around, you may have had various interactions about it. It will feel more planned than hanging out, which generally involves little interaction beforehand.

Are you meeting 1-on-1?

This is a big clue when you’re wondering, is it a date? Don’t expect much if the plan is to hang out as a group. If they bring a friend to essentially act as a social buffer between you two, they might be trying to specifically tell you something.

However, shy or awkward people will sometimes bring someone out of nervousness. While it’s not the death knell for your connection, try to feel it out and see how involved the other people are in your interactions.

Does the activity feels date-oriented?

While we’ve established that you wouldn’t feel this confusion if it was dinner and a movie, what you’re doing and when you’re doing it can also impact what it means. If you’re meeting for coffee on the weekend, it’s different from weekday coffee as they’re making time for you,

If it’s a mutual passion or interest, like a certain artist’s exhibition or a special event, then they may see it as a platonic day you’re sharing. But if the activity feels out of the ordinary for at least one of you, it could mean more.

How do you normally interact historically?

How do you know if it’s a date or not? A big part of the answer lies in how you’ve interacted in the past. How much this day deviates from that can be a big clue.

If it’s the first time you’re meeting up 1-on-1 and they know your sexual orientation includes them, people will often make a point of establishing that it’s a friendly hang out. Just to clear up any mismatched expectations.

Now let’s look at some signs to look out for during the date.

Did they put effort into their appearance?

You don’t normally put much effort into a friendly meet-up. After all, how they normally dress and arrange their appearance is the standard they’re comfortable with around others.

But if they’re also wondering, is this a date? then they’ll tend to put a little more thought and prep into their look, telegraphing the difference, even if it’s unconsciously. Look at how they’ve done their hair, if they’re dressing up somewhat or if they’re fussing over aspects of their appearance while talking to you.

Does the conversation and body language feel romantic?

It’s admittedly odd that nerves and awkwardness are a sign that you’re on a date. But when you’re around someone you like, you think a lot about their evaluation of you. It creates positive tension.

But their body language will betray them. It will be open and directed at you– like leaning in closer to hear you. The conversation may not be flirty yet, but it will be more inquisitive. When you like someone, you tend to want to know significantly more about them than you would from a friendly connection.

Did paying for the date come up?

While you’re worrying, is it a date? they’re likely thinking about it too. Payment discussions, such as splitting the bill or the inviter feeling compelled to pay, may not feel romantic but they are a common prelude to romance. You’re beginning to establish power dynamics and interaction norms.

If they feel they’re there as a friend, they’ll naturally go dutch with you, just out of social convention. If they’re trying to send you that message, they’ll often insist on it even if you offer to pay.

Who should pay on a date

Who should pay for a date in modern dating etiquette? It can be an awkward situation, so we explore this age-old question of when to pay for a date and some tips.

Learn about who should pay on a date

Did they initiate touch at any point?

This is probably the most surefire way to distinguish dating from hanging out. It’s an aspect of body language. We feel compelled to make physical contact with the things we hold affection for. For proof, look no further than with cute pets.

People tend to disguise this in common gestures like feeling the fabric of your top, fixing an errant strand of your hair, leaning on you when they laugh or the classic casual elbow touch at certain points in the conversation.

Let’s explore how you can tell after the date.

Do you feel good about it?

Always follow your gut feeling. An academic breakdown of what is considered a date can’t measure up to one simple question: did it feel like a date?

Their behavior and responses should elicit at least some notion of intimacy, happiness and excitement afterward. If it just didn’t feel good in a general sense, you either weren’t on a date or you were on a really bad one.

Try to look at the events of your meet-up objectively, not through the lens of your attraction to them.

Did they message you soon after or start behaving more responsively?

This should be beyond a polite thank you for the day. A first date is step one in building something more, so interactions should ramp up after that if it is a date. They should deepen and become more flirty. If you were hanging out as friends, you’d likely become more friendly and less reluctant to initiate contact, but you won’t start randomly checking how each other’s day went.

A good litmus test for this is how long they take to reply to a message you send. The quicker the response, the more positive a sign it is.

Has there been any activity from them on your socials?

In a platonic situation, they may start following you on Instagram or send you a friend request. A far firmer romantic sign is actually interacting with you or your content on your social channels.

Do they start liking and commenting on your posts more often? Do they direct message things they think you’d be interested in? This is a subtle form of public declaration and often a positive attempt to maintain strong visibility in your life.

Have you made any further plans together?

Few things answer the question, is it a date? more neatly than you two agreeing to plans to see each other again. When you’re just hanging out, future interactions feel implied so these meet-ups usually just naturally end, and you say goodbye.

But dating is active. A deep need for more and more from this person as you build towards a relationship, so we infuse interactions with continuity. Even if the plans are vague, it’s an emotional link between meetings and how we unconsciously assure ourselves that this connection flows both ways.

Is it a date if it doesn’t truly feel like one?

Modern dating etiquette may have changed, but the emotions behind dating never do. So stop fretting over what classifies a date as a date. What they came in thinking about the meet-up is less important than what they thought coming out of it.

But often we just want to know how to act appropriately during the meet-up. And that’s understandable. The best way to do this is just to be straightforward. They likely have their own doubts so just come out and ask them, “Is this a date?” The answer will likely ease tensions for both of you.

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Is It a Date - How to Tell for Sure (2024)
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