Can You Actually Be Dating...If You've Never Been On A Date With Him Before?

Can You Actually Be Dating...If You've Never Been On A Date With Him Before?

So, back when I was a teen mom director for the local chapter of a national nonprofit because a lot of the girls (at the time) were at the age that some of my children would’ve been (read “Why I Named The Children I Aborted” for context), I would call them my daughters. And boy, the closer I got to some of them and the more they revealed, the combination of their relationships and lifestyle sounded a lot like a twisted hybrid between soap operas and Lifetime Television, especially when they would get into all of the stuff they were doing for “their man”…especially after I would inquire what caused a guy to earn that title and they would draw a blank.

“I mean, has he ever even taken you out on a date before?” would be a pretty common question for me to ask. And when they would respond with, “I mean, we sleep together” and/or “He comes over sometimes” and/or “Ms. Shellie, what do you mean — a date?!” — I…tell…you…what.

Do You Have To Go on a Date To Be Considered Dating?

What’s really wild is they are not an anomaly. Meaning, there are a lot of women in college, in their 20s — shoot, some I’ve spoken to who are in their 30s and 40s who profess to also be in a relationship (which is probably more like a situationship-in-denial) with a guy where, when I ask the same question, they come up with variations of the responses I just provided — and that is unfortunate. Tragic even.

That’s why I think it’s important to tackle this topic. For the record, by no means am I gonna be on some unless-a-man-spends-his-rent-money-to-date-you-he’s-not-worthy-of-your-time ish. I’ve already stated my opinion about transactional dating (you can read it here), and y’all, I am so not a fan. At the same time, though, there is a reason why, when it comes to romantic relationships, there are “levels” to this thing, and despite how all over the place things seem to be these days, a foundational one should definitely be going out on dates. And that definitely should happen before you start using the term “dating.” Let’s get into it.

What’s the Purpose of a Date? What Counts As an Actual Date?

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Purpose is something that I am really big about. I dig it because of what it literally means: “the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.” And yes, like pretty much everything that exists, dating does indeed serve a purpose. The problem is, because a lot of people have no clue what its purpose is (anymore), they end up doing what I believe, across the board, when it comes to the ignorance of a purpose: “When you don’t know the purpose of something, you are almost guaranteed to abuse it.”

So, why does dating exist? It’s so that you can get to know someone better. Simple. Where things get a bit complex is far too many folks think that you can do that anywhere — and while, to a certain extent, that would be true, the issue is that there used to be a time when “getting to know” had stages.

Getting someone’s number was a big deal. Holding a conversation that was longer than 10 minutes on the phone was a big deal. Getting asked out (OUT being the operative word) and someone accepting was a big freaking deal. And the reason why going out was wise is because you got to see how much someone was willing to invest in you. Again, I’m not talking about how many coins they were willing to drop. What I mean is, that when someone is truly interested in you, they enjoy putting some thought and effort into actually showing you so.

Not only that, but it helps them to get to know you when it comes to likes and dislikes and shared interests while being able to hold conversations that will reveal if you are a good fit on a billion different levels— or not. For instance, going to a live concert — you can learn about what they think about certain types of music, and that could lead to conversations about playing instruments as a kid, being in talent shows, or what their favorite artists were back in the day. Or if you went on a date that consisted of a hike and a picnic, you both could learn about how much you like — or don’t like — spending time in nature, what kind of foods you enjoy, and what your idea of romance may be.

Yeah, dating can reveal so much about someone, and the cool thing about it is it’s designed to do it in a way that takes a lot of pressure off. The reason why I say that is because, if after the first or fourth date, things aren’t working out…no harm, no foul. Everyone can go their separate ways without a lot of damage to clean up afterward. I mean, why would there be any if you’ve spent most of your time out of each other’s private and personal space doing things, being careful about how much of yourself you offer up and focusing on how to ease, ever so gently, into getting close to someone?

That said, even though I’ve already offered up some examples, if a part of you is like, “All of this can happen at his place or mine” — you would be correct. However, remember how I said that there are levels to this thing?

There used to be a time when someone being in another person’s home was seen as a huge honor and privilege…not just something to do. Your home is your sanctuary. Your home is your place of refuge. Your home is where so many intimate things about you can be learned and discovered — and I’m not just talking about in the bedroom. The way you decorate. How you keep a house. How you are when no one else is around. Where you’re able to really and truly just BE is featured in your house. Yes, someone should do things that show themselves to be worthy of accessing that type of information.

So definitely, if someone wants to be more than a friend in your life, you deserve to go on dates — you deserve for someone to plan something to do, that is not at either place of residence that happens more than once. You deserve this because, again, a date is about someone getting to know you, and you are worthy of being invested in.

A date requires a plan. A date requires effort. A date requires intentionality. A date requires creativity. A date requires wanting to woo a person. And so, if someone is claiming to “date” you, you should be able to provide evidence, via clearly articulated examples, of this transpiring to anyone who would inquire about your dating dynamic.

What Does It Mean to Be “Dating” Someone?

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Okay, so all of that brings us to can — or more like should — you actually consider yourself “dating” if you’ve never been on a date with the person you’re giving that relational status to. I mean, if we’re going by what I just stated a date is and is for, the answer would be “no”…damn near a HELL NO. Because, well, let’s go back to elementary school for just a second. When you add “ing” to a word, that is verbalizing that some sort of action is taking place. And so, if a man is dating you, this means that he is actively taking you on dates. Therefore, if you’ve never been on a date with him before, how can the two of you be, well, DATING?

Again, I am not overlooking the fact that, eventually, dating can include things like him cooking for you at his place or you having him over to watch some throwback movies at yours. Yet it truly can’t be said enough that dating should be transpiring in levels, and so, if things start off that way, it’s really challenging to go backward, especially if you’ve let him know that he can just hang out at your house, pretty much from day one, and to you, that is dating (even though it’s actually not).

Now, I’m not saying that a man who never dates you isn’t “something-ing” you (LOL). I’m just saying that the word you are using, you probably shouldn’t. You need to open up a dictionary and look up another one that more accurately defines what is going on. Bonding? Maybe. Evolving? Perhaps. Shoot, before even finding other words, let’s get down to what may really be going on: SEXING. And no, sexing is not the same as dating.

Does Dating Include Having Sex?

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Whenever guys tell me that they are so over women who think that sex should be a substitute for an actual birthday present or Christmas gift, I am totally on their side. It really can’t be said enough that sex is an even exchange of pleasure (and if it’s not, no one is making you stay; state your case or know that you can always leave), and so no, it’s not fair to think that on Valentine’s Day, you deserve the world of tangibles while he gets what he just got from you last Tuesday. Lawd, the manipulation of sex really needs to come to an end…and swiftly.

The same thing applies to sexing someone being put in the same category as dating them. While sex is definitely a way of getting to know another person on a profound level, I don’t care what pop culture says: it’s still an honor and a privilege for someone to experience you like that. It’s also achieving a different goal than dating does. What I mean is, that dating is about getting to know someone better, while sex is more about two people doing something that gives them physical pleasure.

Please take what I said into context because, if you’ve read enough of my articles on sex, you know that I think that it ultimately holds more value than merely a climax. However, what I’m saying when it comes to what we’re talking about today is, on a very basic and carnal level, you don’t have to be intimate with someone you have sex with — not mentally or emotionally. You can be as self-absorbed as you want to be by looking at the activity as a way to get something that you want…without really knowing much about who helped you to achieve that particular goal at all.

On a date, you want to know someone else. During sex, you can totally put up that wall, still get a need met, and go on about your business. And you can do this for weeks, months, even years if someone allows it. Because if you’ve already decided that sex is all you want, sex is all that you will give.

And that’s why I had to tell my “daughters,” damn near on repeat, that if you’ve never seen anything with him beyond his bedspread and bedroom ceiling, sweeties, you’re not dating that man. You’re having sex with him (and as teens, I don’t even know how good that is). The reason why he’s letting you use the word “dating” is so he can get what he wants without giving you what you actually deserve. Unfortunately, I’ve had to share that revelation with some grown women, too.

Yes, you can have sex with someone you are dating. At the same time, sex is not a date.

Even “sex dates” require planning beforehand and oftentimes aren’t the cheapest dates on the planet (when’s the last time that you’ve booked a hotel reservation?) One more time for the stubborn ones in denial in the back: for a man to be dating you, HE NEEDS TO TAKE YOU OUT ON ACTUAL DATES.

What Is It Called When You’re Dating but Not Dating? Is Not (Officially) Dating a Deal-Breaker?

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As I was having this conversation with a 20-something woman not too long ago, I saw the light bulb come on. She asked me if, after almost a year of un-dating-while-sexing, should she end the relationship. If you can relate and you’re wondering the same thing — I can’t tell you what your deal-breakers should be. What I will say is if you realize that you want more, you should have it. What I will say is if that guy truly cares about you beyond being glad that he can just plop on your couch or get you in his bed without much effort on his part, and you bring all of this up, he will take note. What I will say is no woman should look back on her life and realize that she never experienced real, true, and actual dating before. What I will say is if you feel like you’re settling, you probably are. What I will say is what people value, they will invest in.

Listen, I’ve been with guys who I’ve been on dates with. I’ve been with guys who I was sexing. I’ve been with guys who we spent a lot of time together doing neither (translation: we hung out a lot and never really went out or made it to the intercourse stage of things). And while I’ve had some great sex and cool memories with Door B and Door C, by far, my fondest memories are the men who I dated and who dated me (because I don’t mind taking men out on dates sometimes; another article, another time). Because I felt cherished. I felt appreciated. I felt seen — with no strings attached. And that’s another thing that actually and literally dating someone does.

So, I’ll just say for me, that I won’t lie to myself and say I’m dating someone if I’ve not been on an official date with said person. I won’t let a guy get away with saying that he’s dating me either (I actually know a man who used to say that he was dating multiple women because, to him, if he ever took you out at all, that constituted dating….NAH).

Through trial and error, observation, and emotional evolution, I get that when someone is for real dating me, they have plans for us — short and long-term — in a way that someone who isn’t dating me (even if he’s sexing me) probably doesn’t. Because if they did, we’d be on dates due to the purpose that they serve. But hey…again, that’s just me.

As I wrap this up, if you’re on the fence about where your dynamic stands, forward this to the guy in question. Let his response/reaction influence what you should do. Because if you get an Elmo shrug, I’m not sure if there’s going to be much in your future beyond whatever you’re currently doing and accepting. If he wants to discuss it — good. Looks like you might get a date in your future. And once you’ve had a real one, it’s hard to go back to not.


Life is short. Bedrooms aren’t going anywhere. GO. ON. SOME. ACTUAL. DATES.


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As they say, create the change you want to see in this world, besties. That’s why xoNecole linked up with Hyundai for the inaugural ItGirl 100 List, a celebration of 100 Genzennial women who aren’t afraid to pull up their own seats to the table. Across regions and industries, these women embody the essence of discovering self-value through purpose, honey! They're fierce, they’re ultra-creative, and we know they make their cities proud.


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