When is 'dating' different from 'talking'? Why experts say you shouldn't worry about relationship timelines

TikTok is analyzing relationship timelines, but here's why you should take them with a grain of salt

A young couple wearing yellow clothes taking a selfie in front of a pink wall, relationship timeline
(Image credit: Getty Images)

While scrolling your FYP, you've inevitably stumbled upon relationship timeline explainers that have made you question everything about your love life.  

There's no need to fret—we've been there, too. We've wondered when and how to have the defining the relationship talk so that we could advance the situationship...or what we thought might've been a situationship. We've encountered mighty-long talking stages before actually meeting in real life. And yes, we've done more analyzing than we physically thought possible. 

So, if you're trying to place yourself in a timeline and wondering how to move on from one phase to the next, we'll let you in on a little secret: don't. According to dating expert Jacqueline Fae, things don't have to be so complicated.

Jacqueline Fae headshot
Jacqueline Fae

Jacqueline Fae is the CEO & Founder of I Deserve Love and author of several books, including her latest, Attracting the Love of Your Life: 30-Day Manifestation Guide, as well as The Faery Matchmaker. As a celebrity matchmaker and love expert, she services clients from their 20s through their 80s in the pursuit of love. Boasting 85,000 followers on Instagram, Jacqueline, a former actress from LA, is also a hypnotherapy expert and ultimately found her passion as a love manifestation expert. (Photograph courtesy of Ken Burden)

Why relationship timeline videos on TikTok shouldn't make you stressed


♬ original sound - Dating by Charlotte W

So, you've told your friends you're "dating" when you're simply flirting with matches on Hinge. You've thrown out the affectionate boyfriend/girlfriend title when you're only dating. The terminology can be confusing, and at times, we tend to blur lines. But why is there a need to define every. single. little. behavior while on the road to a relationship? 

"Every relationship is different and to categorize them like that is a bit unfair," said Fae.

Instead of worrying where you and your match fall on a line graph, just pay attention to your connection and growing it, if you so choose.

How to move on your own relationship timeline

So, you use the terms "dating" and "relationships" interchangeably and you're not quite sure what the talking phase is actually all about. It's okay. Put specifics out of your mind and move the way in which you feel comfortable. Here's how:

1. Listen to your gut

Sometimes we just *know* when something is right...and when it's not. Don't let external factors sway your decision-making.

"A lot of people are afraid they're going to make a mistake, and that overcomplicates a lot of things," Fae said. "We get heady instead of using our heart: 'Now I'm going for this,' or 'Now this is a situationship'... If you would use your heart instead of your head you'd have a clearer idea if someone is right for you and that would eliminate some of those stages."

2. Be authentic

No matter what you're looking for, the only way to go about a connection successfully is to be 100 percent candid. Express your desires and don't let someone negate them. Show your passions and don't be ashamed of what makes you, you. Remember when your mother told you not to cave to anyone? She was right. 

"Authenticity is really your best friend in finding a lasting relationship," Fae said. "If something feels really good, don't wait those three days so you don't look overly aggressive—let them know you want to see them again."

Of course, don't declare your love after a 45-minute coffee run, and don't love bomb when you don't even know the person, but it's OK to express excitement about the possibilities. Isn't that the best part?!

3. Give your connection a chance

Yes, it's okay to date around to see what works for you, but if you feel a connection with someone, don't be afraid to acknowledge it. 

"If you're busy still swiping on the app, there's always going to be someone who could possibly be better and it's going to drive you nuts," Fae said. "When you date someone and you want to see them again, you might want to give that person a fair chance so you can see if there really is something there."

Before you stress about timelines, ticking clocks, etc., etc., take a step back and move at a pace that works well for you. Define things on your terms. There's no need to follow anyone else's lead but your own.

Danielle Valente
Digital News Writer

Need a TV show recommendation? Maybe a few decor tips? Danielle, a digital news writer at Future, has you covered. Her work appears throughout the company’s lifestyle brands, including My Imperfect Life, Real Homes, and woman&home. Mainly, her time is spent at My Imperfect Life, where she’s attuned to the latest entertainment trends and dating advice for Gen Z.

Before her time at Future, Danielle was the editor of Time Out New York Kids, where she got to experience the best of the city from the point of view of its littlest residents. Before that, she was a news editor at Elite Daily. Her work has also appeared in Domino, Chowhound, and amNewYork, to name a few. 

When Danielle’s not writing, you can find her testing out a new recipe, reading a book (suggestions always welcome), or rearranging the furniture in her apartment…again.