No matter the age or sexuality, we sometimes feel a little lonely and long for someone to hook up with, cuddle with, go on dates with, or be in a relationship with. Especially in this day and age, people are feeling more confused than ever about what exactly they are looking for when it comes to their love lives. Commitment or no commitment? Exclusive dating or non-exclusive dating?
Most people, myself included, don't know of all the new complications that have been added to the variety of "relationships" a person can have with another person. Maybe this might help fill in any holes and help you realize what exactly you want when it comes to your own, maybe complicated, love life.
It is only appropriate to mention the hookup culture that is so prominent for people in high school, in college, and in their 20s. People at this age are mostly looking for experience and fun stories to tell their friends rather than being committed to a relationship. People at this age usually want to experiment and meet new people and try new things rather than stay committed to one person at the time. This is especially the case when people first enter college: they want to experiment at parties and see what they find to be the most fun.
Although the hookup culture is mainly obvious with people of ages 16-29 (roughly), this seems to be changing. People of ages younger than 16 and older than 29 are looking for ways to experiment and satisfy their physical and sexual needs without having to commit to any one person. This leads to the next tier of a "relationship" that a person can have with another person, and this is dating.
What dating used to mean for the longest time was that when two people start talking, they go on dates: exclusive dates. However, in this new day and age, dating does not have the same definition as it used to. Dating now means that one person can go on dates with whomever and it does not have to be exclusive at all. If you go on a date with one person, it does not necessarily mean that you are only allowed to go on dates with that one person for the time being. This new kind of dating is more for people that enjoy going on dates and want to meet new kinds of people but also don't want commitment. There is also a low-key mutual agreement between the people that the dating is not exclusive.
Although this might be the right fit for a lot of people, it diminishes the whole importance of meaningful dates, in my opinion. Personally, I would say yes to a date and see whether I like it or not. If I enjoyed the date, I would continue talking to them and I would somewhat commit myself to that one person, only after knowing that it was a mutual understanding. If I did not enjoy the date, I would not lead the person on and I would again free myself of any binds. I like exclusiveness: the idea that the person I am going on dates with is also going on dates with other people is not something I would be fond of.
If one person asked me out on a date and it went well, I would like to know that they felt the same and that this could possibly lead to a serious and exclusive relationship in the near future.
3. Committed Relationships
Alas, the serious relationship. Most people in college go through the stages of wanting hookups, and then wanting to go on dates, and then start to consider the idea of being in a committed relationship. Once you are in a committed relationship, you are seeing one person. Sexually and emotionally you are with this one person, and depending on how this relationship goes, you start to consider the idea that you might want to spend the rest of your life with them. Everyone has their own opinions about relationships, and these can be influenced based on whether you have been in one (or are in one right now) or not.
Personally, I believe that it is hard for the first relationship you have been in to be the one that you stay in for the rest of your life. This is only because when you first get in a relationship, you don't know what exactly you are doing. You have never been in a relationship before, and you don't know what you should expect from it. It is possible that you learn from the mistakes of relationships that people around you have been in, but it is not the same as experiencing it firsthand.
You have to learn from the relationship yourself to truly understand what you want and deserve from a relationship, and how you should feel and be treated by your significant other. This uncertainty is usually what prevents people from jumping straight into relationships, and instead experiment with hooking up and dating beforehand. When you experiment, you learn more about your own wants and desires before committing to those of a significant other.
There are definitely many different sub-tiers that are involved when it comes to "relationships", but the main ones include hookups, dating, and committed relationships. Although it seems easy to classify what people want, it is sometimes hard to put yourself in one specific category. Maybe you like the idea of hooking up, but you get attached easily. Maybe you like the exclusiveness of dating but not the commitment of a relationship. There are so many ways a person can classify themselves and it takes a long time and a lot of experiencing to actually realize what you want out of your love life.
The key is to be patient and take things slow. Try to understand your own wants and needs with experimenting but don't string anyone along. The most important thing is to communicate and be clear about what you want or else you might leave yourself in a more tangled mess. Most of all, don't worry about rushing. You are young and have a lot of time to figure out what exactly you want in "relationships," and there are thousands of people in the same boat as you. It is only a matter of time before everything is clear.