These days, just saying you’re dating isn’t enough. Thanks to social networking, and the natural evolution of the English language, we have so many different terms for dating, engaging in casual sex, and being in a serious relationship. In addition, the terms we’ve used for decades take on new meaning over time. So I think it’s time for a guide to the new dating terms. Use this guide to determine what he means when he says you’re dating, hanging out, or “in a domestic partnership.”

Hooking up – A reader recently asked for my definition of this one. While this used to mean making out (or possibly sex), these days it pretty much means “friends with benefits.” Basically a sexual relationship with little commitment.

Friend: If you’re not dating, what are you guys?

You: I don’t know. We’re hooking up, I guess.

Hanging out – Back in the olden days, “hanging out” meant going to the malt shoppe for an egg cream or hitting the local mall with your sweetheart for the Tiffany concert. Today, “hanging out” can have a looser meaning. Basically it means you’re spending time together, and maybe hooking up, with the potential for things to graduate to full-blown dating.

His friend: Are you guys dating?

Him: Nah, we’re just hanging out.

Friend with benefits/Friends with bennies –  A friend who you also happen to have seen naked on a few occasions. A person you love to spend time with, have no problem introducing to your friends and parents, but whom you don’t want to date and/or shop for shelves with at IKEA.

Booty call 
–  Someone you just have sex with, usually contacted in the wee hours of the morning whilst inebriated. It’s hard to believe that we haven’t come up with a better phrase for this, seeing as how the Jamie Foxx movie of the same name came out in 1997.

– You’re going out. But be careful: this one can vary. It could mean you’re in the early stages of the relationship, where you’re just casually dating. Or it could be an overall term to describe where you stand with the guy. If a guy says you’re “dating” after several dates, it means things are still casual and he could be seeing other people as well.

Seeing someone/Seeing each other – You’ve dated for a little while and it’s getting kind of serious. Usually a guy uses this term to let someone know what his status is. “Sorry, I’m seeing someone” or “I’m actually seeing someone right now.” It doesn’t mean that you’re exclusive, but you’re not casually dating either. At this point it’s fair to ask if he’s seeing anyone else. Note: If either party says they want to “see other people,” the relationship is pretty much over. “I think we should see other people” almost never means “I want to see other people and also you.”

Casual relationship – No one really says this one out loud, but it exists. And, as a term, it’s gotten reaaaaaallly flexible. It’s more serious than dating or friends with benefits, but it’s not a boyfriend/girlfriend situation. He’s willing to use the word “relationship,” but not without the “casual” qualifier. If a guy refers to your relationship as “casual,” it’s a definite sign that he’s not interested in getting serious just yet (or possibly at all). And there’s a good chance he hasn’t changed his Facebook status from “single.”

Exclusive relationship – Congrats, you’re a couple. You can go to IKEA together, but you probably won’t buy more than some tasty ligonberry soda in the cafe There isn’t much grey area to this one. If he says you’re exclusive, he (hopefully) isn’t seeing anyone else.

Significant other – Girlfriend or boyfriend. If he says he has a significant other, he’s accounted for. If he calls you his significant other, you can delete your OK Cupid profile. (See also: Better half, other half, girlfriend, wifey, ball and/or chain, etc.)

In a domestic partnership – While usually reserved for same-sex couples, this one has cropped up lately on Facebook and various other social networking sites as a way to describe an exclusive couple who lives together but are not married. It’s pretty technical and unromantic if you ask me, but it’s another option besides “boyfriend and girlfriend living together,” “boyfriend and boyfriend living together,” “girlfriend and girlfriend living together”. At this point, you can all but guarantee a trip to IKEA for a bookshelf or for those flimsy, uncomfortable dining room chairs that were clearly designed to be some sort of Swedish torture device.

Ex with benefits/ Ex with sex – An ex you’re still boning. Really though, you had the benefits throughout the relationship. So it’s an ex with occasional sex thrown in to complicate matters.

It’s complicated – We can thank Facebook (and to a lesser extent, that movie where Meryl Streep and Steve Martin smoke pot) for this little gem. It can be used to describe everything from dating to friends with benefits to being divorced but still living with your ex and also occasionally you have sex when you’re lonely, horny, and/or bored. When people use the term, there’s a good chance they don’t know what the hell is going on in their relationship. Sometimes it’s used when you’re really into each other, but can’t commit. You like him, he likes you, but neither wants to admit you’re a couple. “We were hooking up, then we were dating, then boyfriend/girlfriend, then we broke up, but we still hook up occasionally. So…it’s complicated.”

Any terms to add? Anything you disagree with? Let us know!

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