Modern day dating is a little more complicated than it was in the old days. We don’t trade oxen for spouses anymore, plan elaborate kidnapping schemes to get the one we want, or spend weeks winning over a family to earn the right to spend time with their offspring. So what are the stages of dating today, and how do you know which one you are in? I find it easiest to look at dating in the same way as you would look at applying for a high end job.
Step 1: Resumes and Reference Checks
This stage is everything up to your first in person meeting. It is your dating profiles, your friends recommendations, or your craigslist ad, whatever tool you are using. It includes any messaging or phone conversations you have prior to actually sitting down with a qualified applicant. This is the time when you are putting up a giant billboard saying ‘Hey, here I am, pick me’, and are listing all of your best qualities.
Step 2: Skill Testing
This is your first face to face meeting. Basically it is the best opportunity you and your prospective employer have had to see if you are who you both have said you are and if you are really bringing anything to the table that the other person wants. I refer to it as the testing phase because it isn’t really a date, it’s just finding out if you can maintain a conversation, if there’s any attraction or chemistry at all, and if they look anything like they do in their pictures. Basically this is your time to prove you have the skills and assets you have claimed to have, and to see if they have them as well.
Step 3: The Interview Process
Once you pass the skill testing step you are into the interview process. The length of this process can be anywhere from a couple dates to a couple months, depending on what you and your prospective employer have discussed. Just like any interview process there is no expectation that you are exclusive during this stage. You can still be reference checking, skill testing, and interviewing with other employers, and they can still be doing all of that with other applicants. There is no limit on how well you can get to know one another during this (or any other) stage, but it is recommended that you discuss any privacy or exclusivity concerns up front.
Step 4: The Probation Period
It may take some time to get here, but this step begins as soon as you and your prospective employer have decided to take a chance on each other. In a monogamous relationship this generally means an exclusive chance. In an open or polyamorous relationship it will have a different definition, but should still involve some level of confirmation of acceptance. It is very important that this decision is clearly communicated by both parties, and that they are both clear that they are no longer engaging in any of the first 3 steps with any other applicants, or are open about who or why if they are. You should never assume you have reached this step, it should always be a discussion.
Step 5: Hired
Just like applying for a job, this is the end game. There are no rules on how long it will take to get here or what exactly it looks like once you are here. In general you will know you are here when you both have that feeling of long term or even permanent commitment. For some that will be moving in together, or buying property. It could mean going on expensive trips, having children, or getting married. It may just mean that you are publicly declaring that you belong to each other, or privately showing each other that you do. Relationships are different in every situation, and each one will need to communicate and define this stage in its own way.