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“This isn’t what I expected! How did things change so dramatically? Dating you was cool, but as soon as we got into a relationship, things have changed. It’s no longer fun and I’m more overwhelmed with responsibilities than I ever was before.”

I’ve come to realize that most people don’t understand that there is a big adjustment when you go from dating to being in a relationship. And people naively assume that if you had a great time dating the person, then the relationship should be a breeze. But like most people, they find out the hard way that it is a totally different challenge. It’s like comparing apples to oranges.

But why is it so different? Isn’t a relationship the next logical step after dating? It may be the next logical step, but it doesn’t mean that it is a natural transition. Dating is fun. You meet somebody that you’re attracted to and find intriguing. You exchange numbers and you go out on dates. Your main focus is to have a good time. You get to know each other over time, but very rarely do you get heavily involved in the other person’s personal life. You get together and entertain each other, but when you go home, you go home to handle your own personal life. You set aside time a part from your personal life for dating. The two never intertwine. That’s why it’s always fun and excitement.

Relationships are a of a different nature. A relationship is when two people decide that they want to test the waters and establish the groundwork to spending the rest of their lives together. This requires life integration, which is what many people are not prepared for. If she has children, then you have to take on the role as a step-father figure or role model at least. If he has baby mothers, then you have to deal with the fact that he has children outside of this relationship that need his attention. When you agree to a relationship, you agree to take care of each other. This is a responsibility. No longer are you only seeing this person when you’re going out on a date or somewhere fun. You’re now apart of their daily life. No longer is it just a “Come thru and have fun thing.” You have been integrated into my daily life and have a role to play. I’ve noticed that the average people become less and less interactive with their partner as they get accustomed to their new role as boyfriend or girlfriend. That person is no longer your release or break from the stressors of your life. This person now is a part of your life, has to deal with your stressors with you, and eventually will become one of your stressors. A relationship is a totally different commitment from dating. Are you ready? Most people think they are, but they aren’t.

Often, I realize that people skip a step which I like to refer to as exclusive dating. Exclusive dating is when you agree to date this person and only person. It’s still a fun situation, without all of the responsibilities of being in a relationship. I think this is what most people really want, but they never understood that this phase ever existed. They think “Hey if I find this person fun to be around and I only want to be with them, then I might as well be in a relationship with them.” This is way different from a relationship. You can be with and date one person without taking on the responsibilities of their personal life. Are you ready to help take care of her kids and help her with her bills? Are you ready to move him into your apartment, take care of his kids and help him better his life?

Dating is all about fun, entertainment, and having a good time. A relationship is a commitment. The first step into integrating your life with another person you plan to spend the rest of your life with. And that means you have to deal with all that comes with it. Are you ready?
Bryant A. Buntin, MPH, is the author of the urban relationship fiction novel, “Dear Women I Haven’t Slept With” Book One and Two. He’s a college professor of Health Care Administration and a Healthcare professional. He is a Contributing Editor for Don Diva Magazine.

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