10 Easily Misinterpreted Dating Expressions

Clearly communicating your romantic intentions in every stage of the dating game can be difficult. Below, we list the 10 most confusing words and phrases used in conversations about love.

By Laura Schaefer

t has been said that words comprise only seven percent of our total communication as human beings, but that doesn’t help when you’ve just heard something baffling come out of your latest crush’s mouth. Words can soothe, inspire and instigate…but they can also be confusing, especially when you’ve
Leave the door open for the person asking to join you.
just started seeing (or noticing) someone that you don’t know very well yet. When it comes to love, what words or phrases are the most fraught with double meanings? Your humble guide offers the ten examples below.

1. “What are you doing this weekend?”
Is this a sly come-on… or an innocent question? Hard to know — and challenging to answer in the right context, especially if the person asking is an attractive coworker. Try parrying with something like, “I was thinking of renting some snowshoes and getting a little fresh air or checking out that new bar downtown for half-priced tapas. You?” Leave the door open for the person asking to join you.

2. “I’ll call you”
This phrase may take the cake for being the most confusing and frustrating of all time in the dating world. It begs the eternal question: when? Unfortunately, there is no way to decode this humdinger; all you can do is assume the real answer is “never” and be pleasantly surprised if the call actually occurs.

3. “The One”
Tracey Cleantis, marriage and family counselor in Pasadena, CA and author of the “Freudian Sip” blog for Psychology Today, says: “This phrase puts too much pressure on a new relationship and also is just a bit silly, hackneyed and cliché. The truth is that there are lots of ‘ones’ in the sea, and to mix a metaphor, if you are searching for ‘The One’ you might miss out on some strong nines — and maybe even a ten or two.”

4. “Let’s hang out”
If someone asks you to hang out, is it a date… or isn’t it? It could be what defines as “Schrodinger’s Date,” which is what happens when two people get together without calling it a date, thereby protecting themselves emotionally if nothing romantic develops. Is it savvy? Maybe — but it’s also confusing, especially if one of the people involved wants to think of any time spent together as an official “date” and the other person doesn’t. So, it’s best to follow blogger Michael Donnelly’s advice and avoid saying this to someone you’re interested in romantically. His website,, counsels readers to simply call a date a date and make your intentions clear. “As awkward and forced as it can seem, using the word date in the invitation is a pretty clear way to make sure of this. Rejection never feels good, but if you’re going to be rejected, the sooner the better,” stresses Donnelly. “And getting rejected asking someone on a second date when that person didn’t think you even had a first date is far worse.”

5. “Let’s keep it casual”
“Casual” is a word that means many different things to many different people. For some, it connotes spending time together only once or twice a month. For others, it could mean being together all the time, but not telling friends and family about your relationship and refusing to use the boyfriend/girlfriend labels. Confusing, right? So what do you do when you hear this particular phrase? You have two choices: either wait and see what “casual” means to the other person based on how
If this sounds like something you’ve just said, slow down.
he or she behaves…or, go for broke and reply by saying, “English isn’t my first language. What eez theez ‘casual’ of which you speak?” in a terrible French accent.

6. “Intimate”
This is an especially loaded word, because it can be used interchangeably as both a euphemism for sex and a call to building a greater emotional connection with someone. If your partner is asking for more intimacy, you’re probably past the earliest stages of dating and wading into the deeper waters of a real relationship. Ask exactly what he or she means by saying this and you’ll avoid a lot of bumps in the conversational road. If emotional connection is what your partner craves, he or she needs more of your undivided attention. Make time just to talk with each other without getting any electronic devices involved.

7. “Soul mate”
“Sure, you have a lot in common, and you may be experiencing what we therapists describe as a ‘Twinship transference,’” Cleantis explains. “In a ‘Twinship transference,’ you see this other person as being exactly like you, and that Twinship makes the relationship seem singularly unique.” For example: “You like vanilla ice cream? I do, too. And you like football, Starbucks and trips to exotic locales? I do, too!” If this sounds like something you’ve just said, slow down. Just like “The One,” “soul mate” might be a bit too loaded with pre-set expectations to serve you or your new love well in your relationship.

8. “Drama”
Not surprisingly, “drama” is a word that’s quite overused these days. Chances are good that those loudly proclaiming they don’t like drama are the very ones fomenting it. Drama is defined as any sort of disturbance in the peace of a developing relationship, and it usually manifests itself after alcohol makes an appearance (just ask the Jersey Shore cast). To avoid drama, be clear about what you want in the relationship and don’t stop honestly communicating with each other — even if you think you and your amour are on the same page about everything.

9. “Hooking up”
Depending on how old you are, this phrase could mean anything from meeting someone for a drink to making out — or going the whole nine yards. Not does its usage vary according to the speaker’s age, “it’s [also] very regionally dependent,” says Nick Penzenstadler, 23, a reporter in Rapid City, SD. “It can lead to big problems.” These days, most people seem to agree that “hooking up” means something a little more intense than just meeting someone you’re attracted to or a single make-out session, so tread carefully when using it in conversation.

10. “Let’s take a break”
When you hear these words, it usually means you’re being dumped. This phrase is designed to leave its recipient with a sense of hope that the person saying might have a change of heart… but don’t be fooled. You’re being dumped. A corollary to this phrase is, “I’m taking a break from dating.”

Laura Schaefer is the author of The Teashop Girls and the forthcoming sequel, The Secret Ingredient (Simon & Schuster, June 2011).
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