I was looking over the menu and looked up to see him looking at me. In that second it dawned on me that the friend I thought I was catching up with thought he was on a date.

With our increasingly “it’s complicated” dating world, knowing if you are or aren’t on a date has become the official blurred line. 69% of singles are confused by what makes a date, according to USA TODAY.

We can call/text/tweet/skype/DM/email/snapchat and yet our  communication and relationships are more confusing than ever.

So what exactly makes an outing a date?

The biggest difference in hanging out and an actual date is the intention. That’s it! You can have a five course dinner that isn’t a date. Or sit in the park doing nothing but talk and it is a date.

What separates a date isn’t the location or how long the encounter. What makes a date is the clear understanding of both parties that we are exploring the possibility of a romantic involvement.

The reason we end up asking ourselves “is this a date?” while cheesecake is served is because we haven’t gotten clear on both party’s expectations. To minimize your chances of dating confusion, get the uncomfortable part out of the way before the could-be date by using a lighthearted tone and your bright smile to ask your outing requestor, “Why do you want to go out?” This answer will frame the outing and leave you from feeling unsure. Otherwise you may find yourself smizing with a cocktail sitting across from your crush. You’re elated your secret snuggle fantasy has finally asked you out. He leans over with fresh breath and whispers in your ear if your best friend is interested in him. He figured you would know and could save him the awkwardness if she’s not interested.

Getting clear ahead of time may save you a lot of time, confusion and potential awkwardness. A few years back, I found myself on a series of what I called sneak-attack dates. They were with men who I thought were professional colleagues who asked me to meet up for drink or dinner. They had never been flirtatious toward me so I thought the outings were strictly platonic. Then once we were out I could tell there intention was for a date. Now I see clearly how silly my thinking was. Single men rarely ask single women out to dinner or drinks as strictly friends or to talk business. Even if they haven’t officially asked you out on a date, most single guys are open to the possibility of dating a woman they invite out somewhere.

With my coaching clients, having the awkward conversations is something we practice so they can quickly get clarity in any scenario by asking the right questions. Clarity in every area of your life leads to wholeness and happiness. So get to asking before you head out that door.

A #Beautyfullreminder: First you must set your intention. 


Charreah K. Jackson is a certified love and career coach and the Relationships Editor for ESSENCE Magazine. She speaks around the country and provides work and relationship advice at BossBride.com. Instagram: @Charreah