A casual relationship falls under the umbrella phenomenon of “hook-up” culture rampant among the often younger generations. Research conducted by a Canadian researcher, Jocelyn Wentland, identified four types of casual relationships each with their own expectations and benefits as well as drawbacks. These overarching considerations below might help you decide if you’re ready to dabble in the world of casual relationships or if you’d rather hold out. Both options are okay but you should be fully prepared for what you’re getting into.
1. Understand You Might Not Be Their Only Partner
From dating apps to meeting in bars, it’s hard to know what the person you meet is looking for. By definition, a casual relationship implies that you aren’t only seeing that one person and that one person isn’t only seeing you. That is the first thing you need to get comfortable with and decide if you are personally okay with engaging in that situation.
However, there’s a freeing level to this aspect of the relationship. You’re allowed to see different kinds of people and figure out what you like and don’t like. Having a casual relationship doesn’t inherently mean you are required to engage in sexual relations with every person you’re seeing. But, if that’s what you want then more power to you.
As a young person, you’re trying to figure out where you belong in the world and the lack of commitment, accountability, and constant communication that comes with a casual relationship can be perfect during this time in your life.
It’s completely okay to be young and explore the world and the people in it. Just know that other people are probably doing the same.
2. Set Your Boundaries But Don’t Expect Deep Conversations
When you decide you want to have a casual relationship with someone, you need to be clear about what that means to both of you. Are you okay with them having sexual relationships with others while they have a sexual relationship with you? Are you taking them to friend gatherings? Are you open to the possibility of it becoming less casual? The somewhat vague definition of a casual relationship can be open to interpretation on expectations so be clear with your partner and make sure you’re both comfortable with everything happening.
However, in general, casual relationships don’t engage in deep conversations because those require you to tap into emotions. And, well emotions can complicate the entire casual aspect of the relationship. Don’t expect to talk about your biggest fears, family drama, or work problems in your casual relationship. Unless of course, you’ve both agreed these are okay territories to cover. But be aware it might bring up some unwanted emotions.
Wentland’s research participants highlighted some risks that come with casual relationships such as “unrequited feelings, the potential for hurt feelings, and possible regrets and mistakes because of the relationship.” But the researchers found that through good communication, a lot of these risks can be minimized.
3. You Need To Be Very Aware Of Your Own Feelings
Leah Fessler’s senior thesis centers on uncovering hookup culture after she sat down and had some deep reflection about her time in college. She came to this conclusion while doing research that could be helpful when considering engaging in a casual relationship.
“Just because you’re playing along with the games that come with hookup culture doesn’t mean you’re winning. You might even have to come to terms with the realization that you’re losing.”
One of the biggest obstacles that could come with having a casual relationship is making sure you don’t get attached to the other person. That’s why those boundaries and lack of deeper conversations are so important. If you find yourself becoming jealous that your casual relationship partner is seeing other people, if you want them to start cooking you dinner, if you want them to dote on you, you’ve developed feelings. That’s basically the boner killer of any casual relationship.
So, in this casual relationship, you’ll need to be extremely honest with yourself about how you’re feeling and don’t avoid them. That will only lead to more hurt, resentment, and loathing in something that was meant to be freeing and fun.
5. Get Your Fantasizing In Check
This casual relationship might be filling some of your needs but it might not be fulfilling all of them. Taking a look at Fessler’s thesis where she interviewed 75 college students and 300 online surveys, she found an obvious preference for commitment in relationships among women. Even though hookup culture and the abundance of casual relationships make this preference feel antiquated, or leave you feeling like an outcast, know none of that is true. Preferring a committed relationship over a casual relationship is more common than you might think.
So here’s the catch in your casual relationship, if you find yourself fantasizing about meeting their family, having them meet your family, taking trips together, or even going out on real dates, you might want a committed relationship more than a casual relationship.
Realize your subconscious and the feelings you’ve buried are rearing up for a reason and you need to be honest about what those mean. If your partner made it crystal clear there’s no possibility for this casual relationship to turn into anything more, continually fantasizing is only going to set you up to get hurt.
6. Know When To Cut It Off
The purpose of a casual relationship is that it ends, like 99% of the time. You’ll have to get honest with yourself at what your point of cut off is. For some people it could be a time limit: “I only will have a casual relationship with the same person for two months” or “After five weeks, it’s see you later pal.” Other times it could just as easily be as soon as I realize I’m fantasizing or catching feelings I have to end this.
When you cut it off, be strong and don’t slip back into that habit. If you cut it off for developing feelings and your partner hasn’t faltered on their stance of nothing serious, don’t allow yourself to get involved in that situation again. End your casual relationship and engage in a new one or set your determination for something more serious. Only you know when it’s time to jump and pull your chute for a safe landing.
7. Get Clear About Your Motives
The effects of casual relationships, and furthermore, casual sexual encounters serves as a topic continuously being researched and explored. Dr. Zhana Vrangalova from Psychology Today conducted a survey on 530 college students and found the outcome of the effects depends on the motivation for having sex. She defines the difference between right and wrong emotions as, “right reasons are reflective of moral values. Wrong reasons are reward-seeking and tending to avoid any internal or external punishment.”
In order to have a safe and healthy casual relationship, you should be honest about why you want to get into one. Once you’re settled on those then you can start exploring and having fun. But, if you’re thinking that you want to agree to a casual relationship with the hopes it turns into something more serious, you’re going to end up getting hurt and feeling frustrated.
How do you feel about casual relationships? Let us know below we would love to hear your thoughts!
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