The 20-something narrative seems to be increasingly obsessed with figuring things out and self-exploration. A huge part of this, of course, pertains to our wild and crazy love lives.
I haven’t been in a ton of casual relationships, but the few that I have taken part in have been enjoyable while they’ve lasted. More than anything though, they’ve been really good learning experiences. Not every relationship is destined for joint bank accounts, and taking a step back — particularly after a breakup or in the midst of intense career or personal obligation — can really be a positive thing for all parties involved.
Casual relationships might not be for everyone, but the extended fling can really be a boon to one’s everyday existence if done in a responsible and mature manner. With that in mind, here are some tidbits of possibly helpful advice:
1. Avoid Weeknights
Probably the most important rule by far. This halts the momentum, and allows you to take the week to focus on whatever it is you need to focus on. Obviously some texts are never gonna hurt, but establishing something as “weekend only” is a very effective organic boundary.
2. Talk Over The First “Serious” Hurdle
The old adage goes “talking about keeping it casual effectively means that it’s no longer casual.” This is definitely true, but I think that maintaining a casual relationship, over the course of a few months, does require a good deal of communication. You may not be meeting their parents, but it’s still a relationship — you’re hooking up, and continuing to do so.
The key here is to be on the same page in terms of expectations. Of course laughably easier said than done, but it’s a very good idea to address this early. Tell them what you’re looking for before any feelings get hurt. You can’t be faulted for honesty.
3. Remain Unpredictable
Remember that one of the huge benefits of a casual relationship is that you’re at liberty to try things you wouldn’t try if you felt there was more at stake. This applies on both a physical level, and emoji use level.
4. Don’t Base Too Much Of Your Weekend Plans Around Them
This is setting yourself up for failure, or steering the fling in more domestic waters. Keep an open channel on the nights you’re thinking about seeing them, and see where it goes from there.
5. Don’t Drag them To Events You Wouldn’t Want To Go To If You Were In Their Position
One perk of a “relationship-relationship” is that you’re allowed to drag your significant other to events that they’d never go to otherwise. It’s a reciprocal arrangement that benefits both parties, and is certainly one of the best functional uses of an s/o — her holiday party is now a lot more bareable, and his band has at least one person attending the sure-to-be bleak garage show.
The perk of the casual relationship is that this doesn’t exist in a mandatory sense. Going to events of these nature should be fully optional, with no passive-aggressive disappointment. This of course is also very tough to pull off — particularly the longer you’re seeing each other — but it’s certainly key.
6. Be Comfortable, But Don’t Get Comfortable
The casual relationship is enjoyable because you get to spend time with someone you enjoy and are attracted to, but aren’t ready to completely let in your dark and tortured soul. You should therefore be able to be yourself (if you’re a guy, admit your love of rom-coms), but also avoid projecting those qualities in a way that supersedes the boundaries of the agreement.
I.e., if you know they have zero interest in coming over and watching How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days, don’t extend that invite. Once things start to feel like a chore, the fun is over.
7. If You Find Yourself Getting Jealous, Action Is Required
Obviously there’s etiquette involved, but the key to keeping it casual is to be totally cool if they’re talking to others. Or at the very least, pretending to be cool with it.
That said, the second you find yourself totally not cool with his or her continued Tinder prowess, it’s time for action — time to either (a. get out, and prevent yourself from falling down the dating hole you may be looking to avoid, or (b. actually tell him or her how you feel.
I know the second one sounds kinda crazy, but is in fact an option. An option that might in fact work.
8. Acknowledge That It’s Gonna End
At some point you’ll need to move on with your life, and they will theirs. The beauty of these things is that they’re fleeting. You’ve seen movies. You either get married or you don’t.
9. Desperately Hope They Don’t Care About Valentine’s Day
*Cue the loud, inevitable gulp.*