Maybe you’ve tried the whole committed relationship thing and you’re so over it. Or maybe you know you’re just not looking for a serious relationship right now. Or, maybe you are considering casual dating as a stepping stone to getting back out there.
Regardless of your personal reasons, the world of casual dating can be really confusing if you are new to it, but also really fun if you know how to enjoy it properly.
If you’re not familiar with the phrase, casual dating is a bit of an umbrella term. It can refer to a few relationship types, with the only defining characteristics including a relationship that’s romantic and/or sexual and that doesn’t have the emotional attachment and commitment of a long-term relationship.
Casual dating can make your sex life more exciting, open you up to new experiences, and free you from the obligations of a long-term relationship.
But how do you make the most of it and make sure you get all those great benefits? Dating with no strings attached might sound hard to even imagine, let alone execute, for many of us.
But, if you remember these casual dating rules, you’ll have everything you need to enjoy someone’s company, no strings attached!
1. Define “casual.”
It’s important to know exactly what you’re looking for from a casual relationship so you can set the right boundaries.
For example, do you plan to date one person at a time, or will you be seeing different people? Will you spend the night with each other or not?
In order to avoid things getting messy, not only do you need to know what you want, but your potential partner needs to know as well. While sitting down and talking about your feelings can feel like something you’d save for a serious partner, it is important to have a short chat about it with a casual relationship as well.
The quickest way to ruin both of your experiences is to misunderstand each other on just how casual you really are.
2. Pay attention to how they feel about it.
If you want to stay casual, be upfront about your intentions from the start and pay attention to how they react. Do they agree to “not looking for anything serious” wholeheartedly or reluctantly?
If it seems like they’re just trying to play along in hopes of convincing you to commit further down the line, do not even pretend to humor them. (Unless you don’t actually want something casual, but then, why are you here?)
3. Don’t string them along if they seem more attached than you are.
Letting them keep their hopes up is only going to give you drama and a headache in a few months when you still want to keep it casual. (Shocking!) No matter how hot they are, it’s not worth all that.
Also, it’s just nicer not to string people along, even if they’re practically setting themselves up for it. If their true feelings are obvious, do them and yourself the favor of stopping it before it starts.
4. Don’t blame yourself for their miscommunication.
If it’s hard to be sure if they genuinely want to stay casual, or if they seem sincere but later prove not to be, don’t blame yourself for taking them at their word. At a certain point, a person should say what they mean, should they not?
But this discussion can (and should) include more than just your general status. Because, unfortunately, casual dating means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.
5. Lower your expectations, both for yourself and your date.
“The most important rules about casual dating are about boundaries,” says certified dating coach, Ronnie Ryan, MBA, CCC.
When declaring your boundaries, just think: What sounds the most fun with the least complications to you? What things need to be avoided if you don’t want emotional attachment?
There’s no need to be doing each other any favors or check-ins like you would a significant other. You owe them about as much as you owe a friendly acquaintance — which is nothing — as long as you’re decent about it.
“Remember what causal means — no expectations and no commitment,” explains Ryan.
6. Stick to those boundaries.
The most important part of establishing boundaries is — whatever boundaries you set — sticking to them. Don’t overreach, and don’t expect them to, either.
“So, you can’t expect your date to tell you about his life, introduce you to friends or family, spend holidays with you, be supportive, or see you on a consistent basis,” Ryan says. “And, you can’t call that person out for any of these concerns either. These are all aspects of a more serious relationship.”
7. Reopen the conversation if you’re not satisfied.
An initial chat to get on the same page is way less exhausting than trying to convince them later that they’ve been doing too much. But, if you feel your expectations or boundaries change, make sure you reopen the discussion and come to a new understanding.
Remember, this is just for good people, good sex, and a good time! If you’re not getting any of those, you have no reason to be quiet about it — or to keep seeing them at all, for that matter.
8. Don’t ghost them.
Yeah, I just said you don’t owe them anything, but would you even ghost an acquaintance if they never did anything to hurt you?
You don’t need to be emotionally attached to someone to at least shoot them a “not feeling it anymore” text before you cut them out of your schedule and phone entirely.
9. Don’t add in extra time for them.
If you decide that you’ll go out and hook up on Friday nights, don’t start inviting them over for Sunday brunch too.
The only thing that will come from these extra hangouts is that you’ll start becoming attached, and remember, you don’t have that kind of time in your life right now! (And if it’s that hard not to invite them, then it sounds like you’re already becoming more attached than you mean to.)
Overall, sticking firmly to what you agreed to is the only way to make sure it stays fun and noncommittal. So, watch yourself because it can be a lot harder than you’d think!
10. Don’t stick around too long.
If your casual arrangement goes on long enough that it starts to feel a little too comfortable, it might be time to move on.
The more time you spend together, and the more routine your hangouts, the more attached you’ll become, whether you want to or not.
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I mean, if you’ve been seeing someone for months on end, it’s hard not to get a little attached to them as a person, which makes it a lot more difficult to date and have sex without also developing feelings.
11. Let yourself learn from your experiences.
There are a lot of ways casual dating can benefit you, regardless of your reason for pursuing it.
For example, if you think you’ll be looking for a long-term relationship in the future, you can use casual dating as a way to improve all your social, relationship, and/or sex skills, without all the pressure!
Think of the lessons you’ve learned from dating your exes, except, in this case, there’s no emotional attachment to cry over them when something goes wrong! This time, it’s just you, learning what you like and what you definitely don’t like.
But, even if a long-term relationship is not in the plans, it doesn’t mean casual dating can’t have great benefits.
12. Just relax, and enjoy yourself!
“Beyond common courtesy and respect, no one owes anyone anything,” says Ryan. “This gives you freedom to enjoy each other yet, do as you please. You can date others, fill your schedule leaving little room for that person, or not share details about your life.”
Ultimately, if you know how to keep it casual the right way, you have great experiences with as little stress as possible!
Amanda Hartmann is a writer and editorial intern with YourTango, who writes on various subjects, including love and relationships.