While there’s definitely nothing wrong with being in a serious relationship, you really need to be in the right headspace to make it work. Sometimes “committed” is exactly what you want to be, but other times, you just want to have certain needs met without the need for a commitment you’re not ready for.
A casual, no-strings-attached relationship is a great way to enjoy the aspects of casual dating you do want without the ones you don’t, but you need to know how to manage the situation for it to actually work out. The following are just a few of the most important factors to keep in mind, as they literally spell the difference between a casual situation that’s awesome and one that’s destined to become a disaster.
1. You both actually want one.
Are you thinking about entering a no-strings-attached relationship with someone because you really do think it’s the right fit for you, or are you secretly hoping it will eventually become something else? What about the other person? For a casual relationship to work, it needs to be what both parties involved truly want for themselves. Neither person can go into things with any expectations at all, unspoken or otherwise.
2. You both agree on the rules and boundaries.
A no-strings-attached relationship may be a lot more casual than a more traditional situation, but it’s still a relationship. That means both parties involved need to be involved when it comes to setting the ground rules. Come up with a running list of boundaries you both agree on. Where you don’t agree, talk things out together and come up with a way to compromise. Yes, rules might seem like they’re counterproductive to a non-committed relationship, but they’re actually the key to keeping them drama-free.
3. You actually see other people.
The whole point of being in a casual relationship in the first place is to keep your options open, so you really do need to be seeing other people. Go out and mingle and arrange a hook-up with someone completely new once in a while. Encourage the other person to do the same. Just make sure the other person is aware of it if you are in fact sleeping with other people, as well as make safety a top priority. The whole point is to keep things light and fun, which is hard to do if one or both of you isn’t actually seeing anyone else.
4. You keep your relationship to yourself.
Casual relationships work best when you don’t kiss and tell, so resist the urge to let everyone know about yours. You shouldn’t be introducing this person to your friends, family, or coworkers either. Those are things you do when you’re serious about someone you’re dating, so doing them regarding your casual relationship is likely to change the expectations of all involved. Not only will the other people in your life assume this is something serious, but you’ll be sending unnecessarily confusing mixed signals to your casual partner.
5. Neither person catches feelings.
You and your casual relationship partner are only human, so there’s always the possibility that feelings could eventually develop on one side or the other, especially if you get together often. However, feelings are definitely a sign that it’s time to reassess things. If both of you feel the same way and agree that it’s time to deepen your relationship, that’s fine. However, if only one person has feelings that aren’t reciprocated on any level by the other person, it’s time to end things – period.
6. You don’t discuss the future.
It’s fine to talk about hooking up in a couple of days because the weekend is coming up and neither of you have plans. However, talks about the future should more or less be off limits on any level beyond that. Don’t make plans for the holidays together, or next summer, or even next month. Definitely don’t sit around and talk about your future in an abstract way that takes it for granted the other person will be part of it. Future commitments of any kind really aren’t appropriate for casual relationships if you’re serious about keeping them casual.
7. You handle things respectfully.
No, you don’t owe your casual relationship partner anything. However, that doesn’t mean it’s okay to treat them disrespectfully or cruelly, especially when you decide you’re ready to end things. Resist the urge to simply ghost someone if you’re no longer interested in hooking up. Do the mature thing, and let them know. If you’ve both done a good job of keeping things casual, it won’t be a big deal.
At the end of the day, casual dating is only as fun as it should be when you do it right. Set your boundaries, know your limits, act with integrity, and all will be well.