A girl’s got needs, and sometimes you just want to date and keep things casual. Sound familiar? Then you should know the rules of casual dating.
But first: What is a casual relationship? Sure, most people understand that casual dating means you’re not looking to marry the person, but what else is involved?
For starters, casual dating generally implies that you’re not planning to keep someone around long-term. The trick is making sure you’re both on the same page and each have the same expectations.
Now that you know the definition, you can ask yourself, “what’s the best way to pull off a casual relationship?” And “are there benefits of a casual relationship?”
Spoiler alert: Yes, there are benefits, and not-so-serious relationships are easier to navigate than you think. These casual dating tips will help.
1. Make sure everybody involved knows the score.
If you don’t want anything serious, it’s important that the person (or people) you’re dating know that. “Make it clear that you’re not looking for something serious from the beginning,” says Lindsey Metselaar, a relationship expert specializing in millennial dating as the host of the We Met at Acme podcast. “The other person then has the opportunity to say they aren’t interested in that, or to think it over and decide that they are.”
You don’t need to make a huge thing of it or even bring it up the first time you hang out, but clearly saying something like, “I like spending time with you, but I want to make sure you know that I’m not looking for anything serious right now” can go a long way.
2. You still need respect.
Casual dating still involves having a relationship with someone, and respect is important in any relationship: casual, serious, or somewhere in between. That means treating the person with the same kindness you’d treat any other human being—just without the commitment, says Metselaar.
3. Do what you damn well please.
Being in a relationship means you need to be willing to compromise, check in often, and generally spend a solid chunk of your time caring about what your S.O. needs. But with casual dating, you don’t need to do any of that. “You can come and go as you please with little accountability,” says Rosalind Sedacca, a dating and relationship coach, and author of 99 Things Women Wish They Knew Before Dating After 40, 50, & Yes, 60!.
4. Keep a few people in your mix.
You can casually date just one person at a time if that’s all you feel like you can handle, but one of the perks of this whole thing is that you’re not tied to conventional relationship standards, says psychotherapist Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., author of How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free.
So, don’t be afraid to see a few people at once. “It’s okay to casually date more than one person,” she says. “Expectations are minimal.”
5. No possessiveness, please.
If you happen to see on social media that your casual date is seeing other people, you need to be cool with it, says Metselaar. The same is true for them with your dating life. And, if you start to notice that someone you’re seeing is getting possessive, shut it down real quick. There’s no place for that in casual dating.
6. Don’t make future plans beyond a few days.
If you want someone to hang with on Saturday night, it’s totally okay to make plans a day or two in advance. But anything more than that is getting into relationship territory. “It’s important to really live in the moment, knowing that the moment may be all you have because they may meet someone they want to date seriously,” says Metselaar. Also, you can easily meet someone else before you see them again, and you don’t want to be tied to plans you suddenly don’t want to keep.
7. Focus on other stuff in your life.
Relationships take up a ton of mental energy and, oh hey, you’re not dealing with one right now! Use that energy you would have spent on a relationship and put it toward work, school, or just doing whatever else you’re into. “Casual dating gives you a social, and perhaps sexual outlet, without creating demands on your time and emotions,” says Tessina.
8. Personal favors are a no-go.
That means you call someone else when you plan to move or need someone to watch your cat while you’re out of town. “Casual relationships don’t have those kinds of expectations,” says Tessina. “It’s confusing to ask.” Also, you don’t want to need to do that kind of stuff for them, so…
9. Don’t take them as your plus one.
Weddings and parties are for meeting new people to casually date—not bringing someone you’re not invested in to interact with your friends and family. Go solo to these events. “This way your friends and family won’t begin identifying you as a committed couple, and your date won’t get the idea that you’re intending to incorporate them into your friends and family,” says Tessina.
10. End it like a grownup.
If you’re no longer into someone, even casually, you can do one of two things: Stop asking them to do stuff and hope they go away (and they might), or tell them you’re just not feeling it anymore when they say they want to hang out. “Honesty is the best policy,” says Tessina. Given that this wasn’t a huge thing, you can even respond to an invite with a text that says something along the lines of, “I’ve really enjoyed spending time with you lately, but I think this has run its course.” Anything is better than ghosting someone—that’s just mean.
Really, almost anything goes when it comes to casual dating. “Casual dating has few rules beyond politeness,” says Tessina. And if you just can’t with a serious relationship right now, it’s definitely a great option for you.
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