For some, dating is a pretty serious business. It means nervously getting ready each evening or on weekend afternoons; stressing about every detail of one’s appearance and manner; worrying endlessly about “what if” scenarios where things go horribly wrong. A lot of us can relate to that nervous world of dating on some level, but for many others, dating is also something quite casual, and that’s given us the subject of today’s blog.
What do people mean when they say they’re “up for casual dates”? Are they talking about their attire? Their attitude? Or something else? How is casual dating different from other types of dating out there? These questions and more we will try to answer below:
What Does Casual Dating Mean?
People everywhere probably have different notions on what it truly means to be engaged in casual dating.
In general, casual dating refers to dating and relationships between people who enjoy the more “fun” aspects of these connections, without expecting the more serious commitments that come with longer-term or traditional relationships. “Keeping it casual” can be understood as another way of saying “stopping it from getting serious” and in a relationship that means a focus on fun and enjoying each other’s company.
The kinds of rules and boundaries that two (or more) people set on their casual dating is entirely up to them, of course, and people have different thresholds of what they might consider “casual” and what would be acceptable or crossing a line in their particular relationship. However, looking at it all by and large, there are common features that we can draw upon, which we will use to answer further questions below.
How Long Should a Casual Date Be?
When thinking of “how long” we should consider individual dates, as well as the relationship itself in the longer term. As many discover, there is very often something of a shelf life that exists in “casual” relationships when it comes to keeping them strictly casual and preventing them from becoming complicated and potentially difficult.
Needless to say, casual dates should be short. Most people with experience in casual dating know that you hardly need to do anything to try and make casual dates short because it’s inevitably how they turn out most of the time anyway. Activities are invariably simple: a movie, a meal together, an evening watching Netflix…you get the idea.
What makes a casual date “casual” however isn’t just the brevity, but the act of casual sex being thrown into the mix. It doesn’t have to be full sex, of course, but physical intimacy is almost always an inseparable part of the casual dating experience. In fact, it’s surely what most people love most about it. Dates don’t always last long because it doesn’t take long for the couple to get into the sexual content of the night. After that’s over, the date is typically done.
How about this casual dating connection in the longer term? How long can it really last? There are always exceptional people who somehow make their casual relationship last seemingly forever, and it leads the rest of us to think that we can all do it. Here’s the hard truth — it’s just not possible to guarantee that you can keep a casual dating thing going on indefinitely.
At some stage, one or both of you may start to “get serious” about your love life. By this we mean one of you might start to think about settling down, having kids, or at least getting a serious boyfriend or girlfriend to be with. The thrill of casual dating also starts to die down after a while, with sex becoming less exciting, and perhaps the desire for a new and fresh pursuit taking over one’s mind. This is why the majority of casual dating relationships only last between 3-6 months.
How Do You Set Boundaries in a Casual Relationship?
Let’s say you are keen to set up a casual dating situation with someone you know, how should you do it? What rules should you follow? What boundaries should you set? Unfortunately, no kind of objective or universal manual has ever been successfully created to help answer these questions, but here are a few common-sense ideas that you might consider:
A lot of casual dating starts online nowadays, made easier thanks to apps such as Tinder, Bumble, and others. Before smartphones and social media, most serial casual daters only ever used to meet and connect with 1 person at a time, and perhaps could get numbers from several people on one very successful night out on the town. With Tinder, however, you could be talking to dozens of people simultaneously…if you get enough matches, that is.
Online dating presents new risks and challenges, and the first area in which you should consider your boundaries with casual dating partners is in the amount of real personal information you share with the other person. Beyond your first name, and whatever else you’ve put on your profile, you should avoid sharing details like your address, workplace, job title, and so on. None of that has any bearing on your casual dates anyway, so leave it be.
When first getting together in person with casual dating partners, you should always meet in public places where there are plenty of other people around: bars, cafes, restaurants, the cinema, etc. As time goes on and your connection strengthens, trust can build and you can meet in more discreet places. When keeping it casual, it’s likely that one or both of you will have to share where you live at some point, but try to keep that until you have established a good foundation of trust between you. Always tell at least one other trusted friend or family member what you’re doing, and who you’re with.
Once your casual relationship is established, the next most important rule to establish is that of honesty. This is casual, right? There should be no fear of emotions being trampled on or hurt, because both of you understand that the primary motivation is fun and pleasure. That being so, one party shouldn’t be afraid to tell the other that they can’t meet up as planned because they’re working, or because they have something else more important, and in that case the other party shouldn’t take it personally or create a stink about it.
If both parties agree to be honest and open with each other, then their connection is not just easier, but safer and ultimately more enjoyable. Honesty breeds long-term trust, and trust in a casual dating situation often means more kinds of fun becoming possible.
Greater honesty will also help you set both appropriate and enjoyable sexual boundaries. You might not think “appropriate” would match with enjoyable, but it does when it comes to sex. The physical aspect of casual dating is arguably what people love the most about it, and so being honest about what you want, and establishing enough trust that you can share that without embarrassment and with discretion is always ideal. After that, you can really let loose and enjoy this relationship while it lasts.
Communication and Breaking Up
Finally, anyone getting into a casual relationship should also be clear on how you’ll communicate with each other, how often, and also on any trigger points or red lines that if activated or crossed will mean that you both agree to end your connection. It’s easier said than done, of course, but people who date casually on a regular basis and who are serious about staying casual tend to find that it’s eminently possible.
For example, how often should you text each other when casually dating? After all, it’s not so casual when one person is texting again and again, and then feeling resentful that the other person is not responding. A good idea would be to agree in advance when and how you would usually get in touch. Agree on one single app, and then agree that you will primarily use that channel just to organize meet-ups. You can save the rest of your conversation for when you’re together.
Finally, be sure that you can agree with the other person on the conditions that might end your dating connection. For instance, when one person is starting to feel overly possessive or jealous, you might both agree that things have gone too far and that it’d be better to end it now. Understanding each other’s red lines, and establishing a threshold are key.
How Can You Casually Date Without Getting Attached?
Perhaps the biggest bear trap of all when it comes to casual dating is the danger of falling in love and/or getting too attached to the other person. We’re all human, and we’re all subject to the same emotional failings and imperfections. Therefore, what starts as a well-meaning casual affair can indeed get complicated and tricky.
The best way to avoid this trap is to keep things simple, and to keep things honest. Simplicity reduces the chances of complications from occurring later on, and being honest (as we’ve said above) builds trust and openness that only helps the casual relationship become more enjoyable. Of these two things, perhaps simplicity is the most important of all because even the term “casual” implies that simplicity. Without it, you really have nothing casual at all.
When Should a Casual Relationship End?
We touched on this in a previous section, but it’s also a nice way to wrap up today’s blog. Chances are that your casual dating relationship, however great it feels now, is doomed to end sooner or later. The question is when, and not if.
For most people, casual dating ends when it gets too hard to carry on or when things have become too complicated. However, this can leave one or both of you feeling bitter and disappointed. Therefore, we here want to reiterate the importance of honesty early on in the connection in establishing red lines and thresholds to do with your relationship. Here are some ideas:
A casual relationship should end when one or both parties…:
- …becomes overly possessive or jealous of the other
- …feels resentful about time spent together (like they’d rather be doing other things)
- …starts to want something more serious and committed
- …are feeling smothered or crowded in this relationship
- …starts to make regular excuses about why they can’t meet up