Here's how to say you want a casual relationship with someone you're dating

Here’s How To Tell Someone You Want To Keep It Casual

Pro tip: Set your expectations early on.

Addictive Stock / Gala Martinez/Addictive Stock/Getty Images

POV: You matched with a major hottie on your favorite dating app a few months ago. You’ve been seeing each other for a couple weeks now and you have no complaints — the vibes are great and the sex is amazing, but… you just don’t want anything serious at the moment. How do you let your not-so-partner know you want to “keep things casual”?

Before diving into how to say you want a casual relationship, let’s define what a casual relationship even is. “A casual relationship is one in which all parties agree there is some physical, sexual, or emotional connection, but without the other commitments that can come with a more serious relationship,” licensed psychologist and certified sex therapist Dr. Kate Balestrieri tells Elite Daily. Usually, a casual relationship is one in which partners decide they will be sexually or emotionally intimate with each other, but there are no commitments or demands of a traditional romantic relationship.

There are different types of casual relationships. Casual dating (seeing someone or several people without the goal of commitment) is one, casual hookups (a relationship where there are no expectations beyond casual sex — aka you probably won’t catch people casually hooking up going on dates) is another, and then there’s the dreaded situationship (a relationship that hasn’t been clearly defined by both parties — this type of casual relationship is not recommended, as it leaves room for misunderstandings about wants and expectations).

To avoid finding yourself in a situationship (because no one likes to feel like they’ve been left in the dust), if you’re wanting to have a casual relationship with someone you have been seeing, it’s important to communicate that early on so that everyone’s on the same page. Elite Daily reached out to two relationship experts to offer you some tips for telling someone you want something casual, because a relationship with clearly defined expectations is a healthy one.

How To Tell Someone You Want To Keep It Casual

Ivan Pantic/E+/Getty Images

While there’s no universally agreed upon “best time” to discuss the construct of a relationship, if you know you’re looking for something casual, it’s best to communicate that early on. This will give you and your prospective partner(s) enough time and information to make an informed decision about whether it’s a good fit, says Dr. Balestrieri.

“It’s best to be upfront regarding your expectations for a casual relationship,” eharmony relationship expert and therapist Minaa B tells Elite Daily. “If you’re using a dating app, make this clear in your bio; if you’re meeting someone in person, be upfront if you are trying to pursue them, as withholding this kind of information can be harmful to the other person who might actually be interested in something more serious.” The worst thing you can do is lead someone on, so make sure you’re being honest about your expectations from the get-go.

When disclosing your desire for a casual relationship, express yourself clearly, without judgment, and with compassion. While some people are open to casual relationships, others may not understand the possible benefits of it or might interpret your want for something casual as rejection, explains Dr. Balestrieri. To avoid ostracizing your partner(s), be sure to clearly outline your expectations and boundaries for the relationship (“Does this relationship involve spending time with another that isn’t sexual? Talking on the phone regularly? Making plans for dates and other activities?,” says Minaa B). Also, to avoid hurt feelings, reiterate that your desire for something casual is not a reflection of them as a partner, but of what you are currently desiring from an intimate relationship at this point in your life.

If you’re not sure how best to let them know you just want to be FWBs, Dr. Balestrieri and Minaa B offer some examples of things you could say:

  • “I like you and like spending time with you, but right now I’m not in a place where I feel comfortable in a formal or super committed relationship. If you’re open to something more casual, I’d love to keep spending time with you.”
  • “I think you’re amazing, and I’d love to keep hanging out. I prefer more casual relationships. Are you open to discussing what that can look like?”
  • “Right now I’m only looking for a casual relationship with no commitment involved. Is this OK with you?”
  • “I’m very interested in you, but I want to be upfront and let you know that I’m not looking to be romantically involved with someone right now. Are you open to having a more casual relationship with me?”
  • “I’m looking for a sexual relationship with no added commitments. Is that something you might be open to?”
  • “Right now I’m only interested in something sexual, so I don’t plan to commit to going on dates or celebrations together. Is that OK with you?”
  • “I’m looking for something that has the potential to be consistent, not a one-time hookup. Are you open to keeping this relationship going on a casual basis?”
  • “I don’t want to do anything that involves meeting each other’s friends or family. I want to make sure this is simply between us if that’s OK with you.”

What If They Aren’t On The Same Page?

FG Trade/E+/Getty Images

So you’ve expressed to them that you want a casual relationship, but they’re not fully on board with the idea. What do you do then?

The simple answer is: Be honest and transparent with yourself and your partner(s) about your limits when it comes to developing a more formal, committed relationship. If you don’t see yourself in a serious relationship with this person, then do yourself and them a favor by letting the relationship go. “While it may seem easier in the moment to go along with the idea that something more serious could develop, if you know that is unlikely, don’t lead someone on,” says Dr. Balestrieri. “Modern dating requires an understanding that there are many different configurations of healthy relationships. Accept that not everyone will be on the same page and treat yourself and the other person with enough respect to move on.”

Being a good dater (and a good partner) is about being courteous enough to be upfront about your expectations from the start, and having enough respect for the other person to end the relationship if your visions don’t align. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to keep things casual, but vying for someone who wants something more serious will just lead to hurt feelings and unfulfillment on both ends.

While they might not be “the one,” the person you’re looking for is out there. Who knows? You might log back onto the apps and the perfect profile with “looking for something casual” in their bio will be right there waiting for you.


Dr. Kate Balestrieri, licensed psychologist and certified sex therapist

Minaa B, LMSW, eharmony relationship expert and therapist