Keeping it casual is cool, right? It's a way to demonstrate that you're "chill" and "normal" and "down" to have a good time! However, a casual relationship could also be a recipe for you and your partner to not be on the same page, or for one of you to feel like you aren't getting enough affection. I've had a number of so-called "casual relationships" that ended in a way I didn't expect, because my partner and I weren't open about what we wanted. They have left me wondering: Do casual relationships work? To find out the answer, I turned to the experts.
What is a casual relationship? "A casual relationship can be defined as 'taking it slow' without any pressure," Author and Relationship Expert Alexis Nicole White tells Elite Daily. It's a relationship where both parties know that they're not making a firm commitment to each other. How will you know if you're in one? "If you don't have negative self-talk afterwards, if you don't feel devalued after an interaction with the other person, if you don't feel the need to self-soothe with unhealthy food, alcohol, or drugs before or after, you may be getting what you want out of it," Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Nicole Richardson, tells Elite Daily. So, if your relationship meets these criteria, then you might be in a casual relationship.
According to experts, casual relationships can exist as long as both parties feelings stay casual. "A relationship can be casual if the members are really clear about their needs. Often, one starts edging toward liking the other more than expected and is afraid to tell the other," Relationship Coach Nina Rubin tells Elite Daily. Different people have different expectations in relationships, but there's nothing wrong with two people continuing to see each other casually, as long as their feelings don't change.
Not all relationships can be casual, and this is something you should be aware of ahead of time. To find out if your relationship can be casual, you might need to turn inward. "Ask yourself: Do you feel confident in what you’re doing? Are your expectations being met? Are you leading someone on? Are you on the same page?" Rubin advises. If the answer to any of those questions is "no," it's unlikely that you're going to be able to keep your relationship casual. That doesn't mean the relationship can't evolve — often, serious relationships start out casual first and then grow into something more long-term.
A casual relationship can also be healthy if you take the necessary steps towards keeping the lines of dialogue open. In fact, sometimes it's better for a relationship to be casual as long as you're communicating. "If you notice a shift, say something. If sex is making you vulnerable, back off. Casual relationships can be great if you don’t have the bandwidth for more commitment right now," Rubin says. Casual relationships often form because both people are too busy to commit to a relationship but enjoy the other person's company. "A healthy casual relationship does not come with constraints or pressure," White tells us. So, if your casual relationship isn't stressing you or your partner out, and the lines of communication are open, it could be a healthy choice for you.
Casual relationships might not work when both parties are on different pages. In the past, I've had casual relationships that didn't thrive because I wanted more from my partner than I let on, so I was lying to myself. It's risky to start a casual relationship if you know you want it to turn serious later on, although many serious relationships do start casual. "One can avoid being hurt by a casual relationship by not agreeing to be something to someone that they’re ill-equip to handle. If you know commitment matters to you, refrain from a casual relationship," White advises. It can be easy to agree to something when you like the person who's asking you, but make sure if you promise to keep it casual, that's what you truly want.
Casual relationships can be fun and joyful for many people. I've certainly had times in my life when I was so excited about a work project that I didn't feel like I had time to date seriously but I still loved meeting new people. Similarly, you might be seeing someone casually and enjoy the company without the responsibility. As long as you and your partner are open with each other, experts agree: Casual relationships can exist peacefully.