Red Flags It’s Casual When You Want Something Serious
Situationships: They’re a thing. If you’ve been talking to someone consistently for several months, you’ve hooked up, you've gone on dates, but you haven’t had “the talk,” you’re probably in a situationship. Situationships are basically casual relationships in which you do all the relationship-y stuff, except the part where you actually call each other boyfriend or girlfriend. There are definitely some red flags your relationship is casual that are important to keep in mind if you finally want to establish something serious, but don’t really know how.
If you do find yourself in a situationship, don’t feel bad. These types of relationships are incredibly common, especially among millennials. A 2014 study published in The Journal of Sex Research compared the sexual habits of young adults ages 18 to 25 from 1988 to 1996, to young adults in the same age group from 2004 to 2012. Using the General Social Survey, researchers found that the more current wave of young adults was more likely to have sex with a casual date or friend, and less likely to report sex with a regular partner. What’s known as "hookup culture" is certainly not a myth, and these days, it’s easy to fall into a situationship.
You may have no interest in defining the relationship, and if commitment isn't important to you, that's totally cool. But if you want to have a serious relationship, then you might have to have the tough conversation. It's normal to be nervous! But try not to put it off if being casual is really bothering you. Think about the benefits that being on the same page can offer you, and see how much they matter to you.
If you’ve been in a situationship for a while, and you don’t know what your "partner" wants, here are some things to look out for that signal they are not looking for something serious.
1. They don’t try to integrate you into their life.
According to matchmaker and dating coach Karenna Alexander, someone who doesn’t try to make you a part of their life probably doesn’t want anything serious. “He takes pains to avoid having you meet his family and friends, and even his pets,” Alexander tells Elite Daily. "When a guy likes you, he wants you to meet the people he’s close to. He’s thinking of a future, and moving things along. When a guy avoids these things, it’s crystal clear that ‘a future’ is not on his mind."
Keep an eye out for signs that whoever you’re dating, male or female, is making an effort to weave you into their day-to-day lives. If you haven’t met their pet, they haven’t mentioned anything about their family, or they never talk about the future, you may want to tread lightly.
2. You Hook Up, But They Don’t Want You To Sleep Over
If you’re having sex several times a week, and they’ve told you they aren’t sleeping with anyone else, it’s easy to think that it’s serious and you’re the only person they’re dating. This might not be true, especially if they never spend the night at your place, or you leave their place when the encounter is over. They may also be picky if you start leaving personal items (like a toothbrush) behind. These are signs that your sexual partner is primarily interested in the physical aspect of your relationship. If you're into casually hooking up, then by all means, do what you want with your bad self! If you enjoy having sex with them but want more, then it's time to have a conversation about what you’re actually doing.
3. They always want to split the bill and refrain from treating you.
Someone who is seriously into you will want to treat you. They want to make you feel good about the relationship and prove it to you by their actions. “A man in love is not thinking about splitting the dinner bill,” says Alexander. “When he sees a future with you, he wants to take care of you and feed you."
Although it may seem a little old-school to expect someone to pay for you on a date, it’s still a nice gesture. When someone really likes you, they will want to pull those nice gestures and treat you to something nice. It doesn’t have to be a four-course, steakhouse dinner. Even if it’s a cup of coffee or a ticket to see a movie, the nice gestures are often in the little things. Look out for those! That might mean they care about you more than you think.
4. They aren’t around on the weekends or suggesting fun activities.
According to dating coach Monica Parikh from School of Love NYC, someone who has serious feelings for you will initiate plans ahead of time. "He’ll show you through his efforts what he’s really looking for," Parikh tells Elite Daily, "and if he’s just like, 'Hey, do you want to come over and watch some Netflix?' and he texts you at 10 p.m. on a Friday, you can be pretty well assured that he’s not looking at you as a future romantic partner."
Alexander also says that if a partner is skipping out on you during the weekend, especially on Saturdays, they might not be serious about you. If they would clearly rather be out with their friends every Saturday, or they don’t try to include you in their plans, consider taking a step back. "When a guy is in love, he wants to spend Saturdays and much of the weekend with you," says Alexander. "Weekends are down time and fun, and if you aren’t going to spend it with your girlfriend, it’s clear that this guy is not super into you and probably has no intentions of settling down."
This is not to say that someone who doesn’t want to spend every waking moment with you isn’t into you. Taking space is perfectly normal, and quality time with their friends is also a really important part of general life balance. Don’t feel hurt if someone you’re dating isn’t making plans with you 24/7, but do make sure that they are including you and making an effort on the weekends.
5. They aren’t paying attention to the little things.
Someone who cares about you wants you to be well, and will probably pay attention to the little things that make a big difference. According to Alexander, little questions like asking you if you’ve eaten, are a good indication that someone wants to be serious. They want you to be comfortable, happy, and safe. If they aren’t texting you to make sure you got home okay, or to say, 'Good luck!' on a big test, then maybe they don’t really care. Make sure you’re with someone who cares.
If you find yourself in a situationship that you’re trying to pin down into a good ol'-fashioned actual relationship, consider just being up front and honest about what you want. "Once you hear [their response], you have to heed that," Parikh says. "You cannot think that you’re going to change someone’s mind, because what you’ll do is waste a lot of time.”
How to get what you really want from your situationship.
If the red flags are there, and they’ve been there consistently, you might want to take action. Alexander says that once a pattern has already been established, it may be hard to turn a situationship around.
“It might work in the moment, or for a few weeks or months, but it doesn't come from his heart and it's not lasting,” Alexander says. “You have forced him to do something, and he likely — on some level — resents you for telling him what to do.”
Parikh suggests having a very honest conversation, and telling the other person exactly what you want. She doesn’t suggest setting an ultimatum, but if you want something serious and you think that they don’t, she says that calling them out on that may be an effective strategy. Tell them that you’re looking for something serious, and that if they aren’t, you may have to pull the plug and end it. Parikh says that if they really do care about you, they may realize it later and reach out when they’re ready.
“If he’s interested in you, he’ll chase you,” says Parikh. “This is reverse psychology. It’s very effective. He will come and find you. It takes a man typically six weeks to cognitively process a decision, but during that six weeks you’ve got to cut off contact. You can’t be sporadically texting, you can’t be checking in, you can’t make up an excuse, you can’t find tickets to invite him to. You’ve got to cut it off. If he cares about you he will come and find you. But you’ve got to be the initiator of the breakup.”
And both experts agree that three months is enough time to know whether or not you want a relationship to be serious. People usually know pretty quickly whether or not a relationship has potential, and if they’re not defining the relationship, you may have to be the one to bring it up. If your feelings are strong, it’s totally normal to be scared or nervous. Just remember that you are doing what’s best for you.
Ultimately, every relationship and every person is different. People all move differently, so if three months is too soon for you to have “the talk,” don’t be afraid to move at your own pace. And if you do have a conversation about exclusivity, and they don’t want to settle down, you can’t force or push anyone to do anything they don’t want to do. It may not result in the healthiest relationship. Honestly is the best policy here, so just keep it real, and don’t settle for anything less than you deserve.
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