So, you’ve finally decided to see what all of the fuss is about and try casual dating on for size. Congrats! You’re definitely in for some unique experiences, eye-opening learning opportunities, and no doubt a few epic tales you’ll be LOL'ing about with your besties for years to come. But if you're starting to casually date for the first time, then there are a few things you should know about this carefree approach.
While casual dating can mean different things to different people, here’s the gist of it: it’s the chill AF cousin of the serious relationship. With casual dating, you have the freedom to go on dates with whoever you want, wherever and whenever you want. And because there’s no serious commitment to any one person, there isn’t really a risk of a messy breakup. Clearly, there are plenty of perks — and there are many solid reasons why you might choose to go this route, too. Perhaps you got out of a long-term relationship a few months ago, and you’re not ready for anything serious yet. Maybe you’re too swamped with work to be in a committed relationship, or you know you’ll only be living in your current city for the summer before moving elsewhere.
Regardless of why you opt to keep things casual, know this: The most important thing is that you don’t lose sight of your own needs and wants in the process. Here are a few other things you should definitely keep in mind while casual dating.
Communication is everything.
Unless someone explicitly states in their dating profile that they’re looking for something casual, you can’t really assume that they’re on the same page. So make it a point to define your intentions from the get-go — as in, the very first date, if not while you’re texting before that. Be as upfront and open as possible to avoid any misunderstandings. By presenting your intentions early on, you give your date the opportunity to decide whether they’re open to keeping things casual or not. Not only will you avoid not only wasting each other’s time, but you can also potentially prevent hurt feelings.
BTW — the definition of casual dating can get muddy pretty fast. So be sure to clearly communicate your expectations with anyone you casually date. Are you free to have sex with other people? Will you go on actual dates in addition to hooking up? Will you avoid talking about your other dates? How will you handle sleepovers? Communication is just as important in casual relationships as it is in serious relationships — if not more so because there are so many gray areas. While setting these rules and boundaries may not feel sexy, it’s an effective way to protect everyone’s feelings.
Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.
One of the best things about casual dating is that it frees you up to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t — so be sure to take full advantage of that.
When you know you’re looking for a serious relationship, you may assess potential dates and partners in a very specific way. You may think you have a certain “type” and swipe left on anyone who doesn’t fit that because you assume they’re not bae material. Now is the time to throw all of that out the window. So stay open-minded. Try people on, and see what fits. You may be totally surprised by who you end up having mind-blowing sex or a memorable date with.
If it’s not making you feel good, it’s not worth it.
Repeat after me: “I deserve respect, no matter what kind of relationship I’m in.” And yes, that includes casual dating. Just because you’re not making a serious commitment with someone doesn’t mean they have the right to make you feel used, undervalued, or otherwise crummy.
Keep checking in with yourself while you’re casually dating. And if you feel like there’s a lack of respect with anyone you’re casually dating, whether it’s those late night drunk texts or their flakiness in making plans, you definitely have the right to cut your losses and move on.
Keep it real.
Speaking of respect, remember to treat all of your dates the same way. If someone you’re casually dating admits to falling for you (or you suspect they are) and you don’t share those feelings, you can let them know that in a way that’s firm yet compassionate. That way, they can decide whether they want to keep seeing you in a different capacity or perhaps step away from the situation rather than potentially hanging on to false hopes and ultimately getting hurt.
Or, if a date follows up about hanging out again and you simply aren’t feeling it, let them know. Ghosting may seem like a much easier (and less awkward) option than telling your date you’re not interested, but as the old adage goes, “Treat others how you want to be treated.” Would you rather someone be honest with you that they don’t think you’re a good match, or simply disappear without an explanation? Consider it good karma to keep it real while you’re dating casually.
It’s normal to catch the feels.
No matter how much you may be determined to keep things casual, there’s always a chance that you may end up wanting more (because #feelings — you fickle friend). If this happens, don’t panic. Know that it’s totally normal for your feelings to grow, especially if you find that you’re super compatible with someone you’re casually dating, you had a friendship with them to begin with, or you’ve been spending more and more time around them.
There’s no reason to run in the other direction when you realize you’re falling for your FWB or casual boo. That said, you do need to make your feelings known. It’s the only way you’ll be able to figure out if your crush feels the same way, and it’s the only way you’ll be able to determine how to proceed. Who knows? The person you’re casually dating may have caught some feels, too. And if they haven’t, you’ll be able to decide whether it’s time to step away before you fall any harder for someone who can’t reciprocate your feelings.
Casual dating allows you to explore a plethora of possibilities without the obligations and restrictions that come with a serious relationship. So, it’s safe to say that you’re about to embark on quite an exciting and educational adventure. As long as you keep these things in mind, you’re primed to take full advantage of this approach without compromising your needs, desires, or self-respect.