How to Keep a Relationship Open and Casual
9 months ago
What are we? The question makes you feel like you’ve just been put on the spot, doesn’t it? Like you’re being attacked or issued an ultimatum, despite the mixed signals that have been flying around your current relationship (or non-relationship). For whatever reason, we often interpret the “what are we” question as part of a mission to lock us down. But it doesn’t necessarily convey interest in taking a step forward. (I know, unbelievable.) Sometimes, the “what are we” question is rooted in a desire for clarity. It’s simply meant to gauge where you are, usually after the person you’re kind of dating has come to an understanding about his or her own feelings.
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Unfortunately, as the question is usually posed to you while you’re giving mixed signals, answers range from claiming emotional unavailability to defensively saying, “I said I wasn’t looking for anything serious.” This would be fine if your actions didn’t indicate otherwise, thus prompting the question in the first place. You realize you did this to yourself, yet?
Dating doesn’t have to lead to the dreaded “what are we.” But if you continue to consistently date people you do not want to fully develop relationships with, there are major do’s and don’t’s to having a good time respectfully, so no one has to be stuck wondering why you were okay with them meeting your mother, but not cool with discussing your status. Here’s how to go about it.
Be honest with yourself.
When you do not want to get into a relationship and you do not want to be alone, you need to take an inward look at yourself before dating. Define what “nothing serious” means to you and maintain those boundaries for yourself (even when you’re having a really good time). Be realistic. “Nothing serious” does not include publicly holding hands six out of the seven days you spend together, Facetiming your moms together, or attending multiple weddings or holidays as each other’s dates.
When you know what you want, tell your person.
You’ve defined “nothing serious.” Now, share with the person you’re dating. I’d also recommend asking them what they are looking for. Ideally, you want them to be on nearly the same page.
Keep your usual routines.
Should you both decide to move forward with “nothing serious,” you’ll need to maintain a lot of what your day-to-day life is like. Don’t start choosing them over your friends. You don’t want to be the person who disappears whenever they start seeing someone new, particularly if you’re going to keep things casual. Still send the best memes to your friends. Still share your good news with your friends, and still grumble about your fantasy team’s starting line-up to your friends. Don’t treat this new person like a new puppy, investing every second in them when you have zero intention of becoming attached.
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Have fun, but stay independent.
This doesn’t mean shutting out the person you’re dating, being rude, or valuing them less. You should communicate clearly and respectfully. Answer all of their texts. Boundaries don’t mean you can’t have fun together, and they don’t mean you don’t care about the person. They actually mean you care enough to not lead them on, and more specifically, they mean you won’t stumble into something resembling a committed relationship without the title. Honestly, you should probably still see other people. It’s about clarity in your desires, moderation, and maintaining your independent life. For that reason, sleeping together too many back-to-back nights can seem like, you know, that thing you don’t want it to: a relationship.
No friend-mixing, and no PDA.
Keeping your distance from their closest friends is helpful, too. It isn’t rude; it’s just enjoying each other’s company without selfishly inserting yourself into every aspect of a life you don’t want to be a part of. And, don’t even attempt excessive PDA. Public displays of affection make you and this person appear unavailable in public, and if you want to maintain something casual, you are available.
Consider the sex you’re having.
There is a difference between love-making and having good, mutually beneficial sex. Learn it. You should be practicing safe sex always, but particularly with those individuals you don’t want anything serious with. You know what’s more serious than a committed relationship? A kid or an incurable STD.
As we all know, actions speak louder than words. You wouldn’t put in hard work at your job, progressing and growing, and expect not to move forward in your career. Why would you boundlessly develop all the parts of a relationship just to call it exactly what it isn’t (“nothing serious”)? Living like that isn’t dating. It’s denial. To keep dating fun and flexible, all you have to do is hold yourself accountable.