When starting college many students take a couple of random classes on different topics until they find their passion and career interests. Casual dating is a similar experience. Casual dating gives you the chance to explore what interests you and what does not interest you in a future partner. Hopefully, by the time you consider to settle with a life partner you have a good picture of what you want and do not want; what you are willing to compromise on and what you are not willing to compromise on. Casual dating is not the same as a booty call. While booty calls are all about sex, casual dating requires you to put in the effort into the dating steps. Yep, you guessed it, which is why it is called casual dating. Casual dating is also not the same as open-relationships or polyamorous relationships. These relationships require a level of commitment and relationship goals something that casual dating does not require.
Communication, communication, communication
The corner stone of successful casual dating is honesty and communication; actually, all successful relationships require good communication. But, casual dating requires you to be on your A-game with communication. Let your potential casual date/buddy know that you are not looking to be their soul mate or lifetime partner. Setting up this very clear boundary will save you from awkward moments in the future. Additionally, let them know that you are and will be dating other people and he or she is free to do the same.
No extra benefits
Since you are keeping this casual and do not want to blur the lines of a committed relationship and a casual relationship, do not do any “boyfriendy” and or “girlfriendy” things. Never expect your casual date to give you special treatment or go out of their way for you, such as picking you up in the rain. Now, no need to be heartless here but keep your radar up and do not slip into boyfriend and girlfriend patterns. If you find yourself watching movies you hate with your casual date because he or she likes the movie, it is time to get out. Those compromises happen in committed relationships.
Date other people
Now that you have clearly explained that you will be dating other people, go forth and conquer. Dating other people establishes the clear understanding that your dating is casual and you are not interested in more. As John White from Play it On Point says “you are keeping your options open.” If you do not date other people you will easily slip into the blurred area of “what is this relationship?”
Experiment in bed
Since casual dating is all about experimenting and having fun now is your time to get better in bed. Since the stakes are lower in casual relationships you can step out of your comfort zone. Experiment with a variety of sexual preferences. Ask your date what they like and how they like it. Listening to other peoples likes and dislikes can teach you a lot and is going to make you a better lover.
Staying safe is important for all relationships but in casual dating, you know it, be on your A-game. Since both of you will be seeing other people you want to ensure that you’re safe. Speak with your date about condoms, birth control, and getting tested. Let them know that you have been tested and you would like to know when they have been tested.
Casual dating is about experimenting and having fun. If you feel that you have had all the fun and learned from your experience it is time to get out. If you were honest up until now severing ties with your casual date should not be very challenging. Let them know that this relationship has run its course and you are ready to move on.
See a therapist
If you find it impossible to keep your casual relationships casual, perhaps seeing a therapist can help. A sex positive therapist can help you find your hiccups and explore with you where you slip-ups are and why keeping you boundaries clear is a challenge for you.
Sara Schapiro-Halberstam, MHC-LP, CASAC is a psychotherapist in New York City where she practices individual therapy, couples counseling, and sex counseling. You can contact Sara at firstname.lastname@example.org