What is casual dating?

"I'm just looking for something casual", is something you hear a lot from people on online dating sites. And there are many people seeking casual encounters, online as well as at sex clubs.

But what is casual dating? What are these people really looking for?

For most people, casual means that they aren't looking to enmesh their lives with someone else, but beyond that, there's a huge spectrum of possibilities in terms of what the relationship looks like. Enmeshment includes things like living together, combining finances, but also implies a monogamous commitment. Casual dating, on the other hand, comes with the expectation that both people can continue to have sex with others.

Lack of enmeshment and non-monogamy are two fundamental aspects of casual dating, but there's a lot more to it that's less obvious. Someone who is only seeking casual encounters, rather than casual dating, usually doesn't want to get to know the people involved all that well. You can find casual encounters at sex clubs with people you've just met, and may never see again. But casual dating implies an ongoing connection, even if it's not of the usual sort.

What this usually looks like is actually a lot like friendship. People who are casually dating may go out to dinner together, have a picnic in the park, take in a ballgame, or even travel together. And of course, have sex as much as they feel like, which is often a lot--the casual dating only works when there's a lot of chemistry to go around.

And yet, despite having all this fun together, there remains no expectation that the relationship will escalate or grow into anything else. In many ways, this makes casual dating one of the purest forms of relationship, in terms of having so little influence from external factors. Whereas traditional dating comes with societal expectations to eventually escalate to engagement, marriage, kids, house, and so on, casual dating exists just as it is. And these connections can continue to exist for years, never evolving, and yet always maintaining all the fun and fantastic things the two people love to do together.

Many people don't think of casual dating this way: you may see it as a compromise until you're ready to "more seriously" date again. But I encourage you to see things differently, and cherish the simple pleasures that casual dating provides.

August 30, 2019
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