The art of dating casually: Most commonly, the relationship escalates into a committed, monogamous relationship, or it fizzles out, with both parties simply over the fling, or because one person starts to care for the other person more.
But somehow, this past year I successfully dated someone casually. Even though neither of us got too attached, we were still able to have a meaningful relationship.
More important, he found my obnoxious sense of humor funny, even endearing. During the show, our jitters slowly dissipated and we held hands. I wanted him to know that even though our relationship was founded on sex, it could become more than that. Thus officially began our casual affair, which lasted six months. Once a week we would see each other for dinner, a movie, show or drinks, and then after we would head back to my place to snuggle up together.
Only when something popped up that made us think of one another. Usually something in the news or a book recommendation. We had a few big talks accompanied by a few big reveals. He was the first to bring it up, on our fifth date or so. While he was visibly hurt, clearly hoping for another response, he respected my candor.
Besides, I liked him. I wanted to see where this relationship would go. I did, however, want to keep him honest in the relationship, so we ended up having multiple talks, what I would call check-ins.
The premise was simple: Are we okay with how things are going in our relationship? Are we finding ourselves really falling for the other person, and would we like to take things to the next level? Or, given that both of us were busy with our careers — me as a writer, him as law student — was this level of commitment ideal? These check-ins kept us on the same page, and we promised we would be honest about our feelings and expectations.
We ate delicious food, held hands and kissed in the street, and took in some of the freedoms that can come only from being a majority in a space. We agreed that we were happy with how it went. This casual dating thing was new for both of us, and yes, we both had some regrets, but overall it worked.
He regretted having a wall up, he said, something he did to protect himself. He rid himself of the possibility of dating seriously because he thought I would always be opposed. I felt guilty — even foolish — because after he confessed, it seemed so obvious. I figured he was too busy with law school to see me more than once a week. But in actuality, he was keeping his emotional distance. The thing is, I would have dated him more seriously, even called him my boyfriend.
Sure, I was enjoying the pleasures that come from not being committed, namely sex with others, and yes, there were a few folks in my life that I was dating casually at the same time.
But I would have been willing to give all that up. If only I had known. It requires the same level of honesty and communication as dating someone seriously. While we tried to be open about our feelings, expectations and needs from the relationship, we were still far from perfect.
However, our causal relationship still worked because we at least attempted to be honest with each other as much as possible. We simply feared rejection. We feared that in saying we wanted more, we would lose what we had. That was where both of us could have done better.