Casual dating is a marvelous way of getting to know all kinds of people, without having to feel tied down to anyone until you’re absolutely ready. It’s not a crime; it’s a necessity. That being said, it is important to remember that your dynamic with anyone, regardless of who it is, won’t be as intense or committed as in a serious relationship.
Serious relationships tend to be monogamous and long-term—or at least conducted with that intention in mind. Even if it doesn’t pan out, there was a level of seriousness there that reflected commitment—more so than casual dating ever provides. There’s also the underlying message: love is there. Love isn’t a word thrown around lightly when casually dating. Let’s consider the signs, to see where you might be.
So, are you still in the non-exclusive stage of casual dating where hearts are fluttering with affection, but nothing’s too sure just yet? Use these signs.
#1 Casual dating can mean friends with benefits. This isn’t always the case, but there’s a chance that if you’re casually dating, you have a friend who’s also single, and you’re having sex on occasion. This doesn’t mean you’re in a relationship; it means you’re both helping each other with sexual frustration. If there was more to it—something serious—there would have been a discussion. [Read: 16 signs you’re not yet ready for a serious relationship]
#2 Odds are, there’s more than one person. Because you’re not serious with any one person, there are probably 2+ people in the picture at any given time. Maybe you’re texting one person, but planning a coffee date with another. It’s not wrong; since you’re not tied down, you’re simply screening a list of potential candidates. It could also be that you’re having fun, and taking a break from dating, but still want people to do things with.
#3 May or may not include sex. Casual dating doesn’t mean you have to sleep with everyone you talk to. On any given day, you might meet someone new, or stop talking to someone you’ve been talking to for months. The idea of sleeping with every single person that comes and goes isn’t exactly realistic for most people. In fact, sometimes casual daters don’t sleep with anyone at all, opting to wait until a serious relationship is established.
#4 May see each other occasionally, or even a little more. If you’re not serious with someone, why see them all the time? Might as well see them on occasion, or maybe regularly, but not most of the time. The minute you see them too much, you inch closer to something more serious.
#5 The chances for unfulfilled romantic feelings are high. This is a sad reality that everyone needs to understand: sometimes you won’t end up on the same page. It could be that one of you has intense feelings, and the other doesn’t. It could be that one of you wants to commit to a relationship, but the other one isn’t ready, despite having romantic feelings. Life is hard, and love is perhaps one of the hardest aspects of it. Timelines don’t always match up. [Read: 20 signs you’re wasting time in a one sided relationship]
#6 Might not know each others’ friends. Think of friends as a test. You have to prove yourself to meet someone’s friends, then prove yourself again upon meeting them. If you’re still in the proving part, you may or may not have a shot. Now, if the person makes it obvious you’re not even close, and will never meet their friends, it’s never going to get serious.
#7 Level of seriousness is low. Casual daters don’t usually find themselves sighing on a bench, in a garden, fantasizing about a long, lasting future with someone. The expectation is low, so marriage and family planning aren’t really on the table. The minute serious topics come up, someone has developed feelings. [Read: 8 subtle signs your casual fling is turning into a relationship]
If you’re already in love, but just want to feel reassured that the feeling is mutual and everything’s just dandy in loveland, look for these subtle signs in your romance.
#1 It’s been made official, obviously. If you two lovebirds had the whole “we should be an item,” conversation, then things are pretty clear. The reason you’re reading this article is either because your partner forgot about the conversation, or you’re having a terrible time.
#2 Monogamous—you’re just sleeping with each other. This is a huge sign. Say you haven’t had the “official” conversation yet, but you’ve established that you’re not sleeping with other people. That means there’s a chance you’re easing into a serious relationship with the person, but are waiting to become an official item. [Read: 15 clear signs your guy wants a real relationship with you]
#3 Both parties see a potential future together. It may sound obvious, but people get tunnel vision and focus on the present, so it’s a good reminder: being in a serious relationship means you’re aiming for a future together. There are too many couples out there that simply don’t work, for various reasons *immaturity, incompatibility, different goals, etc*. To build a future, you have to focus on your level of compatibility. How good of a chance do you really have at making it work for the rest of your lives? This is something that was considered, and weighed in at “let’s try this.” [Read: 50 quick questions to test your relationship compatibility immediately]
#4 If trust is ever broken, the relationship suffers. In a casual setting, people expect their sexual partners to have other sexual partners. If someone lies, no real emotion is involved. Meanwhile, in a relationship, these things will break trust, and trust is not something you want to lose. It’s almost impossible to get back and, chances are, you’ll spend your time kissing your partner’s feet and feeling inferior, until the love is gone on both sides.
#5 Sex is more meaningful. Sure, casual sex is pretty easy to come by, but at the end of the day, it means nothing more than the motion of the ocean. Sex in a relationship is meaningful, because there’s a love connection there *hopefully*, and it makes the act more than just about lust.
#6 You know each others’ friends. Your friends have been around for however long, so they’re important to you. If you introduce someone to them, then they did something right and earned their way to your friends. If it wasn’t serious, you’d never come close.
#7 Strong emotional connection. When two people get together in a serious relationship, regardless of anything else *even common sense, sometimes*, they have a strong emotional connection. The love is there, and that’s a word that isn’t used in a causal relationship. You miss the person when they’re gone, you put energy into making them happy, and you include them in decision-making. There’s both a want, and a healthy level of need, to have that person in your life.
[Read: 19 clear signs the two of you are ready for a serious relationship]
Differentiating the dating vs. relationship status can be a little messy, depending on the situation. Sometimes, nothing serious is spoken, but serious actions are undertaken. Other times, the right words are there, but the feelings aren’t. But by using these signs, you’ll be in a better position to know just where you are.
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