Rules for a Casual Relationship

A relationship expert discusses rules for a casual relationship.

Relationships can get sticky, and to a point, all relationships seem to have some kind of drama risk associated with them. But, some kinds of relationships seem to get messier than others. Casual relationships, for example, tend to have a lot of problems in them — and often result in ugly, nasty blowups.

That being said, it is possible to have a casual relationship without the blowup. However, it requires two mature people and a lot of rules being put into place in order for it to work. 

As a relationship writer, I want to point out that I don't typically advise people to get into a casual relationship. Generally speaking, one person always ends up wanting more than the other, and that means that hurt feelings will almost always ensue. 

However, I'd be lying if I said it was impossible to enjoy a casual relationship. Here are my rules for a casual relationship, and why I suggest them. 

Understand that you are one another's last priority.

One of the biggest rules for a casual relationship you need to understand is that it's not a relationship. This is not the person who will prioritize you, nor should you prioritize them. 

You are casual because there are reasons why you two aren't pursuing an official relationship. Whether it's cause you don't view them as a relationship possibility or because you're just not in the right place doesn't matter. 

What matters is that you understand that it's not a relationship, and that you do not get to expect the perks of a relationship from this person. 

When you're in a relationship, you become a priority for your partner. When you're in a relationship, you prioritize your partner. You are not in a relationship with this person, so don't prioritize them. 

Moreover, if you are trying for a casual relationship, don't romance them. Don't expect to be romanced. And, above all, understand that they can sleep with whoever else they want and drop you without a moment's notice. 

Considering that casual relationships have so little return on investment, it doesn't make sense for you to invest yourself in this person. So, keep your eye out for others, and prioritize more serious prospects over your casual fling. 

Avoid cuddling, increased eye contact, and pillow talk.

One of the other major rules for a casual relationship involves avoiding  "catching feelings." Sex is an emotional act, and that means that you already run a high risk of accidentally getting feelings for a person you shouldn't be getting close to. 

Obviously, if you or your casual relationship partner end up catching feelings, it will get messy. Someone will get hurt. 

In order to avoid catching feelings, you will have to reduce the amount of oxytocin you get around them. Oxytocin is the hormone that makes you feel like you fell in love. 

To get as little oxytocin on, you have to make a point of avoiding actions that increase this hormone before, during, or after sex. So, avoid prolonged eye contact. Avoid cuddling. Also, avoid pillow talk.

Anything that seems like it would add bonding and "love" to the mix is something you need to keep to a bare minimum. Otherwise, the chances of you getting enamored with your partner will increase — as will the chances of drama. 

Talk about your own rules for a casual relationship with your partner.

Though there are some "generally assumed" guidelines for casual relationships we all tend to follow, everyone has their own ideas of what a casual relationship denotes. 

Some assume that a casual relationship means that, in the future, it could lead to something more serious. Some may assume that will mean you two will date, but won't be exclusive. Others will have already made up their mind that casual means that it's going to stay sex — and nothing else. 

If you don't go in with the same expectations, you can easily end up in a relationship filled with resentment. In other words, going into a casual relationship without knowing what your partner defines as casual is a recipe for disaster. 

To avoid personal disaster, you need to make sure that you are both on the same page in terms of your rules for a casual relationship. If you're not, then it will be problematic, to say the least. 

Before you have a casual relationship with anyone, talk about what you expect from one another. You might find that your expectations are different, and that may make you rethink things. 

Pay separately, and don't intertwine your lives.

From what I've seen, this is one of the rules for a casual relationship that is universal. If you're casual, you don't want to make anyone think that you're serious — especially your partner. 

Sending mixed signals is never a good idea, particularly if you're already sleeping with them. The best way to avoid sending mixed signals is to keep your lives as separate as possible. 

As a result, you won't do anything that suggests you may want more than a casual fling. In other words, you won't pay their tab, introduce them to friends, text them outside of scheduling "fling times," or worse, actually do date activities with them. 

On a similar note, you need to make sure that you don't accept gifts or special treats from your partner, either. Otherwise, your partner may take that as a sign that you might be open to something more serious when you're really not. 

If someone says they only want a casual relationship, believe them.

This is one of those rules for a casual relationship that can be downright brutal to follow, primarily because we often end up wishing that people would want to pursue us more — even if we aren't really interested in them that way, either. 

However, you have to take people at face value. If they say they don't want anything serious, believe them. The only time you shouldn't believe them is if they've approached you about something more serious earlier on — or if they've hinted that they want something more serious recently. 

If they approach you about something serious, don't try to sell them on a casual relationship.

Remember how we discussed talking about personal rules for a casual relationship, and how important it is to find someone that meshes with your outlook? This is part of that. 

Even the most casual relationship demands a certain level of respect. The most basic way to respect someone is to be accepting and understanding of their needs. 

If you think of it, trying to sell them on a casual relationship when they want more is really insulting. That's basically like telling them, "Yeah, I know you want to date me, but you're not good enough for that. Have a cheap version of a date consolation prize instead!"

Some people's only rules for a casual relationship involve saying no to them and breaking things off with people who just want them for sex. Unless you want to burn bridges with others, you will not try to sell them on casual sex when they want a relationship. 

Use (and discuss) protection.

Casual relationships are fun, but one of the rules for a casual relationship you should really follow is to use and discuss protection. Since you're non-exclusive, you don't know who else your partner is sleeping with. 

There are a lot of ways sex can go terribly wrong in a casual relationship. Their other partners might have a disease, or if you're unlucky, you might get your partner pregnant and they may not know who the father is.

You can curb this damage by using a condom. Wrap it up, and consider doubling up on birth control. 

See other people, and swallow your jealousy if they do the same.

The good thing about casual relationships is that they can be a confidence booster while you play the field. More confidence means less likelihood of you messing things up with that one hottie that you really want to date. 

When you're in a casual relationship, you've made it clear that you don't want a long term thing with them. Therefore, one of the rules for a casual relationship you need to follow is to continue dating others — and to expect your partner to do the same. 

Most people, however, do have an issue with one element of a casual relationship that can end up causing serious problems: jealousy. 

It's alright. It's only human to get jealous when someone you're sleeping with starts dating someone else. You start to wonder whether or not you would have been "good enough," and if not, why not. 

The thing is, you can't really hate or get angry at your partner if they date someone else. Logically, this is what you agreed to.

Speaking from personal experience, the best way to overcome jealousy in a casual relationship is to date others — and actually focus on others. This makes it easier to end things. 

If you can't behave nicely while feeling pangs of jealousy, then do not try a casual relationship. 

Lastly, keep mum about the others you're dating.

This is one of those rules for a casual relationship that should be left unsaid, simply because it's common sense. No one wants to feel like a sidepiece, and if you go bragging about other people you're seeing, that will hurt the other person's feelings. 

There's no reason to discuss others you're seeing if you're in a casual relationship. It's rude, and makes you look bad. Just don't do it. 

Mackenzie Kennedy
Mackenzie Kennedy

Socialite and dating guru Mackenzie Kennedy knows all about the inner workings of people and society as a whole. It's not only her lifestyle - it's her passion. She lives in Hoboken with her pet dogs, Cassie and Callie.

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Rules for a Casual Relationship