If you've heard someone say they have a "friend with benefits," you already know a little about casual dating. Casual dating is a bit of an umbrella term, and it’s exactly what it sounds like: dating that is not for the purpose of developing or entering serious relationships. Sometimes, people who date casually are looking for sexual connections, but that’s not always the case. Casual dating can also refer to going on casual dates, typically with various people, for fun and self-exploration.
Today's daters and relationship-seekers have more options to date their way, and they are doing just that. Casual dating usually refers to a non-serious and short-term form of dating where both partners enter into the relationship with a short-term mindset and no-strings-attached requirements.
This means that casual daters usually aren't interested in falling in love with the people they see or forming a long-term relationship. A casual dater won’t necessarily remain a casual dater forever. Often, it’s something that people are drawn to during an exploratory period in life, or a time where they want connection but don’t want to settle down quite yet.
People who are looking for long-term, serious relationships often don't mesh well with a casual dater. A casual dater's interest is short term, and they normally let you know this upfront. Regardless of the choices you make, be sure to understand that casual dating relationships rarely lead to anything serious. Having expectations of anything more can leave you feeling hurt or confused.
For some, casual dating is an incredibly important experience and part of life.
The Pros And Cons Of Casual Dating
While short-term dating may not be the choice for everyone, it is a viable choice that works for some people. People who enter short-term relationships often do so with the awareness that they aren't ready to commit to a serious relationship and are simply seeking companionship and someone to spend time with intermittently. When casual dating is used in this way, we can easily see why some people choose this route as an alternative to pursuing a serious relationship that still might not work out. In casual dating, the agreements made are normally mutual and transparent, with everyone involved understanding that the relationship isn't meant to last.
With that said, here are some possible pros and cons:
1. It can help you get to know yourself better.
When you date casually, you can learn a lot about yourself and what you need in relationships. You’ll get a chance to brush up on upfront communication, and you’ll probably make mistakes that will teach you what you don’t want to do when you’re in future relationships. You might find out that certain personalities or lifestyles aren’t for you.
2. It can be a lot of fun.
Casual dating has a carefree element to it. Connections feel fresh and exciting. You’re aware that there are fewer expectations and that the people you come across will generally be at a relatively similar or relatable spot in terms of life and how they feel about relationships. If you’re recently divorced or separated from a long-term partner, you might meet others in the same boat. If you just started dating again after a long hiatus, are planning to move and/or travel, etc., you might meet others with the same circumstances. Many people find that dating casually makes them feel free and that they have a great time while doing it.
3. It introduces you to new people, places, and things.
Casual dating often means that you’ll be exposed to multiple new people. In turn, you’ll learn from these people and the experiences you have with them. Have you ever been on a date that exposed you to a favorite new restaurant or a new hobby? For example, maybe you tried bowling, hiking, painting, a new beverage, or a new cuisine on a date for the first time, and it became something that you absolutely love now. This is something to savor; take your time as a casual dater and view this as an opportunity to explore new things.
4. It gives you the chance to focus on yourself.
You can focus on yourself and your personal growth regardless of your relationship status, but some people find that not being in a serious relationship gives them extra time and space to focus on themselves. This is a great time to develop a solid self-care routine and find out what you need to do to be the best version of yourself. That way, if you do choose to enter a serious relationship in the future, those practices will be solidified. You will have a better idea of what you need to do for yourself and that you need to find a partner who supports you in those things.
1. Sometimes, a person will catch feelings.
When your intentions are to date casually, you still risk that one or both of you will develop a crush that isn’t quite so casual. This doesn’t always happen, but it can. Limiting the time you spend with someone can help. If you notice that this happens, it’s best to tell the other person and talk it out. They might then decide that they want to be friends only, and that can hurt.
2. The communication aspect takes courage.
Say that you or the other person does indeed develop feelings. It’s hard to hear that someone doesn’t like you as much as you like them, and it’s also challenging to be the one telling someone else that you don’t want something deeper.
3. It can be tough to find other casual daters.
Some people want casual dating, and other people want serious relationships. Neither is better than the other, but there are times when it can be tough to find people who want the same thing. This is part of why dating apps can be helpful for those who wish to date casually. Dating apps and websites allow you to say what you’re looking for right on your profile.
4. Some people may think they can change your mind.
Be wary of the fact that there are some people who might talk to you knowing full well that you’re interested in casual dating and attempt to initiate something more serious. Firm boundaries are often useful if this happens. Reiterate that you are only looking for something casual and consider ending the relationship if someone isn’t on the same page.
How can you prevent the cons or downsides? In short, you’ll generally want to be clear as day with your intentions or goals and maintain transparency with yourself and your dates. When people engage in casual dating without clear goals, the results can become disastrous as miscommunications and false expectations tend to cause emotional harm to the casual dater and their chosen counterparts. When casual daters aren't clear or honest about their expectations, people looking for something more serious can get confused or see your pursuits as mixed signals. They want something more. A casual dater may also find themselves in a sticky spot if they enter a relationship without setting clear expectations, boundaries, and rules.
Casual Dating Sites Online
Casual dating sites have become popular with people who are looking for something other than commitment in their dating lives. People can log in to these dating sites online, create a profile, and gain access to thousands of other daters who are interested in something similar. Casual dating sites have a variety of themes that facilitate various connections.
Casual daters often visit these sites to find quick love, romance, or fun. Some casual dating sites are subscription-based sites that require a membership fee to join. Membership fees can range from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars, depending on the dating site you join. When you search online for "casual dating sites," you'll find results for websites that offer hookups, friends with benefits situations, one-night stands, fetishes, and more. Not all casual dating sites online have a sexual undertone, but some of them do.
If you’re less interested in sex and more interested in going on dates or meeting new people, there are a number of standard dating apps that allow you to specify that you’re there to date casually on your profile. It may be helpful to go into additional depth with regard to what you’re looking for in the “about me” or biography section of a dating site or app.
If you decide to use online dating services of any kind, make sure to prioritize your safety. Using a dating app for any purpose means that you run the risk of things like catfishing, scams, or people with ill intentions. Generally, it’s best to avoid giving someone your home address or letting them drive you to your home; and be careful about the information that you share. Before a date, tell someone you trust where you will be and make sure you have a safety plan in place.
Get Relationship Therapy Online
Many people who date on a casual basis are on a journey. Just like some people date casually after a divorce or separation, some people casually date when they recently learned something new about themselves or are going through another life change. Of course, some people also casually date simply because they enjoy it and it is the best fit for them at the time. There’s no right or wrong reason to date casually, and if you go about it with awareness, it can be a rewarding experience.
Regardless of your personal circumstances and what draws you to dating casually, it’s a completely valid thing to do. As long as all parties involved are aware of the circumstances, casual dating can be healthy and life-enhancing. It’s a way to socialize, which can benefit a person's health in a number of ways, both mental and physical.
Whether you’re dating casually, are in a relationship, or simply want someone to talk to about something else that’s going on in your world, a therapist can help. You can find a therapist near you by searching for terms like “relationship therapist near me,” seeing what your insurance company covers, or asking for a referral. You can also sign up for an online therapy platform like ReGain for a convenient way to access therapy with a relationship therapist online.
About Online Therapy
Leading therapy platforms like ReGain are known for providing relationship therapy, couples counseling, and marriage therapy with a licensed therapist. The ReGain platform provides access to thousands of licensed and board-certified relationship experts available to provide therapy and counseling services online, 7 days a week.
ReGain is one of the only platforms dedicated solely to providing marriage and relationship therapy with a dedicated therapist.
Online therapy platforms like these are options you will find when searching online for dating therapy or using therapist finders and therapy matching sites like MyTherapist.
Casual dating is a short-term form of dating, where people often mutually agree to form convenient relationships. If you feel that it’s right for you, use proper safety measures; and if you need support at any point in time, whether related to relationships or anything else, don’t hesitate to reach out to a licensed counselor or therapist.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the point of casual dating?
Typically, casual dating means you’re dating someone without the expectation of a long-term or exclusive commitment. This can be very appealing to someone who wants companionship and a fun dating life without the pressures that may come with a more serious relationship. Casual dating can be a good option for people who have just exited a long-term relationship or who are prioritizing their career or other commitments. Dating doesn’t always appeal to these people, but casual encounters are often a healthy way to connect with others.
What are the rules of casual dating?
There is no clear set of rules; generally, casual dating means you’re not exclusive, looking for commitment, or planning to move in together. It’s a good idea to make sure that both you and the people you’re dating all understand and consent to short-term, non-exclusive arrangements. Otherwise, the sky’s the limit for a casual relationship, as long as everyone involved is a consenting adult.
Can casual dating lead to a relationship?
Casually dating generally means you’re not looking for a long-term relationship. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t feel very close to someone you’re casually dating. In some cases, a casual dating relationship does lead to a more committed relationship when both people feel deeply invested and like there is a future together. In most cases, though, casual dating doesn’t lead to permanent relationships.
What does a casual relationship mean to a guy?
Casual dating doesn’t just appeal to a certain gender. Anyone can be interested in casual dating, depending on their current life situation and companionship preferences. There is no single explanation for what casual dating means to someone. It may be a matter of availability for some people; their jobs occupy too much of their time to pursue a permanent relationship. Other people casually dating may be a bit hesitant after a previous breakup and simply want to “get their feet wet” without committing to an involved relationship. In some cases, casually dating means you’re more interested in fun activities and companionship than finding someone to marry — and that’s okay!
People of all genders can be equally interested in sexual satisfaction as a goal for casual dating without the pressure of long-term social and emotional commitment. Dating doesn’t always have to lead to marriage or even being in love. Many people who are interested in a casual relationship also prioritize physical and sexual connection above emotional intimacy. However, no rule states you can’t love people you’re casually dating! As with most things in life, it’s all very individual.
How long should casual dating last?
There is no set duration for successful casual dating. Some people who casually date will see each other for years, with zero expectation of consistent or exclusive commitment. Thus, a casual dating relationship can be a good arrangement for long-distance couples or those in open or polyamorous relationships. Casually dating generally appeals to those who are not looking for marriage or long-term commitment any time soon. Alternatively, those in some kinds of polyamorous relationship dynamics may date casually. This could mean dating casually in general, or it could mean having casual partners in addition to a long-term, non-casual partner, group of partners, or spouse.
Is a casual relationship worth it?
Whether or not a casual dating life is right for you depends entirely on your current situation and lifestyle, including work stresses, mental health, and intimacy levels. A casual dating relationship may be an excellent opportunity to experience a healthy social life. So, while dating generally offers an opportunity for companionship, casual dating casually makes this possible without the pressures of marriage and commitment.
What is casual dating vs. a relationship?
The term “relationship” has long been used to mean a long-term, exclusive, and committed romantic partnership. However, this term is quickly changing as polyamorous, open, and other arrangements become more common. Moreover, asexual and aromantic people can also engage in partnerships. Here, dating may mean companionship without the expectation of marriage or sexual intercourse. In short, any sexual or dating arrangement could be called a relationship.
How do you casually date without getting attached?
If you’re interested in casually dating but don’t want to get attached, you may want to be open about your expectations and only date people who share those expectations. Unlike in the movies, where people inevitably fall in love once they start dating and having sex, there is no guarantee that a sexual relationship will lead to emotional attachment. Many people feel a familiarity with and fondness for a regular hookup partner or “friend with benefits,” but that is a natural effect of regular social interaction. Just be sure that both you and your partner consent to a casual dating relationship. Remember, life is not a romantic comedy, so if you’re not interested in marriage, you probably won’t find yourself at the altar just by dating someone casually.
How do you know if you're casually dating?
Ideally, you and your partner disclose your expectations before you begin dating. That way, no one is left wondering about the relationship's status or what dating means to you both. However, dating doesn’t always follow a predictable path. It’s not uncommon for people to hook up and find themselves spending romantic and sexual time together. This situation can lead to “the talk,” in which the couple decides what their relationship entails and how to define it.
If you’re uncertain, the best way to know if your relationship is casual is to ask your partner about their expectations for the relationship. Successful casual dating requires both participants to agree upon their arrangement. If your partner isn’t interested in exclusivity and you are, this is often a sign that your relationship goals are incompatible. On the flip side, if you only want a casual dating relationship, and they want a deeper, longer-term commitment from you, be honest about your expectations. Dating casually without clear expectations can lead to hurt feelings and strained relationships.