How long do casual relationships last? I was compelled to think about this right in the middle of my first casual relationship. All I knew was that I felt good with him and just went along with it. He was in the same class as me. We started talking, and slowly, it evolved into a sexual relationship. He made it clear that what we had was casual but after a while, things got complicated. And that’s when I thought, “How long do casual relationships last? What am I allowed to feel for him? What are the rules?”
Romance and relationships work differently for the younger millennials and Gen Z. Sure, there are many picture-perfect couples so in love with each other that it can get nauseating (but in a good way), but casual relationships have become a prevalent trend nowadays and we are here to decode them for you!
What Is A Casual Relationship?
Defining a casual relationship is no easy task. It could be a fling. Could be a friends-with-benefits relationship. Could even be a long-term casual relationship (surprise! It exists). Or it could be just a hookup. At the base of it all, a casual relationship is everything that is the opposite of a traditional, exclusive, committed relationship. Casual relationships are where you can have sex with your partner while maintaining light intimacy without having to go into a long-term commitment.
There are several types of casual relationships. We have hookups i.e. uncommitted sexual encounters. There are FWBs i.e. friends-with-benefits wherein you have sexual relations with a friend without romantic commitment. One-night stands are when you have sex with a random stranger (or even a friend/acquaintance sometimes), never to be repeated again. And then there is the concept of booty calls and f*ck buddies wherein you’re regularly hooking up with someone without the added stress of commitment and intimacy.
What to expect in a casual relationship?
It turns out that casual relationships are pretty typical. 18.6% of male college students and 7.4% of female college students reported having casual sex in the month prior to the study, according to The Journal of Sex Research. According to peer-reviewed studies on the same topic, 82% of men and 57% of women expressed gratitude for having a casual hookup or sexual experience, according to this article by the American Psychological Association. It usually develops into a casual dating relationship when these encounters with the same person become routine and you also engage in non-sexual activities together.
However, if this is your first time in such a situation and you aren’t sure what to expect in a casual relationship, there are a few points to keep in mind:
- Have realistic expectations: Don’t expect any more than the other person is ready to give. If you get into a casual relationship looking for commitment, you are bound to get disappointed
- Be transparent: Make sure both of you know what the relationship will give to each of you
- Define the rules: Decide whether it’s an open relationship or if you’d like it to be monogamous
- Keep jealousy in check: If you want to keep things casual with a person, don’t try to lay your claim on them
- Decide frequency and type of contact: Will it be once a week or more? Will you meet apart from hooking up? What activities are you allowed to do together?
If you’re looking to date a guy casually, you might wonder: Why do guys want casual relationships? Casual relationships do help keep emotional distance while having fun. And that’s exactly why some guys want them.
But this also brings up queries like: How long do casual relationships last? Do casual relationships ever turn serious? What should I expect in a casual relationship? This is what we will cover in the next part of this piece.
How Long Do Casual Relationships Last?
A casual relationship can turn into a serious relationship, it can be one of the early stages in a relationship, or it can fizzle out without any explanation. But the reasons that people get into casual relationships are usually varied and subjective, which then skews the answer to the question: How long do casual relationships last?
A 2013 study into casual relationships showed that emerging adults, usually within the age gap of 18–29, engage mostly in casual relationships. Since this is an important period for the development of romantic bonds, this is typically when people get into hookups, FWBs, one-night stands, and casual uncommitted relationships with friends, acquaintances, or random strangers.
“My college life was a non-stop list of hookups. It was a phase where I didn’t have to, nor did I want to, focus on a serious commitment. I just wanted to have fun. And I did! I never stopped to ask myself, how long do casual relationships last? Because whenever one relationship got over, I was already onto another. I think the duration can only be decided by the people involved and no one else,” says Helena, one of our readers from Chicago.
Related Reading: Casual Dating — 13 Rules To Swear By
Do Casual Relationships Ever Turn Serious?
Yes, this can happen though that’s not the original intent of either party. Some of the reasons casual relationships turn serious are:
- One person might fall for the other, or both fall for each other
- If you enter a casual relationship because of an emotional reason (like after a breakup or death), then there are chances of the bond turning from a long-term casual relationship to a full-blown committed one
- If you’re in a situationship, you might eventually start seeing signs a casual relationship is getting serious
Here’s how to identify the signs of a casual dynamic turning into a serious relationship:
- Observing more intimacy than you desire
- Spending more time together
- Feeling emotionally affected by what they say or do
- Experiencing difficulty in moving on from the relationship
Related Reading: How Long Should You Casually Date Someone – Expert View
In instances like these, answering “How long do casual relationships last?” becomes difficult. Annabelle, a 28-year-old yoga instructor, shares, “Dora and I had been casually dating for 5 months and I had hopelessly fallen for her. Love was not part of our initial agreement, so I asked my friends: What if you want to end a casual relationship because you want more? They told me to confess my feelings before I do anything. I’m so glad I followed their advice; Dora and I celebrated our 6-month anniversary last month!” So, evaluating the relationship at every turn is a smart move so that you’re both on the same page.
According to a study based in Chicago, casual hookups have a similar success rate of turning into long-term relationships as much as slow-burn relationships. True love doesn’t always require a gradual approach. Sometimes, people who start out being sexually involved can progress into having relationships that are deeper and emotionally fulfilling. The answer to “Do casual relationships ever turn serious?” lies solely in the hands of the individuals.
How To Have A Casual Relationship Without Getting Hurt?
Believe it or not, while casual relationships sound like a lot of fun, the reality is that they require work. And rules. Having a specific set of rules will keep things casual with a guy or a girl. Of the various types of casual relationships, long-term casual relationships boast of having a rule book. Think To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, except the fake dating part.
However, if you are looking for a ‘how to have a casual relationship without getting hurt’ rulebook, we got you.
1. Ensure clear communication with your casual partner
Clear communication helps you avoid scenarios like unrequited feelings, lying, etc. When you and your partner feel secure enough to communicate better, you won’t have to worry about questions like: How long do casual relationships last? You make the rules on that one.
2. Consider whether you could bear seeing them with another person
And if you can’t, don’t do it! How would you feel if you ran into them with someone else while out walking? They are not doing anything wrong because they haven’t committed to you. Simply put, casual means without restrictions.
“I am typically a jealous person,” says Demi, a 22-year-old psychology graduate. “When Hunter and I started hooking up, I didn’t quite realize how bad my jealousy was. Seeing him hanging out with other girls burned me on the inside and it showed in my behavior with him. I thought I could keep things casual with a guy but turns out, I can’t.” If you are like Demi, maybe wait around for the right person.
Related Reading: How To Stop Liking Someone Who Is Taken – 12 Tips To Let Them Go
3. Are you capable of handling this without falling for them?
What if you want to end a casual relationship because you want more? Yep, that can happen. This kind of setup will result in tears if you’re someone who readily gets attached or catches feelings rapidly after hooking up.
Knowing oneself is the first rule of how to be in a casual relationship without being harmed. Go for it if you’re confident you can handle it and if you know that romantic emotions won’t play a role. Approach with extreme caution if you are uncertain.
4. Don’t mix your friend circles
Keep everything separate and never introduce this person to your regular group of friends. When things come to an end, it will invariably be messy and challenging if you have mutual friends. You can prevent this person from becoming a significant part of your life by having a separate outlet for yourself, like your friend circle.
“Trina, Michael, Lexi, and I have been friends since kindergarten,” shares Alicia, a 19-year-old college student. “When Michael and Lexi started an FWB kind of situation in high school, they told no one. Senior year of high school, both of them broke up, and now our group is gone. I haven’t seen Michael in months because of how Lexi would feel. It’s terrible.”
5. Know your boundaries and leave if you catch feelings
Know when to leave a toxic relationship and be honest with yourself about it. Most casual relationships work out well initially. Then they naturally run out of steam or someone leaves because they start to feel romantically toward the other. A casual relationship rarely develops into a long-lasting love affair. Although not impossible, clinging to such a notion would be extremely risky. Do yourself a favor and quit while you’re ahead if you begin to feel the emotional bubble.
Related Reading: Leaving A Relationship – How Do You Know It’s Time?
- Casual relationships are a popular trend among emerging adults wherein non-committed relationships are actually encouraged among peers
- “How long do casual relationships last?” is a question whose answer is varied and subjective and completely depends on the people in the relationship
- While there are specific signs a casual relationship is getting serious, whether the relationship lasts or not depends on where the partners are emotionally at that point in time
- There are ways to have a casual relationship without getting hurt like creating a personal set of rules to avoid attachment
So there you go! While there is no specific answer to “How long do casual relationships last?”, keeping things clear with yourself and your partner before getting into one is the safest bet. Casual relationships can be a lot of fun as long as you follow through on the rules you set for your dynamic. That is the only way you can keep your heart from getting broken.
This depends on the kind of relationship the two of you share. On average, meeting once or twice a week is completely normal when you’re casually dating. Any more than that could be perceived as clingy and can kill the relationship, especially if the other person isn’t looking for any commitment from you.
Defining the point when you want more from your partner than they are willing to give is important. Once you know for sure that you do not want the relationship to continue because you’ve caught feelings, be honest with them and cut them off if possible. This way, they have clarity on why the relationship ended and you can move on, knowing that you have made the decision that will serve you well.
Don’t hang out with your casual partner all the time, avoid mixing friend circles, keep the variables of the casual relationship clear, and follow through on those – these are the smartest ways for you to avoid catching feelings in a casual relationship.