Urooj Ashfaq, a stand up comic was right when she said, “There are two people in a casual relationship- one person is casual and the other person is in a relationship. They never tell each other”. If you, like her, always end up being the person who is *not-so-casual* in a casual relationship, knowing the signs a casual relationship is getting serious, might set your game right.
A casual relationship, wherein there is no obligation of commitment and no labels whatsoever, sounds very fun in the beginning but the lines between “casual” and “serious” often get blurred, and might leave you confused. You might want a middle ground between hooking up and committing to a relationship. But, does this mean you can tell them you miss them? Can you call them to vent, when you are having a bad day?
What exactly can you do in a casual relationship? How much are you supposed to express, without sounding desperate for wanting something serious but also not sounding desperate for sex? Here are some answers to such questions.
How Do You Know If A Casual Relationship Is Getting Serious?
All of us remember the movie Friends with Benefits where two friends decide to keep it just physical but end up falling in love with each other. This is the plot of many romantic comedies and also what ends up happening in reality too.
One moment, you are loving non-monogamy and keeping options open. The other moment, without even realizing, you end up feeling emotionally unfulfilled or being “used”. Hence, you need a proper roadmap that helps you determine whether your equation is truly casual or not.
The very reason you enter into something casual is because you are not ready for anything serious. And Tadah! There you are, having relationship problems with a person you are not even in a relationship with. How to avoid falling into this trap? Here are some clear signs a casual relationship is getting serious.
1. Feeling emotional about physical intimacy
If you both are feeling really emotional about physical intimacy, then it is a sign that you are unofficially dating. If there is a lot of eye contact when you make out, or long hugs and endless cuddles, know that the boat of “casual” has already sailed.
If he often holds your hand, kisses your forehead and wants to spend time with you even when there is no sex involved, it’s a sign that he wants a serious relationship with you. Or if she wants to cuddle after sex, it’s a sign that things are no longer in the casual territory.
Amol Parashar, actor, in his Spoken Word ‘Not-So-Casual’ Sex at Spoken Fest Mumbai 2020, said “When having casual sex, don’t say anything romantic. Don’t cuddle. Don’t assume that your sex partner is having casual sex with you only”. The story ends with the actor catching really strong feelings for his casual sex partner.
Related Reading: The 8 Rules Of Dating Multiple People At One Time
2. Being vulnerable is among signs he wants a serious relationship with you
Know that you are catching feelings in a casual relationship when you start being vulnerable with each other about things that are bothering you. If you are having deep and heartfelt conversations with them about life, then it’s a sign a relationship is getting serious.
According to Helen Fisher, biological anthropologist and Senior Research Fellow at the Kinsey Institute, Indiana University, sexual activity leads to release of dopamine in the brain, which can then result in falling for someone. In her interview, she explains, “With orgasm, there’s a real flood of oxytocin and vasopressin, chemicals in the brain that are associated with deep attachment”.
3. You feel like saying ‘I love you’ or ‘I like you’
If any of you has mistakenly said ‘I love you’ or whispered it under your breath, it’s a sign that a casual relationship is getting serious. The question that you really need to ask yourself is- Are you casually dating the person or are you in hopes that this would lead to something more serious, eventually?
Having false hopes and miscommunication can literally destroy you. So, it is always better to be honest about your feelings, with your partner and with yourself. Be very clear in your mind as to why you are casually dating and what exactly you want from the other person. Otherwise, it might lead to a lot of confusion and mixed signals.
4. Showering each other with gifts
If you remember the little things about each other and then show appreciative gestures, these are signs you are unofficially dating. If you go shopping and end up thinking about how good a certain outfit might look on them, it’s a sign you are in a relationship without knowing.
And, if you are really looking forward to their birthday and have planned everything that you are gonna do, it means you are catching feelings in a casual relationship.
Related Reading: Casual Dating — 13 Rules To Swear By
5. Talking for hours at night
As the lyrics to the song All Night Long by JST FRNDS go, “..really shouldn’t pick up your phone, cuz texting leads to talking and talking leads to loving..”
If she can talk for hours with you, about literally anything under the sun, maybe it’s time to bid adieu to playing it “cool and casual”. Or if he constantly texts you about his daily updates, it indicates that he wants a relationship but is scared to lose you. The fear of rejection and the possibility that you don’t feel the same, might be an important reason holding him back.
If he is showing genuine interest in your life, it’s a sign he wants a serious relationship with you. And, if she really cares when you tell her about your mental health, it’s a sign a relationship is getting serious.
6. Jealousy is among signs a casual relationship is getting serious
If hanging out with other guys bothers him or if she gets protective about you often, these are signs a casual relationship is getting serious. Suppressing or pushing aside jealousy and possessiveness may end up creating more damage than actually expressing those feelings.
The whole point of casual dating is non-exclusivity and the ability to see your partner with other people, in reality or on social media. However, that is not an easy thing to do. If you are a person who easily gets jealous and possessive, maybe you are looking for something more serious and maybe you aren’t cut out for a casual relationship.
Related Reading: Casual Sex Is Great As Long As You Treat it Casually
7. Introducing them to friends or family
Taking your partner as plus one to a wedding, party or any other social gathering and merging them with your friend group, can be one of the signs a casual relationship is getting serious. Once your friends become close to them, or you become close to their family, things might get complicated later.
Yes, you can meet at places other than the bedroom and do fun things together like shopping, watching movies or going for coffee. But, if you feel like showing them off to your closed ones, it’s a sign you are catching feelings in a casual relationship.
8. Imagining a future with them
If he is using “we” when he talks about the future, it’s among signs he wants a serious relationship with you. Or if she constantly talks about far-sighted plans with you, it is one of the signs a casual relationship is getting serious.
If your partner is the only one who wants something serious, then you must communicate to him/her that deep down you aren’t ready for commitment. If you can see a future with him/her, then you should express your feelings so that you both can give it a real shot.
But the worst thing that you can do is to keep them hanging for far too long. This will not just hurt them because they will be forever waiting for you to come around, but it will hurt you too because half-hearted connections can be super confusing (body wants something else, heart wants something else) and create intimacy issues in the long run.
Related Reading: Is it healthy to have Casual Sex?
9. Having fights is among signs a casual relationship is getting serious
If you both have fights and talk it out by mutual understanding, it’s a sign you are unofficially dating. What does a serious relationship mean to a guy? He resolves fights instead of giving up on you because he wants to keep you in his life. Or if she is arguing with you, this means strings are definitely getting attached.
How do you know if he wants a serious relationship? He apologizes after fights and makes sure he doesn’t repeat the same mistake in the future. Or if she disagrees with your opinion, it means that she cares about your opinion in the first place. It is a sign she wants a serious relationship but is scared to admit it to herself or to you.
10. Missing them, when they are away
If he misses you when you don’t reply for too long, it’s a sign he wants a serious relationship with you. Or if it hurts her heart when you go out of town, it’s among signs a casual relationship is getting serious. If you feel like talking to them all the time and they are always on your mind, it’s one of the signs that you’re in a relationship without knowing.
Know that you might have entered the equation just for sex or in a non-romantic way but you don’t have to beat yourself up if you. end up catching feelings. You cannot plan every stage and you cannot always see it coming. Denying it won’t do you any good and might end up hurting you instead.
This reminds us of a scene from Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, where Saba (Aishwarya Rai) ends up falling for Ayan (Ranbir Kapoor), even though they had decided to be casual. She, then, gives up on him, knowing that it is one-sided and she was lying to herself when she said she didn’t have space for love in her life.
11. They take your opinions seriously
If he takes your recommendations on books, songs and movies seriously, it’s a sign he wants a serious relationship with you. Or if even the little things you say or do end up affecting her in huge ways, these are signs a casual relationship is getting serious.
If there is a power imbalance in your casual relationship and if your partner is more emotionally attached, it’s pretty unfair that you use their emotions and vulnerability against them. To take advantage of someone’s love to get them into bed, is a hurtful thing to do. The relationship being casual doesn’t mean that you play mind games or manipulate someone.
12. Signs a casual relationship is getting serious- complimenting their quirks
If your compliments about each other have gone beyond superficial compliments about physical appearance to deep admiration about their personality, these are signs you are unofficially dating.
If you see sincerity in his eyes when he tells you that he loves the sound of your laughter, it’s a clear sign that he wants a serious relationship with you. Or if she has started admiring your kindness or your depth, she is clearly falling for you.
Related Reading: 13 Signs A Man Is Falling In Love With You
13. You can’t imagine your life without them
If you both cannot imagine a life without one another, these are signs that you are unofficially dating. If you have shared really personal stories with them about your hobbies, family, friends or childhood, it’s very much possible that you have developed a personal bond with them.
If you constantly find yourself replaying your encounters with them over and over in your head, it’s a sign that you are in a relationship without knowing. As Edward Vilga advises us in his book Downward Dog, “Never invest so much in anyone romantically that you lose your head. The Buddha of casual sex, I remain detached at all cost”.
Casual relationships can be a good bridge between staying single and being committed. It can be a great way to test your waters, meet new people and find out what you exactly want. But every once in a while, ask yourself why you are in a casual relationship. Were you too hurt that you can’t commit to someone again? Are you trying to get back at your ex? Does emotional intimacy scare you and physical intimacy becomes a way to connect to someone emotionally? As long as you communicate effectively and manage to not cause hurt to yourself and your partner, there’s nothing wrong with casual dating. Our counselors at Bonobology’s panel can help you in navigating these confusing emotions with more clarity.