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 and dreamy in the beginning when you just start seeing someone. But the lines between “casual” and “serious” often get blurred over time as you grow closer to the other person.
This might leave you confused, and sometimes also very, very heartbroken. 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 are the dos and don’ts of seeing somebody casually?
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? And what happens when you start catching feelings for a fling? The questions that come with this territory are endless but today we can give you a few answers.
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 between themselves but end up falling in love with each other. They never really saw the signs a casual relationship is getting serious and it just sort of happened. 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 next, without even realizing it, you end up feeling emotionally unfulfilled or worse, being “used”. Hence, you need a proper roadmap that helps you determine whether your equation is truly casual or not. And yes, more often than not, casual sex turns serious. According to this study, having casual sex or beginning a relationship with an ‘only sex’ approach can indeed lead to the couple developing feelings for one another.
The very reason you enter into something casual is that you are not ready for anything serious at that point. And tadah, there you are having relationship problems with a person you are not even in a relationship with. How do you avoid falling into this trap? By keeping an eye out for these clear signs a casual relationship is getting serious.
1. Feeling emotional about physical intimacy
If you both feel 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 you are looking for signs your casual hookup likes you, think about how they act after sex. Is there a lot of cuddling? Or a lot of pillow talk?
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.
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 or on your mind. If you are having deep and heartfelt conversations with them about life, then it’s a sign a relationship is getting serious with this person.
According to Helen Fisher, biological anthropologist and Senior Research Fellow at the Kinsey Institute, Indiana University, sexual activity lead to the 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.”
When you start catching feelings for someone, you’ll notice how you are completely drawn to them. If you notice them always calling you up after work or sharing their deepest emotions with you, then know that you are way beyond the ‘just hooking up’ phase.
3. You feel like saying ‘I love you’ or ‘I like you’ to them
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. You know he wants more than casual if he is always telling you how much he likes you. The question that you need to ask yourself is — Are you casually dating the person or are you in hopes that this would eventually lead to something more serious?
Having false hopes and miscommunication can 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.
So if you’re confused about whether he wants to be more than casual with you or not, note if he brings you any gifts. And these gifts don’t have to be big. From picking up a smoothie for you to buying you that bag you had an eye on, it can be anything. 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.
5. Talking for hours at night — Is it casual or more?
Definitely much, much more! 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” and admitting that these are signs a casual relationship is getting serious.
Likewise, 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 cares when you share your issues with her, it’s a sign of casual dating turning 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. Think you’re catching feelings for a fling? Well then, you must probably get very annoyed about them hanging out with other romantic interests.
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 especially when you start catching feelings for someone. If you are a person who easily gets jealous and possessive, maybe you are looking for something more serious and 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 a plus one to a wedding, party, or any other social gathering and including them in 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 close ones, it’s a sign you are catching feelings in a casual relationship. So do note this whenever you can if you are worried that your hookup buddy might be into you and wants to date you seriously.
Does he often invite you out with his friends? Do his friends know all about who you are? If you think ‘yes’ to these, then consider these signs he wants a serious relationship with you, and that your friends-with-benefits boundaries have been officially eroded.
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 or even one-sided love can be super confusing (the body wants something else, the heart wants something else), and creates intimacy issues in the long run.
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 and there is no doubt about it. 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. 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.
Likewise, if she is arguing with you, this means strings are getting attached. 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 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. And, if you feel the need to reciprocate and send him an “I miss you too” text, well then you don’t need to look for any more signs a casual relationship is getting serious.
Also, if it hurts her heart when you go out of town, or if you get annoyed every time he forgets to call you back after he told you he would, 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 already in a relationship without knowing it.
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.
11. They take your opinions seriously
Is it casual or more? If this question has been bothering you lately, try to think about how seriously the other person takes you. 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.
For example, you told him that you’re really into Post Malone and he couldn’t help but listen to an hour-long playlist that night to make sure he could discuss the artist with you the next day. If he makes a conscious effort to understand who you are and what you like, it’s nothing but a case of casual dating turning serious.
If there is a power imbalance in your casual relationship and your partner is more emotionally invested, 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
In a casual relationship but do you want more? Well, they will see right through it if you begin complimenting them endlessly. 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 the sincerity in their eyes when they tell you that they love the sound of your laughter, it’s among the clear signs your casual hookup likes you. Or if s/he has started admiring your kindness or your depth, they are 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
Casual dating turning serious definitely looks a little bit like this. If you both cannot imagine a life without one another, it’s one of the clearest 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 and extremely close 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.”
- Being vulnerable with them and telling them you love them might mean that you are no more in a casual relationship
- If you are jealous of seeing them hang out or be with someone else, you are way past the ‘casual’ phase
- Are you imagining a future with them? If so, it is one of the signs your casual relationship has turned serious
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? Are you worried that he wants more than casual?
As long as you communicate effectively and manage to not cause hurt to yourself and your partner, there’s nothing wrong with casual dating. If you’re confused about your changing feelings in a casual relationship or that of your partner, counselors on Bonobology’s panel can help you in navigating these emotions with more clarity.