Being in a committed relationship is a beautiful experience but it demands a lot of work from both individuals. There might come a phase in your life when you just want to have fun without having responsibilities. So, the alternative that Millennials and GenZers have discovered is an NSA, or no-strings-attached relationship.
And I know that the number of relationship terms in circulation can confuse the best of us. You have your FWB, DTF, and NSA (all different things by the way) that are favorites of a lot of people. Today we’re talking about NSA relationships and giving you the A to Zs of them. If you’re in an NSA and confused about the rules, or about to get into one and apprehensive about the set-up, this guide will solve all your problems in one go.
With me, I have clinical psychologist Devaleena Ghosh (M.Res (UK) / DFT), founder of the Kornash Lifestyle School and a specialist in couple counseling and family therapy. She’s here to weigh in on what NSA relationships are all about, and how you can lead one without hitting any roadblocks. Many before you have walked this path, and they’ve come to Devaleena for some much-needed guidance. It’s time you picked up these pearls of wisdom too.
What Is An NSA Relationship?
To put an NSA relationship in perspective, I turn to the example of my friend Melissa. A highly driven and ambitious woman, Melissa’s priority was her career. But being a workaholic did not mean she wanted no fun. When she came across a work acquaintance at a bar, they decided to enter into a convenient set-up where their physical needs were fulfilled. There was no commitment or any emotional angle to their relationship.
They met every week, had sex and parted ways. No dates, no cuddles, no gifts or romantic gestures. Just two adults engaging in a physical relationship and then carrying on with their lives. This is an NSA relationship. When individuals are not in a space to commit to someone or have recently gotten out of a serious relationship, they may choose a no-strings-attached connection.
Like most kinds of relationships, this too has its pros and cons. On one hand, it allows you to have fun and experiment sexually, but on the other, it has the possibility of getting messy. If you’ve seen the movie, No Strings Attached, starring Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman, you may have a rosy idea that an NSA can blossom into deep love. But real life isn’t so dreamy, and most NSA relationships are quite utility-based.
Let’s talk about all of this and much more with the 13 things you should know about NSA relationships. Some expert advice, a few real-life experiences, and some rules you must know…You’re in for a very (informatively) fun ride!
Related Reading: 8 Open Relationship Rules That Have To Be Followed To Make It Work
13 Things You Should Know About NSA (No Strings Attached) Relationships
Now I don’t know what you’re expecting to find with these NSA relationship rules, but I’m sure some of the information here will make you do a double-take. Most people I speak to have a lot of misconceptions about NSA, and they confuse it with a friends-with-benefits relationship or polyamory.
But throw your notions to the wind as we address the 13 most important NSA relationship pointers. Are you ready to define NSA relationships? Let’s go!
1. You’re footloose and fancy-free in an NSA relationship
It’s all in the name. The main purpose of an NSA is a commitment-free relationship. It can be argued whether the term ‘relationship’ can be used with NSA at all. There is no exclusivity in such a relationship (unless specified otherwise), and most NSA arrangements are usually not monogamous. Individuals are free to engage with multiple people sexually.
Devaleena explains the nature of an NSA, “You have NSA relationships because you don’t want the ten things a commitment entails. You like keeping things simple and straightforward. Good sex, no emotional drama, and independence. Hence, wanting monogamy or exclusivity is not seen very often. And when one of the two people do want some sort of commitment-oriented gesture, things go downhill a majority of the time.”
2. Being sexually adventurous is encouraged!
An NSA relationship is sex-based, as Devaleena puts it. “As hunger is a basic need, so is sex. You need three meals a day, and you need sexual activity to satiate your drive. And an NSA exists for the sole purpose of fulfilling that need. Here you get the opportunity to be sexually adventurous, or experiment.” It’s a safe space for you and you’re free to explore any fetishes or fantasies (with mutual consent and comfort).
In a committed relationship, you might be worried about how you will be perceived by your partner. In an NSA, the possibilities are endless. You can go wild between the sheets without fear of judgment. A friend revealed how she had rediscovered her sexual appetite through an NSA; she loved every bit of the sexual liberty it gave her.
Related Reading: Polyamorous Relationship Story: Conversations With A Polyamorist
3. Boundaries, boundaries, and more boundaries are NSA relationship rules
A super important aspect of NSA relationships is emotional, physical and sexual boundaries. (Over) sharing your life’s stories or problems, talking about your day, or texting back and forth is inadvisable. You render the NSA moot when you try being all commitment-y. Ditto for meeting them in a romantic setting. Post-sex cuddles are a no, as is deep pillow-talk.
And finally, sexual boundaries refer to indulging in acts that you are absolutely comfortable with. A sex-oriented relationship does not mean going along and getting pressured into doing things you don’t like. Be vocal about your needs, and learn how to say ‘no’. An NSA cannot function without open communication!
4. It’s not friends-with-benefits – The NSA meaning you need to know
This is the most common misconception about a no-strings-attached connection. Devaleena clears it up best, “A friends-with-benefits involves a cordial or even warm relationship beyond the sexual aspect. You could be hanging out with each other, talking regularly, and even be fond of each other’s company. An NSA is very practical. You meet each other, have sex, and that’s that.”
When Chandler and Monica began seeing each other, that was a friends-with-benefits. They had known each other previously and shared a connection besides the physical one. They were friends first, and the benefits came later.
Think of an NSA relationship as ‘benefits’. There’s no friendship about it because it’s a very straightforward arrangement. There are always signs he wants no strings attached only and nothing else. So pay attention to those tell-tale signs if you’re struggling to define what your equation with a sexual partner can be categorized as.
5. Choosing the right partner is paramount for an NSA intimate relationship
This automatically eliminates exes, friends, people you are genuinely interested in, or already committed individuals. Since the sole purpose of NSA is to uncomplicate life, it is vital to steer clear of getting involved with people you are/were emotionally invested in. Imagine starting an NSA relationship with an ex, only to find out that there were many strings attached already.
An ideal partner for an NSA relationship is an acquaintance with whom you are sexually compatible. This individual should be detached from you because a case of unrequited love is not what we need. You should be able to spot the signs he wants no strings attached. Besides this, your checklist shouldn’t be too long. Both of you should share a tacit understanding of the temporary nature of your relationship.
Related Reading: If He Has A Girlfriend Why Does He Want Me? Solving This Dilemma
6. The set-up is quite convenient – That’s how you define NSA relationships
Talking about the kind of lives we lead nowadays, Devaleena says, “It’s not just about being busy literally. Sure, you have your career, your errands, etc; but you’re also occupied mentally. Burnout and feeling drained in an emotional capacity are becoming quite common these days. So, many people realize that ‘I cannot share my life with someone right now’. An NSA gives them the space for sexual release at their convenience.”
And indeed, most people who have been in a no-strings-attached arrangement peg convenience as the biggest merit. Jacob (name changed to protect identity) from Cleveland says, “It was just so hassle-free. Having experienced different kinds of relationships, I can say with some authority that an NSA is definitely a winner in the ‘easy-to-do’ category.”
7. How do you define NSA relationships? Emotional investment is a no-no
Among all the NSA relationship rules, this is the MOST important. Getting emotionally invested is the gateway to drama and heartbreak. So my advice to you is this: the minute you get an inkling of any romantic feelings toward your no-strings-attached partner, call things off. Instantly. Don’t waste a moment in doing so because you will end up falling for them.
Most NSA relationships get ugly when one partner falls for the other. Since you’re already sharing a sexual relationship, it’s easy to get emotionally attached. But be on your emotional guard and keep things business-like. A scenario where both partners fall in love at the same time is very…unrealistic? Hollywood? You get what I’m saying.
8. NSA intimate relationships often get messy
Recalling a case from the first COVID lockdown, Devaleena sighs with exasperation. “It was the same story as always. The woman had recently come out of a bad marriage and was focused on her job. She met this guy online and they entered into an NSA relationship. Although they were quite clear about keeping it casual, she developed feelings for him.
“He, on the other hand, became attracted to another lady. A fight ensued (obviously), where he claimed that they had never discussed exclusivity. The woman was taken aback because she had assumed it was understood. Very dramatic, aggressive, and damaging to be honest.”
When feelings get the better of one of the individuals involved, the situation becomes tricky. The aftermath of such a situation can be very disturbing to go through. What if you spot the signs he wants no-strings-attached, but you’re already head over heels? That’s why you need to evaluate your attachment style very well before you decide to begin a no-strings-attached relationship.
9. Protection is your BFF
Since most NSA relationships are not monogamous, people sleep with multiple partners at a time. It becomes crucial to practice safe sex or you run the risk of contracting an STD. Follow the basic guidelines for each intimate session: use a condom (and a contraceptive pill), pee after you have sex, be careful with oral sex, and get tested by your gynecologist at regular intervals.
Also, be transparent about your sexual history and present with your NSA partner. There’s no point in concealing who you’ve slept with because your NSA partner will be the one at risk. Don’t have intercourse if one of you has contracted an infection, and communicate very honestly. Your sexual health is something you should safeguard very carefully in a no-strings-attached set-up.
Related Reading: Casual Dating- 13 Rules To Swear By
10. Your perspective changes (for better or for worse) when you learn the NSA meaning
There are two ways this can pan out. Firstly, you could enjoy an NSA arrangement so much that you’ll lose faith in committed relationships. You might even reconsider ideas of love, romance, or institutions like marriage. Your clear preference will be an NSA because of its simple nature.
Or secondly, you may rediscover your faith in traditional arrangements. You could emerge from an NSA, ready to be deeply committed to one person. The NSA could be the getaway you needed and now you’re back on the exclusive relationship track. Either way, your mindset will change after the no-strings-attached experience.
11. Clear thinking is super important
This is the part where I tell you to not make stupid decisions. From the onset of your NSA, be VERY clear in what you want from the relationship, and where you see it going. Know full well that an NSA is not very sustainable in the long run. Don’t go in hoping to find true love because that’s like finding a BFF on Tinder.
Ask yourself a few very important questions before commencing your no-strings-attached relationship. Am I ready for casual dating? Do I tend to get emotionally invested in people? Will I be comfortable with a relationship that is not exclusive.
Devaleena speaks about the next phase; when you’re actually in the relationship. “Don’t let your feelings override reason. Possessive or controlling behaviors, a consistent desire to text them or lingering after having sex are all indicators that you’re headed toward the one-way street of love. Be very cognizant of all this – above all, be practical.”
12. Being selfish is okay-ish when you have NSA relationships
Compromises, sacrifices, and adjustments are the fuel of committed relationships. But you’re allowed to be self-centered in an NSA up to a certain extent. Prioritizing your pleasure in bed, meeting at times convenient to you, and wanting to have your way once in a while are very acceptable things.
A huge plus of NSA is no guilt. Thoroughly enjoy yourself when you have NSA relationships because having fun is the whole point. Have sex when, where, and how you like – while also making room for your NSA partner to do so.
13. Success rate unknown
One of the first things Devaleena had explained was that the success rate of NSA relationships is not possible to gauge. They are superb sources of sexual gratification for a period in our lives, but they come to an end eventually. Or they morph into a different sort of relationship. So questions like ‘what are we?’ or ‘where is this going?’ are inapplicable here.
An opinion commonly held by people is that NSA relationships lack substance. A polar opposite view is that substance ties people down and being untethered is fun. But it all boils down to whether you are built for such a casual connection. As of now, the answer to ‘what do NSA relationships lead to?’ remains unknown.
I hope this answers your questions and makes you do some serious thinking about no-strings-attached relationships. You now know the NSA meaning that’s got you all set for a brand-new dating style. Good luck to you on your future endeavors; be they with strings or without! Adios!
Yes, but it’s very unlikely. You’re thinking of movies, books, or songs when you visualize such a possibility. It’s rare for two non-committed individuals in a physical relationship to fall in love at the same time. Almost always, one of the partners is not ready for something long-term. It then becomes a case of one-sided love.
Just like you’d end any other relationship. With clear communication, sensitivity, and assertiveness. You ought to give the honest reason behind calling things off with your partner and wish them the very best for the future. Be respectful, and don’t resort to personal attacks.