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. Let me guess, you have decided to keep it casual with this person you met on a dating app. But now you are not sure whether to call them or not because they went MIA after the first couple of nights you spent together. You have a date with someone else tonight and you wonder if you should inform them about this or not.
Well, even if you haven’t had the talk, the signs tell that you are already in a no-strings-attached relationship. Today, we’re talking about NSA relationships and giving you their A to Zs. If you’re in an NSA relationship, 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 no-strings-attached relationship advice. 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 dynamic can blossom into deep love. But real life isn’t so dreamy, and most NSA relationships are quite utility-based.
For someone who is currently comfortable with the exploring mode before settling down for something serious, an NSA-style relationship is the right fit for them. As an NSA arrangement doesn’t come with a commitment clause, you are free to keep your options open, and meet people as you like without feeling guilty about being disloyal to someone.
That being said, if we have learned anything from Hollywood, friends with benefits or NSA hookups rarely pan out unless you are pretty sure that’s what you want. Just think about it, are you okay with not being one of the top five priorities of your NSA partner? Because that is how no-strings-attached relationship rules generally work.
In a no-strings-attached relationship, you are not obligated to maintain any sort of consistency. It’s not mandatory for the partners to spend every weekend together or invite each other to a wedding as their dates. So, you really never know when you will see this person next after spending one magical night with them. Do you think you will be able to handle being ignored for weeks?
If you ask for no-strings-attached relationship advice from us, there are a few things you need to set in order before taking part in a risky adventure like an NSA arrangement. You can’t forget the bet here is your mental health. It’s really a fine line between savoring the fun that an NSA hookup is all about, and falling for the person in a moment of sheer weakness.
Make sure you are in a holistically stable place in your life in terms of career, self-confidence, and self-love. NSA in dating is actually fruitful when you don’t need external validation to feel good about yourself. If you have to think twice about “Do I like him or the attention?”, please reconsider the whole NSA-style relationship.
But we are not here to discourage you from giving this funky relationship style a shot. Let’s talk about all of this and much more with the 13 things you should know about NSA relationships, and with proper clarity regarding NSA relationship meaning. Some expert advice, a few real-life experiences, and some rules you must know – You’re in for a very (informative) 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 dynamic, “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 for many people. You need three meals a day, and for some, the importance of sex in a relationship to satiate their drive cannot be denied. An NSA exists for the sole purpose of fulfilling that need. Here, you get the opportunity to be sexually adventurous, or experiment in bed.” 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 dynamic, 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 partner; she loved every bit of the sexual liberty it gave her. No-strings-attached relationship rules didn’t bind her to coyness and she absolutely enjoyed taking charge in (and outside!) the bedroom.
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 stories or problems, talking about your day, or texting back and forth is inadvisable. You render the NSA relationship moot when you try being all commitment-y. Ditto for meeting them in a romantic setting. Post-sex cuddles are a big no-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 set-up 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 dynamic 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 dynamic, though, 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 relationship. They had known each other previously and shared an emotional connection besides the physical one. They were friends first, and the benefits came later. Think of an NSA relationship as just the ‘benefits’ part.
There’s no friendship about it because it’s a very straightforward arrangement. If you’re in this dynamic with a guy, look out for signs he wants no strings attached only. These signs will help you if you’re struggling to define your equation with a sexual partner.
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 an NSA bond 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 dynamic gives them the space to experience great casual sex with a compatible partner 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 someone else. 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 a no-strings-attached arrangement, 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 if you want), pee after you have sex, be careful with oral sex and use protection, 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 set-up because of its simple nature.
Or secondly, you may rediscover your faith in traditional arrangements. You could emerge from an NSA dynamic, ready to be deeply committed to one person. NSA in dating could be the getaway you’d 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 silly decisions. From the onset of your NSA arrangement, be VERY clear about what you want from the relationship, and where you see it going. Know fully well that an NSA dynamic 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? Do I like him or the attention?
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 arrangement 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. Enjoy yourself thoroughly 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.
A huge plus point of NSA is no guilt. It is one of those situationships where you don’t need to worry (too much) about the feelings of the other person. If you don’t like the way they do certain things in bed, you can honestly and gently speak out about it without being concerned about hurting them. And the result is you come back home happy and satisfied without any fear of heartbreak or getting cheated on.
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 the ‘what do NSA relationships lead to?’ question remains unknown.
I hope this article answers the rest of your questions and makes you do some serious thinking about no-strings-attached relationships. You now know the NSA relationship meaning, so you’re 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 for calling things off with your partner and wish them the very best for the future. Be respectful and don’t resort to personal attacks.