How Does One Casually Date?

Name: Augsdating-tips-for-single-women-1938-2
Comment: I’ve never learned how to “shop around” in a dating situation. Since I first started dating at 18 my method was “instant relationship”. There was no such thing as “casual dating” to me. I ended up getting to know the basics about the majority of the guys I dated WHILE we were in a committed relationship. The “getting to know each other” phase always happened after we’d made it exclusive. That made it difficult to call off when it was obvious the guy just wasn’t for me. After a shit nearly year-long relationship (just awful) I turned to online dating. Met a man within a week for “casual dating” and figured he’d keep it casual too. Nope. A gillion hours of phone conversations and a few dates later and I was hooked, but I kept my mouth shut.  Within a month he took the plunge and told me he loved me and boom, together. It was actually a pretty great relationship but 9 months later I find out he doesn’t want to have kids, ever… aaaaaaaand crash and burn. So now, I have the opportunity to date. To actually “date” and not “relationship hunt”. I’m tired of putting so much effort in up front only to discover later that there’s a serious problem that could have been nixed earlier. But.. you know I have no clue how to date more than one person at a time. I feel like I’m cheating! Especially if it was a good date.I understand when I write it that it sounds irrational but it seriously gives me anxiety! I’m not looking for a man to instantly fill a hole in my life, because I’m happy right now with me and mine, but it would be nice to have the opportunity to meet someone with potential to be a life partner SOMEDAY. How do I tell a potential date that I’m not looking for anything serious right away without making it seem that I’m just not interested in commitment period? Or without giving the vibe that I’m looking for a casual sexual relationship? I’ve been in relationships for nearly 10 years but I have NO CLUE how to date. Helpful hints?
Age: 27
City: Little Rock
State: Arkansas

I think the first thing you need to do is establish what it is you want. You’re kind of  all over the place here. You want to date but you always “end up” in relationships. If you want a relationship, one that has potential to be long-term or even permanent, then you need to date with that goal in mind. To me, it sounds like you’re a little wishy washy about what you want.

I’m tired of putting so much effort in up front only to discover later that there’s a serious problem that could have been nixed earlier.

Let’s take the example you gave about that one guy not wanting kids. If you’re someone who is looking for something long-term that could lead to settling down, then this is one of those questions that you ask in the early stages of dating. If you never brought it up, then you’re equally at fault for continuing with the relationship. You’re taking an extremely passive role in all of this. That’s the main issue that you have. You’re sitting back and allowing things to happen to you rather than taking control from the start.

If you want to casually date someone, then from the get go you need to implement boundaries and stick to them. That means no gazillion hours of phone calls, no three dates a week, etc. You have to be very clear about what it is that you want and proceed accordingly.

You don’t tell someone you’ve only been out with a few times that you’re not looking for anything serious, just like you probably shouldn’t be upfront about seeking a serious relationship. These are things that should be revealed once some kind of consistency has been established. If you’re clear on your goals, then your behavior will probably communicate what you’re looking for. If you want casual then you have to act casual. Telling someone you’re looking for something casual negates the casual! Did you learn nothing from Joey Tribiani?

I don’t want to date people who feel they have to warn people about what kind of relationship they seek. Your dates should be able to determine that on their own. The people who have to include disclaimers in their profiles or offline conversations come off defensive and presumptuous.

That said, the reason why you’re finding out that these men you’re seriously dating aren’t compatible for you is because you’re not speaking up and asking questions. No, you don’t have to declare your intentions on the first few dates. But when someone tells you they love you or when things start to resemble a serious relationship, that’s probably a good time to communicate your expectations.

You’re letting the relationships happen to you instead of being a proactive participant. Maybe you’re not speaking up because you don’t want to scare them off. I don’t know. It sounds like you’re going along to get along hoping things will magically work out to your benefit. You ultimately want something long-term. You’re not really looking to date anybody casually. That’s the disconnect.

You need to choose which option you really want.

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9 Responses to “How Does One Casually Date?”

  1. LostSailor Says:

    How do I tell a potential date that I’m not looking for anything serious right away without making it seem that I’m just not interested in commitment period?

    Um, just tell them that you’re not necessarily looking for anything serious at the moment and want to keep things casual for now. That way they know you don’t necessarily want to get serious right away, but you’re not closing off the possibility later. But Moxie’s right that this shouldn’t come up until well into dating.

    Honestly, even if you say you want casual, a lot of guys aren’t going to hold you to that if they actually fall for you. The other side is that some guys are going to take you at your word and may be seeing other women or may not be on the same page if you “fall” for them at a later point. Which, from your letter, seems like better than even odds.

    Moxie is also right that you simply don’t seem cut out to date “casually” and need to be clearer with yourself as to what your real goals are. But since you seem to be into “relationships” perhaps the solution is short-term serial relationships. But you need to be active about ascertaining whether your partner is compatible and long-term potential. This also means you need to be ready to break it off sooner rather than later.

    I’d be interested to know how many of your “relationships” were ended by you and how many by the guys…

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  2. DrivingMeNutes Says:

    Ha, yeah, cue the chorus of “figure out what YOU want” commentary. You know what you want. Hell, even *I* know what you want. And, it AIN’T causal dating.

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  3. Howard Says:

    You don’t really want a casual relationship. You somehow told yourself to experiment a bit, but reading everything you said, it’s easy to see that it’s not what you really want. I imagine being disappointed the last time, now has you clutching at straws.

    I’m a guy, and at a couple of times in my lifetime tried dating more than one girl. I hated it. Some of us aren’t meant to do this casual thing. One night stands leave me cold and sex with no feelings is just not for me. I don’t criticize anyone wishing to do the casual thing. In fact I secretly envy them and admire them, because even though I can pull it off, it always leaves me wanting. Now, I’m perfectly capable of feeling and not clinging. That’s a life lesson I’ve somehow managed to absorb along the way. I would certainly advise you to meditate a little on that.

    I get the sense that, clinging is the real problem. Growth in life is accepting the impermanence of things and just being happy for the good things that happen to us without clinging too much. It’s like holding a bird in your hands. If you hold it too tight, you will squeeze it to death. If you hold it too loosely, it will fly away.

    Don’t give up. Don’t cave into a path that you really don’t want. Remember loving is giving, not trying to control and demand. You scare people away when you do that. Or you blind yourself to what the other person really is, because you are more interested in the idea of that person committing to you, than the person himself. I can’t imagine why it would take that long to figure out the previous guy never wanted kids. That really speaks volumes about the errant path that you have been following.

    I don’t want to beat up on you, because I see a lot of you in me when I was younger. I want to wish you luck and encourage you. Be open. Be aware. Learn to love in a way, where the object of your affections can feel expansive and having achieved the universe, not cloistered and constricted.

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  4. C Says:

    i totally agree with moxie. you’re problem is a) you dont know what you want, and b) you are in the passanger seat of your own life (at least your dating life).

    i also agree with everyone else in that you havent casually dated because in spite of what you think, you dont really want to.

    if you truly want to just try dating around and not fall into a relationship right away, dont go home with the guys until you decide you want it to get serious. i think this will keep most guys from thinking things are serious. if they really like you, a lot of them will still date you. plus this might keep you from feeling ‘guilty’ or ‘getting hooked’.

    and your biggest problem is that you dont end bad relationships. casual dating wont really solve that. lots of people are on their best behavior during the casual phase. you may not find out the guy is a cheater, a drug addict or even simply not compatible until you try him on for size.

    theres nothing wrong with getting to know one person at a time. many of us prefer that. however, you need to end it when its not working….and not a year later!!

    i’ve been in you’re shoes. what i did to combat this during my last round of dating is to ‘say no faster’. rather than casually dating guys who you are kind of ‘meh’ about, just say ‘no’ and keep yourself free to meet the guy who will knock your socks off. then as soon as you realize you are happier without him then with him, you put your socks back on and walk out.

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  5. jane Says:

    Ive written this a few times here but there is a happy medium. You dont have to date multiple people to date casually. I am the same way, I do not like dating more than one person at a time, nor do I appreciate being just one of many options to the person I am dating. It IS possible to date one person but just take it slower.

    Explore, have conversation, go out, and spend more time at that early stage. Dont call him your boyfriend, dont move in together. Its actually very simple. Just spend more time on the dating process, let him woo you and spend your time really learning all those important things. Partially I think as you get older and have been through relationships you now know what it is you want/dont want and you can suss those things out earlier on because now you know to look for them.

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    • D. Says:

      This.

      Dating isn’t either/or, casual/insta-relationship.

      I think most of this requires a particular mindset going in, as well as a recognition of what may be driving the urge to couple-up quickly with everyone. When I see someone who gets into relationships very very quickly on a repeated basis, I tend to assume that they’re looking more for a feeling rather than being into the other person. It’s more about being in a couple and having that sense of “security” than it is about saying “No, this is the only person I want to see and I want to be with them because of who they are.”

      Towards that end, you have to recognize that titles, statuses, gestures, etc. are all meaningless if there is no emotional content behind them. Real emotional connection takes time to develop; it doesn’t happen overnight. If a guy emailed you and said he loved you in his opening email, would you believe him? No? Then why would you believe him when it’s only been four dates? People don’t fall in love that quickly. They might become infatuated, or be having a terrific time with you and want to do more, but that’s not the same thing as real love.

      Likewise, someone can be your boyfriend…right up until they aren’t. The “security” offered by the title or the status of being in a relationship is illusory….unless you actually have spent enough time with the other person to really know that they’re gonna stick around — or that you want to stick around, for that matter. I could call someone my girlfriend after 2 dates. Doesn’t mean I wouldn’t dump her by date 6 if I lose interest, or vice versa.

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