Casual Dating: What It Is, How It Works

There are so many stigmas out there when it comes to dating because most people think their way of dating is the “right” way. Because of that, casual dating is often mistaken for casual sex relationships or seen as a stepping stone towards more romantic or committed relationships.

While both of those situations are sometimes the case, they definitely aren’t always the case.

To help define casual dating, detail how it works in the modern dating world, and determine if it’s the right type of dating for you—we’re going to take a deep dive. If you’ve ever been curious about casual dating or are just looking for something new in your dating journey, read on!

What is Casual Dating?

As close to a Webster definition as we can offer, casual dating is a consensual physical or emotional relationship between two people who go on dates without necessarily expecting the commitment of a more serious romantic entanglement.

However, with that overarching definition in mind, there is still quite a bit of nuance.

Casual dating doesn’t necessarily mean you’re into the hook-up or fling scene. It can mean that, and there are many apps to help in that regard, but it could also mean you’re interested in simply going on dates looking for a connection or various healthy relationships. The reason this stipulation is important is because there are so many reasons people look into casual dating:

  • They might have just gotten out of a long relationship and aren’t looking for another.
  • They might enjoy spending time with someone but are still keeping their options open.
  • They might be looking for more interpersonal experience.
  • They might not be looking for a long-term commitment.
  • They might just want to have some fun!
  • And many, many more!

No matter what situation brings you to casual dating, the key takeaway is that there are no obligations when doing it. It’s light, informal, there are no tags or monikers of boyfriend and girlfriend—it’s a no-strings-attached mentality as you both look for whatever it is you’re looking for.

How Does Casual Dating Work

In the story of your dating life, casual dating can take up a small, large, or the whole of your experience—and there’s nothing wrong with any of those situations.

The key to success in casual dating is being up front about it. It’s knowing what you’re looking for (even if you don’t yet know what you’re looking for), and expressing to any prospective partner the same thing. In that regard, casual dating works best when both parties know what to expect from the get-go. Because whatever you do, and whomever you do it with, respect is paramount.

Respect yourself, and respect who you become involved with. If you aren’t looking for an intimate or sexual relationship, make that known. If you are going on dates with other people, make sure all parties are aware of it. Whatever the case, be clear with yourself and them.

What to Be Aware of When Casual Dating

Casual dating isn’t necessarily for everyone.

It’s possible that you find value or safety in committed monogamous relationships and casual dating might add undue stress. However, sometimes it takes trying to find those things out about ourselves. But as you’re finding out keep your own mental health and the well-being of others in mind.

It can be easy fall into the hole of treating casual relationships low on your list of priorities—but that doesn’t mean people you engage in a relationship with shouldn’t be on that list at all. With that in mind, avoid things like ghosting the people in relationships that don’t work out, honor the boundaries (sexual or otherwise) set by you and anyone else, and keep commitments that you make. Casual dating may involve you in less serious or defined relationships—but they are still relationships and the feelings you have or that the other person has from that relationship should always be taken into account.

Something else to mention that you’ll likely experience during casual dating is “catching feelings.” Whether it happens to you, or the person you’re seeing, strong romantic feelings can sometimes bring an end to casual dating—in either a positive or negative way. It might turn out that the feelings are mutual and the casual relationship turns into something more serious—or it might turn out that one person has stronger feelings and the other still isn’t ready to escalate the relationship any further.

Because feelings and connection are always a possibility in casual dating, being as clear and honest in your communication with one another is still extremely important. It’s normal to “catch feelings” with someone you find compatibility with—just be aware of what you both are looking for.

How to Start Casual Dating

There are no rules for how to begin casual dating but there are a number of apps that can help with the matchmaking aspect. Further, there are a number of apps that allow you to stipulate what you’re looking for so you don’t run into someone looking for something serious when you don’t feel ready for that just yet. If you are curious about which apps work best for casual dating, check out our reviews!

Is Casual Dating Right for You?

Casual dating can offer a way of exploring relationships with people you’re interested in without the pressure of commitments or thoughts of a future. It can be a great way to find out what you’re looking for in another person, and find out more about yourself along the way.

At the same time, casual dating isn’t for everyone. If you’re having a hard time deciding on what you should do next, the best advice is being honest with yourself when you look internally. Casual dating can be a wonderful opportunity to get to know a lot of people and keep your options open. It doesn’t have to be an end-all decision, it could just be a stage you’d like to experience on your dating journey—and whatever brings you toward casual dating or away from it, be open and honest with what you want.