As a professional counselor, I cringe whenever I hear the phrase “casual dating”—especially when those saying it have been dating for months and months. Though many people use the term in an attempt to maintain space, push off commitment and implement some distance, in my opinion, what it really means is this: I’m just not ready to commit.
We have a tendency to complicate dating and to hover in uncertainty and ambiguity for far too long. Rather than making a decision to move forward in a relationship, or deciding to go ahead and end it—we hover in this world of “casual” for months, and even years, with no end in sight.
Matthew 5:37 provides all kinds of advice for life in general, but it would do us well to apply it to relationships: “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’”
I get that often times it’s easier to live in the bubble of a vague relationship rather than to make a choice to move one way or another, and human beings like to take the easy road. But this verse reminds us that simplicity is important when it comes to our communication with others—including others of the opposite sex. Let your yes be yes, and your no be no. If we applied this rule to dating, the “maybe” of casual dating would vanish.
On the road from acquaintances to friends, from friends to more-than friends, “casual” might be a stopping point along the way. There is definitely a time and place for casual. But eventually, you have to move on. Of course, that’s not always easy. If you’re actually stuck in dead-end dating, then here are some to ask that can help you move on.
Are You Past the Point of Casual?
Again, there is a time and place for casual. That time is called the stage of the firsts: first impressions, first conversations, first dates. In the early stages of dating, a relationship should always be casual. At this point, there is no need for thinking ahead, commitments or exclusive promises. It’s simply a time of knowing and becoming known. It’s a time of testing interactions, communication and attraction between two people. The first few months of dating can be considered casual, because the direction up ahead is still unclear.
But what turns a relationship from casual to committed? The answer is always time.
Within a few months, the very nature of a relationship turns from casual to committed. The time that you spend together, the conversations you exchange and the affection you begin to develop can no longer be considered casual. Once you have entered this stage of a relationship, your expectations are naturally heightened. The future is either a yes, we keep moving forward, or a no, it’s time to take a step back. Time should always eliminate “maybes,” and if it hasn’t, then the “maybe” is probably a no in disguise.
What Is It About Casual Dating That Makes You Comfortable?
If you are the one longing to be casual, you need to ask yourself why. Why do you hesitate to go deeper with this person? For some, the baggage of their past brings fears of future, commitment and permanency. For others, the relationship itself is not all that they had thought it would be. They see flaws within the relationship and they’re filled with doubts, fears and worries about the future.
Rather than helping you make a decision, casual dating keeps you stuck in confusion longer than you ever intended to stay. It paralyzes you from making a choice, and it keeps you stagnant in mediocrity rather than moving forward toward fulfillment.
If you are comfortable in a casual relationship, consider what it is that is keeping you from moving forward. Maybe you need to take it up a notch and communicate your honest feelings and commitment. Or maybe you need to reevaluate and step back before you get too involved in a relationship you know won’t go anywhere. But what you don’t want is to drift without direction.
Have You Counted the Cost?
For those who are living within the comfort of a casual relationship, there is always a cost. Relationships are meant to be exciting, fulfilling and healthy. They are made to grow, to stretch and to mature. They are meant to deepen in intimacy, connection and love.
If you are at a standstill within the world of casual dating, you have to really ask yourself what you are missing out on. There is always a cost. Casual may be taking the place of commitment. You may be entertaining a casual relationship at the expense of clarity and certainty.
Maybe by holding on to “casual” dating longer than you should be, you are keeping yourself from a relationship that could offer you so much more. Maybe by waiting for things to magically change, you are missing out on the change that could be taking place inside of you. Maybe by clinging to complacency in a relationship, you are saying “yes” to casual and “no” to finding committed love.
As it turns out, relationships are not really as complicated as we make them. Healthy relationships can be a challenge to cultivate (we’re only human, after all), but they are comfortable—because they are as they should be.
Healthy relationships progress easily, deepen steadily and develop passionately. There is no room for the “maybe” of casual when it comes to finding love, because true love is based on commitment. It does not weigh pros and cons or wander back and forth. So let your “yes” be yes, and your “no” be no.
It’s time to let go of “casual” and step into something new.
This article appeared in an earlier form at TrueLoveDates.com. Used with permission.
Debra is a Licensed Professional Counselor, relationship expert, speaker and author of several books, including True Love Dates. Debra is also the creator of the popular relationship advice blog TrueLoveDates.com, reaching millions of people with the message that healthy people make healthy relationships. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.