Casual relationships: Should you keep the flame burning or snuff it out?

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According to a 2012 general psychology review published by the National Institutes of Health, at least 60 percent of college-aged students have participated in a casual, sexual relationship. Although the intensity of physical intimacy of the relationships observed varied, the common feature was that these relationships were unlike traditional romantic relationships in that they lacked commitment and exclusivity.

These arrangements can be appealing to some because they do not require the great amount of time, emotional and financial commitment a traditional relationship entails. Furthermore, they are beneficial for those who are lonely but also want to keep their options open. That’s not to say that casual relationships cannot develop into something more — there is definitely that possibility especially if two people are spending a great deal of time together.

So how does one exactly know whether it’s worthwhile to turn a dalliance into a committed relationship? First, it’s important to assess your own feelings. If you find yourself constantly thinking about the other person, or becoming uneasy when they date other people, you might be developing romantic feelings for them. If you truly care about your partner, and are interested in being with them for the foreseeable future, perhaps it might be a good idea to discuss making the relationship exclusive with them.

However, in order to move forward, the other person obviously has to feel the same way. If they’re not ready to commit, then it’s not beneficial continuing any sort of relationship with them. You should never compromise your own well-being or desires to be with a person who does not want the same things you do. Remaining in a casual relationship when you want something more is a waste of your time and harmful to your self-worth.

Another factor that can influence whether a casual relationship should continue or not is distance. If neither of you have any intention of becoming anything serious, but still make the effort to see each other over long distances, it might be time to reevaluate both of your motivations. Casual relationships are just that — casual. They’re meant to be easy and convenient. If both of you are investing time and other resources just to see each other, you are probably more attached to one another than you might care to admit.

Remaining in a casual relationship when you want something more is a waste of your time and harmful to your self-worth.

I once dated a guy who lived an hour away. While that might not seem like a huge distance, deciding who would drive to the other person or determining a midpoint to meet up at was always a huge ordeal (especially considering that the towns between us were practically ghost towns). While I enjoyed spending time with him, I realized I was half-assing my commitments and neglecting my studies.

This brings me to my next point: If distance makes it difficult to see one another regularly and you’re not willing to make the effort to see the other person physically anymore, it’s better to just cease communication altogether. Especially if the two of you didn’t have a platonic relationship beforehand, messaging each other is ultimately pointless. In this situation, you’re essentially pen pals. Speaking to one another over text messages or over the phone inadvertently makes you dependent on each other, even if you don’t realize it. Although the interaction might be virtual, composing messages and reading their responses still requires time, which could be better redirected toward meeting someone new. You’re better off finding someone closer in proximity to you instead of becoming emotionally attached to someone you won’t even see in person.

While this might seem like a cynical perspective, non-committed relationships are cynical in nature. People engage in them for their own benefit and disengage when it becomes inconvenient. If you’re no longer happy or satisfied in your casual relationship, don’t be afraid to call it off. It’s pointless to torture yourself over something that isn’t serious, and most likely, the other person will appreciate your honesty. Understandably, although the emotional component in casual relationships is not equivalent to the amount in serious relationships, it is still hard to part ways with someone you are comfortable with.

However, staying with someone because they are familiar can be detrimental to your own progress. Casual relationships are intended to be maintained on the side, not something that should be taking away from the significant aspects of your life. If you find yourself preoccupied with thoughts about your partner or the direction of your relationship, it might be useful to consider the aforementioned points, reevaluate your feelings and decide whether it’s appropriate to keep seeing them or not.

Regardless, non-committed relationships can be fun and, occasionally, educational experiences. Though they are superficial, it is still important to communicate with the other person in order to ensure that you have a mutual understanding of what the relationship entails, so that nobody is (too) hurt in the end.

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