Casual Flings

Casual Flings

Rose MacDowell

Casual flings have become an accepted part of the search for love, a way to explore who you are and what you want from a relationship. But don't let the word "casual" fool you! Hook-ups, one-night stands, and friends with benefits arrangements aren't always just a phase before a long-term commitment or marriage.

Some people actually prefer briefer or less committed connections, while others think of casual flings as fun but temporary lead-ups to long-lasting love. Let's take a closer look at casual flings, the forms they can take, and the rules that govern these unique liaisons.  

What Is A Casual Fling?

A casual fling, or casual relationship, is a sexual relationship that usually lasts from from hours to weeks, though there are no hard and fast rules. The word "casual" comes from the Latin meaning "of little value," while the word "fling" means "to throw away carelessly."

Most of the time, a casual fling is both superficial and short, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have meaning to the participants! What purpose can a casual fling serve? Here are some of the most common reasons people engage in casual relationships

  • To explore their sexuality or try out new kinks
  • To try to get over another relationship
  • To celebrate a breakup or divorce
  • To feel less lonely or isolated
  • To connect with another person, if only for a short time
  • To experience intimacy while taking a break from serious relationships

While a fling itself may not have staying power, it can be the catalyst for emotional change, sexual exploration, or a life transition. It can also be a positive or a negative, depending on the circumstances and the person you choose.

You might cringe when you remember your hook-up, or be grateful for what it taught you about yourself. The partner in your fling may become a trusted friend, or you may have trouble remembering their name if you ever knew it in the first place! 

Casual Dating Vs. Casual Flings

Casual dating may sound similar to casual flings, but they do have different meanings. While flings are usually short and sexual (think people you meet at bars, parties, and online), casual dating (also, well, bars, parties, and online) generally refers to seeing people to have fun and get acquainted, but not necessarily to have sex or commit long-term.

Casual dating can describe everything from coffee with a few people a month to sex with a number of different partners. Some of us date casually after a breakup, when we're busy with school or careers, or because we aren't interested in a deeper relationship. We might date casually for years, or have flings because commitment isn't right for us at this time in our lives.

Still not sure how to distinguish between casual dating and casual flings? Here four ways to tell the difference: 

1. Frequency. A partner in a casual fling will often see you once or twice, but rarely more. A casual date is more likely to see you after the first few dates, even if it's only on occasion.

2. Amount of contact. Fling partners aren't known for being communicative, unless they want to set up another time to get together. If you hear from someone daily or several times a week? Casual date behavior. Not at all or only to arrange a booty call? Casual fling.   

3. Type of contact. A casual date might be interested in learning more about you, or be open to a longer-term connection over time. This can mean they text and call you more often, and ask more questions about you and your interests. A casual fling is less likely to want to get to know you on more than a superficial level. 

4. Friends and family. Does the other person want to introduce you to friends or family? This rings all the casual and even more serious dating bells! Are they mum about the other people in their life, or meet you in places where they won't run into friends? Casual fling with a capital CF. 

What Are The Rules Of A Fling?

Each of us chooses what a casual fling means for us, and how we view dating at different times in our lives. But there are some general parameters for casual flings that can help define what they are and how to feel about them. A fling with no boundaries can cause you to "catch feelings" or misunderstand your fling partner's intentions.

Casual flings by definition are meant to mean little to everyone involved, making a few rules key. The basic casual relationship rules are as follows:

  • Remember that you're not exclusive. The paramount rule of flings is that they're not the only one, and neither are you. You're both free to see, talk to, and sleep with other people, even if that doesn't always feel good to think about. 
  • The future doesn't exist. A casual fling is temporary by definition. Even if it goes on longer than either of you expected, if you both still consider it a casual fling, then its days are numbered. If you don't, then you've moved past a casual fling into something else (friends with benefits, or even boyfriend and girlfriend?).  
  • Don't get attached. Attachment, catching feelings, falling in deep like -- all are strongly discouraged if you want to avoid heartbreak during a casual fling. Oxytocin released during sex can often make you want to bond with your partner, even if you have no genuine interest in a longer-term relationship. Keep the focus off attachment and on having fun, discovering yourself, and letting your head rule your heart. 
  • Use protection. Need we say it? No matter what your age, a casual fling should always involve protection. If you're not exclusive, fluid-bonded partners, protection is key to your health and happiness. 

Can A Fling Become A Partner?

We've all heard of casual flings that turned into meaningful relationships. And of course, it is possible. You are sharing your bodies and at least a small part of your lives. Signs a casual relationship is getting serious might include:

  • You see each other again. And again. It may not be a date, but it's something. All you know is that you're together more than you expected. What was meant to be a hook-up is starting to look a lot like a relationship, or at least a more extended friends with benefits situation. Seeing each other represents an investment of time, which means an investment in each other. 
  • You start sharing more. They're talking about their childhood, while you're disclosing embarrassing moments from college. You know they have a therapist, and they know the nitty gritty of your divorced. When you start opening up more, you may have a budding relationship on your hands.
  • Sex gets more comfortable. If your connection is evolving into something more serious, you may start to see the changes reflected in the bedroom. Maybe sex feels more open and intimate, or you start having sex less and talking and cuddling more. 
  • Two words -- pet names. Maybe it's as simple as "honey" or "baby," but suddenly you're not calling each other by your given names. Bonus points if they're calling you something unique and personal that only the two of you would understand. 
  • You have "The Talk." You have a discussion about things you're not "supposed" to care about, like the future, what "this" is, and how you feel about each other. When you start to verbalize your thoughts and emotions and get vulnerable with each other, you can be pretty sure you've jumped from the casual fling track to the relationship express.