Sexual Only Relationships

Sexual Only Relationships

Sarah Riccio

Some call it friends with benefits, others call it a casual hookup, and some people just call it a fling. There are many terms for the sexual-only relationship, and even more ways to enjoy it!

Follow along as I explore the ins and outs of relationships that revolve around sexual intimacy, including the ways they can go wrong or very right. Plus, I'll talk about whether casual flings can turn into serious, longterm partnerships. 

Types of Casual Relationships

So, what is a casual relationship? Well, there's no one definition for this term, but it typically refers to an intimate relationship wherein longterm commitment is not the priority. In fact, the emphasis on short term intimacy over more traditional goals like marriage and children is one of the most appealing part for many couples in casual relationships. 

To get a better understanding of this dynamic, let's look at some common examples of casual relationships.

  • One-night stand. The one-night stand is typically the casual relationship with the shortest timespan and least amount of commitment because, well, it lasts one night only. The idea behind this kind of casual relationship is to enjoy one night of safe sex, and then agree to part ways. With one-night stands, sexual intimacy and gratification is usually the primary motivation.
  • Friends with benefits. Friends with benefits relationships, commonly referred to as FWB, can last as long as a traditional marriage (and often do!). In the FWB dynamic, the people involved enjoy spending time together, and often share a close bond. However, the confines of a traditional committed relationship don't apply here, and sex tends to be the primary focus. Of course, each FWB is different; and it's always best to establish the terms of your relationship with your partner directly.
  • Booty call. A booty call is kind of like the middle ground between the one-night stand and friends with benefits dynamics. Basically, a booty call is someone you engage with purely for sexual purposes. But, unlike with the one-night stand, booty call relationships can last a long time. The main thing that separates it from a FWB is that there is no emphasis on intimacy outside of sexual connection. 

Chances are, you've heard of at least one of the sexual-only relationship dynamics listed above. And if you've been in one yourself, you might also know that these relationships can get a pretty tricky. Because of the non-traditional nature of these relationships, effective communication can be extra important in maintaining a healthy dynamic.

Why would anyone even want a casual relationship, anyway? Let's take a closer look. 

Why Have Casual Sex?

There are lots of reasons people have casual sex, many of which simply revolve around pleasure. Remember: you don't need to be in love or engaged to benefit from a healthy relationship. Sexual intimacy has so many wonderfully positive effects on physical and mental health, with or without the presence of a serious, committed relationship. 

What are some of the reasons to have casual sex?

Fewer complications. Many people engage in casual relationships because they demand less consistent accountability, commitment, and communication. Basically, casual, sex-only relationships can be a way to avoid all the "strings" that come attached to a traditional relationship.

Scheduling. Managing a relationship can be just as time consuming as a full-time job, and not everybody has time for something that isn't casual. Feeling like there's not enough time for a traditional relationship is a very common reason for choosing a sexual-only, casual relationship.

The thrill. For lots of folks, the idea of casual sex has a novelty factor that's intriguing and arousing. The prospect of sleeping with someone new can be very exciting, but tends to lose its luster over time. With causal relationships, that excitement can last for much longer!

Testing the waters. Sometimes relationships start out as casual friends with benefits dynamics before evolving into something more serious. It's common for folks to want to see how sexual compatibility is before considering emotional compatibility, and therefore pursue a casual relationship at first. 

Ultimately, every casual relationship is unique and has its own benefits and downfalls. No matter the reason you choose you enjoy a casual relationship, make sure communication is effective and consistent. Otherwise, casual flings can get seriously complicated. 

Speaking of which, let's take a closer look at the benefits and drawbacks of casual relationships, and how proper communication ties it all together. 

Benefits and Drawbacks of Casual Relationships

As always, the perks and pitfalls of sexual-only or casual relationships differ across situations. No matter what your unique arrangement, communication is among the key elements to keeping your casual relationship healthy and happy.

Good communication in casual relationships can look different for every couple, but a few strategies include weekly check-ins to re-establish boundaries and consent, giving feedback after intercourse, disclosing relations with other partners, and anything else that feels pertinent to share. 

Some potential benefits of a casual relationship with good communication are:

  • Self-esteem boost. Having regular sex with someone who makes you feel sexy and wanted can be very beneficial to your self-esteem, and boost your confidence in other areas of life too!
  • Sexual satisfaction. Perhaps the biggest benefit of the casual relationship is sexual satisfaction. Because the relationship essentially revolves around sex, people in casual dynamics tend to prioritize pleasure and feel more sexually gratified. 
  • Meeting a future partner. Casual relationships turn into serious relationships all the time. This doesn't have to be the goal, of course, but it can be a very welcome perk for some. 

Some potential drawbacks of a casual relationship with poor communication are:

  • Wanting more. Sometimes in casual relationships, one person grows to want more than just sex while the other person wants to keep things as they are. In these situations, it's best to part ways rather than compromise your emotional needs. This can happen with or without good communication, but it's important to tell your partner how you're feeling so you can come to a healthy solution. 
  • Jealousy. Casual relationships are often not monogamous, meaning the partners involved see other people outside of the relationship. Again, the terms of non-monogamous relationships must be consistently communicated, or you risk feelings of jealousy, rage, betrayal, and more. When this starts to happen, the foundation of the casual relationship begins to break down. 
  • Feeling used. In some situations, one person might be looking for a FWB while the other person is more interested in a booty call. When these specific wants and needs aren't communicated, the person looking for a friend with benefits might end up feeling used for only sex. Again, communication is key!

Overall, the research surrounding casual relationships is quite varied because each person is affected by each dynamic differently. Yes, casual relationships can and do often transform into longterm commitments, and sometimes they don't. Sometimes they are based solely around sex, and other times they involve platonic intimacy, too. Just remember to take time to decide what's best for you, and communicate honestly so your needs are met.