How This Casual Era Of Non Relationships Is Changing Us
A “thing,” a “situation,” a “special friend”—these are some of the words people use to describe a person with whom they are having sex on a regular basis, and spending time together in a way that looks remarkably like dating. But they don’t say “dating” and they definitely don’t say “In a relationship with.” Those terms seem to have fallen off the face of the planet—when you hear them, they feel like old relics from an ancient time. Casual is the name of the game today. It’s great for some of those individuals who always wanted to keep things light, but what about those people who are wired for commitment and going all in? Could this new non-committal atmosphere be altering them, and not for the better? Here is how this era of casual hookups and non-commitment is changing us.
Nobody is allowed to want monogamy
If nobody feels allowed to say they want exclusivity, and if nobody feels entitled to monogamy or feeling certain that the person they’re with isn’t with anybody else, then how is anybody to realize it if the person they’re dating has become so invested in them, that if they slept with someone else, it would be hurtful?
So people accidentally cheat
Because nobody can outwardly state how advanced their attachment has become, people accidentally cheat—in a way—all of the time. I’ve had several friends tell me that they accidentally cheated. Apparently, one person they were seeing thought they were exclusive, but that wasn’t a mutual understanding.
Emotions don’t belong with sex
Talking about deeply personal things, like our fears, insecurities, dreams, hopes, and traumas has no place in a conversation with the person we’re having sex with. It’s ironic—the person we’re the most physically intimate with is the one we’re the least emotionally intimate with.
We express ourselves elsewhere
It’s no wonder people are ranting on the Internet, and flocking to ayahuasca retreats and sweat lodges just to express themselves. They’re having to hold in all of their emotions at a time when emotions tend to flow—during sex.
Small gestures appear big
It’s hard to know what’s just a nice thing to do and what verges too much into relationship-type behavior. When your casual “thing’s” birthday comes up, for example, how involved should you be? Send a gift? Or just a text? Plan the party? Or just attend the party someone else planned?
So people accidentally drop the ball
People regularly accidentally drop the ball. For fear of overdoing it and making a gesture that is too large, they go too small. To many of my friends have gotten in trouble for not making enough of an effort on their casual hookup’s birthday. Really, they were just trying to avoid coming on too strong.
We’re less committal overall
In the thing that looks, sounds, feels, and smells like a relationship, we’re actually allowed to do things like cancel at the last minute, or not respond to texts for days. Because nothing is serious these days. But this trains us to be flakier in every part of our lives.
And it causes fights
When even the person we have sex with doesn’t get upset if we don’t return their call for a week, we can forget that people like our best friends and family do expect a prompt call back.
We forgive things we shouldn’t
Under the guise of “We weren’t in a relationship…” people can get away with a lot of traditionally crappy behavior. So we might forgive a guy we are only casually seeing for being a bad communicator and planner, saying he “Doesn’t owe me anything—we aren’t really together.”
But we overlook the truth
The reality is that, relationship or no relationship, people have a baseline of decency. And if a guy’s baseline is pretty bad when you aren’t “official,” it still will be if you do make things official.
Things progress incredibly slowly
Today, you only call yourselves official after casually dating for a year. That means you aren’t moving in together until you’ve already been sleeping together for three or four years, or getting married until seven to ten years in.
Forty-year-olds have roommates
This phenomenon of incredibly slow coupling has resulted in a lot of forty-year-olds still having roommates. Hey, rent is expensive. At least when you live with a significant other, people might guess you could afford your own place, but choose to live together.
People who want answers are “crazy” or “needy”
People who simply want to know things like “What are we?” and “Are you seeing anyone else?” are considered “crazy” or “needy.” These used to be perfectly normal things to wonder of someone you’ve been sleeping with for months.
So they’re becoming bitter
Individuals who are, actually, pretty socially well-adjusted are convinced that they are strange for asking basic questions like, “Where do you see this relationship going?” They become spurned so often that they become bitter.
It may be less efficient
Some might say that doing this this way—this very casual, extremely slow way—is more efficient, because you certainly know someone well by the time you get serious. But honestly, I think it’s less efficient. You don’t really get to know someone until you become open to the idea of getting close to them. So any time spent together before that is nearly a waste.