Deal With a Non Committed Relationship

A casual relationship is often one with no expectation of a long-term commitment or of monogamy. If you’re thinking about having a non-committed relationship or are currently in one, prioritize communication and honesty first. Don’t just assume things will work themselves out, and instead, be clear on what the expectations are. Have some rules and limit your contact. Don’t get emotionally involved as this can lead to wanting more.


Making Sure It’s Right for You

  1. Ask yourself if you wanted a non-committed relationship. Before starting (or agreeing to) a non-committed relationship, make sure it’s something that you want. Write down the benefits for you in starting a non-committed relationship and consider how it will work well for you.
    • People choose non-committed relationships for various reasons. Perhaps you’ve just ended a long-term relationship and aren’t ready for a new one, or you keep busy by furthering your career and don’t have time for a committed relationship.
    • Don’t let your partner pressure you into a non-committed relationship if it’s not something you want.
  2. Believe that they don’t want to commit. Define the relationship as soon as possible so that each of you have clear expectations.[1] If someone says they don’t want to get married or are unsure about commitment, don’t hope that they will change their mind or ‘come around.’ It’s not your job to ‘fix’ them or encourage them to change. Ask the person, “Is this what you want?” or, “Is there a chance this might lead to something else?” and take them at their word that this is what they want.
    • You likely won’t be a hero for turning a non-committed person. Instead, you might just feel frustrated or disappointed.
  3. Accept the relationship as it is. Don’t expect a non-committed relationship to change in any way. If you’re unclear if you’re in a non-committed relationship, clarify the nature of your relationship. If you’re with someone and you want to move toward a committed relationship, recognize that you’re fighting a very difficult battle. It’s best to accept things as they are without hopes to change them.
    • If you’re unhappy in a non-committed relationship, talk about what you want and see if they’re on board. If they are not, it might be best to end things.

Respecting Yourself and Your Partner

  1. Define the rules. If you’re going into an agreed upon uncommitted relationship, define the rules. It’s best to get clear boundaries for how the relationship will go instead of wondering what is okay and what is not okay. Ask questions and make sure it feels fair to you. Ensure that you’re both have similar goals for the relationship.[1]
    • Establish some ground rules regarding being physical with other people or spending time with others. Decide whether your relationship is a secret or if you can leave abruptly if you fall in love with someone else.
    • Even though the relationship is casual, you’re still dealing with a person, not a sex toy. Being in a casual relationship doesn’t mean either of you can treat the other disrespectfully or coldly.
  2. Be honest. Honesty is vital in a non-committed relationship. Just because a relationship is casual doesn’t mean either of you should lie to each other. If you’re unhappy with an arrangement, don’t hope that you’ll get over it. Say something. If you step outside the boundaries you’ve set, admit it. Little lies can easily turn into big lies, and pretending things are okay when they aren’t isn’t fair to you or your partner. Get in the habit of giving feedback and expressing how you feel.[2]
    • If you need the rules to change, say something. If your partner asks to change the rules, be honest in how you feel about the changes and if you’re willing to make them.
    • For example, if your partner says they want to have sex with multiple people at a time, weigh in on how you feel about it.
  3. Make your opinion count. You should have an equal say in what happens in the relationship. If your partner wants the relationship to exist only on their terms, say something. Say clearly what you want like, “I want to come over tonight” or, “I need a brief break this week.” If your partner makes a request you’re not willing to complete, say so.[3]
    • Make sure your partner listens to you and considers your thoughts and feelings. If your thoughts and feelings about the relationship don’t seem to matter, this can lead to resentment and bitterness.
    • Don’t just go along with what your partner wants, especially if it hurts you or makes you feel angry or upset. Say, ‘I’m not comfortable with that.”
  4. Approach the relationship equally. It shouldn’t just be you who clears the schedule or makes compromises. If your partner is demanding your time and energy yet makes excuses for not doing the same for you, it’s not an equal relationship. If you feel like you’re putting in much more time or energy to meet up or see each other, consider asking some questions or breaking it off. Whatever your nature of your relationship, you’ll be more satisfied if it feels like the power is balanced.[4]
    • If you don’t want to break it off but still want more equality, say, “I’ve been coming over to your place a lot lately, why don’t you come to mine next time?”
    • You can also say, “I feel like I’m putting aside a lot of my time to accommodate your schedule. Could you give me some time, too?”
  5. Use protection. If both of you are having sex outside of this relationship, always use protection and encourage your partner to do the same. Nobody wants a sexually transmitted infection or unwanted pregnancy. If you and your partner are having sex with other people outside of the relationship, make sure you’re protected. If you’re intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, don’t have sex.[5]
    • Having sex with multiple people increases your chances of getting an STI and HIV.

Interacting Casually

  1. Stay emotionally uninvested. Do your best to keep your emotions out of this relationship. Emotional investment can lead to wanting to spend more time together, seeing the person more romantically, or wanting the relationship to progress. It can foster feelings of closeness and connection.[6] Casual relationships do not progress, so if you’re finding yourself wanting or hoping for more, back up. Romantic relationships involve being emotionally intimate, so avoid this part of the relationship.
    • Avoid “pillow talk” and opening up emotionally after sex.
    • If the person you’re with expects you to take care of them or listen to them, recognize that this might blur the lines with a relationship. Keep your involvement in each other’s lives minimal.
  2. Keep conversations light. Don’t share very personal information with your partner. If you begin to share more personal information with each other, this might increase the emotional bond you share, which can lead to feelings of commitment. Sharing vulnerability and having deeper conversations can lead to increased closeness.[7] Since the nature of the relationship is to avoid these feelings, keep things upbeat and not personal.
    • Keep discussions in the now. If you talk about the future often, this might indicate that you want a long-term relationship.
    • If you’re starting to feel more emotionally invested, back off a bit.
  3. Keep your personal life separate. Don’t introduce this person to your friends and family. Most people who want a casual relationship want to keep their lives separate, so mixing in friends or family can send mixed messages. It can blur the lines of expectations and lead to confusion. Keep your personal life private and separate from your casual relationship.
    • Some people are okay with interacting with friends with a casual partner. This requires a great deal of compartmentalization.
  4. Limit your contact. Don’t call, text, email, or contact the person regularly. Limit contact to once each week. Spending more time together may increase feelings of affection or bonding, which can break down the nature of the casual relationship.[5]
    • Wanting to see the person more than once a week may indicate that you want more than a casual relationship.

Calling It Quits

  1. Leave if you’re unhappy. The nature of non-committed relationships is that they end when they cease to be mutually beneficial. If you’re with someone who doesn’t want a commitment and you’re finding it difficult to cope with, walk away. Perhaps you’ve made efforts to connect and make the relationship work, but find that you’re unhappy or dissatisfied with the relationship. If this time comes, recognize that you cannot change the person. If the relationship feels more negative than positive, break it off.[8]
    • Say, “This has been fun and I like spending time with you. However, I’m looking for a committed relationship and this isn’t it. I know this is what you want, but it is not what I want any longer. No hard feelings, but please don’t call me anymore.”
  2. Avoid being controlled. If your partner dictates when you see each other, when you have sex, how often you see each other, and when you avoid each other, you might start to feel controlled by them. Other controlling behaviors might include criticism, feeling like you “owe” them something, or feeling pressured into doing things you don’t want to do.[9]
    • If you’re starting to feel controlled, walk away before they break your heart.
    • Don’t go along with something you don’t agree with. If you have feelings and they don’t, it’s best to break it off.
  3. Don’t be manipulating. Avoid saying things like, “I want you in my life and I can’t imagine my life without you, but I still want to see other people.” This can confuse the other person and leave them wondering how you feel. If your feelings have changed, let them know. Whether you have started having feelings for them or have lost interest, you should say something. Don’t be overly critical or judgmental of the person as a way to gain control.[10]
    • Casual relationships always have an expiration date. Whether one of you finds someone else or loses interest, know that it will come to an end. Just don’t hurt the person in the meantime and know when to let go.

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Sources and Citations