Serious relationships tend to be monogamous and long-term—or at least conducted with that intention in mind. Even if it doesn’t pan out, there was a level of seriousness there that reflected commitment—more so than casual dating ever provides. There’s also the underlying message: love is there. Love isn’t a word thrown around lightly when casually dating. Let’s consider the signs, to see where you might be.
#1 Casual dating can mean friends with benefits. This isn’t always the case, but there’s a chance that if you’re casually dating, you have a friend who’s also single, and you’re having sex on occasion. This doesn’t mean you’re in a relationship; it means you’re both helping each other with sexual frustration. If there was more to it—something serious—there would have been a discussion.
#2 Odds are, there’s more than one person. Because you’re not serious with any one person, there are probably 2+ people in the picture at any given time. Maybe you’re texting one person, but planning a coffee date with another. It’s not wrong; since you’re not tied down, you’re simply screening a list of potential candidates. It could also be that you’re having fun, and taking a break from dating, but still want people to do things with.
#3 May or may not include sex. Casual dating doesn’t mean you have to sleep with everyone you talk to. On any given day, you might meet someone new, or stop talking to someone you’ve been talking to for months. The idea of sleeping with every single person that comes and goes isn’t exactly realistic for most people. In fact, sometimes casual daters don’t sleep with anyone at all, opting to wait until a serious relationship is established.
#4 May see each other occasionally, or even a little more. If you’re not serious with someone, why see them all the time? Might as well see them on occasion, or maybe regularly, but not most of the time. The minute you see them too much, you inch closer to something more serious.
#5 The chances for unfulfilled romantic feelings are high. This is a sad reality that everyone needs to understand: sometimes you won’t end up on the same page. It could be that one of you has intense feelings, and the other doesn’t. It could be that one of you wants to commit to a relationship, but the other one isn’t ready, despite having romantic feelings. Life is hard, and love is perhaps one of the hardest aspects of it. Timelines don’t always match up.
#6 Might not know each others’ friends. Think of friends as a test. You have to prove yourself to meet someone’s friends, then prove yourself again upon meeting them. If you’re still in the proving part, you may or may not have a shot. Now, if the person makes it obvious you’re not even close, and will never meet their friends, it’s never going to get serious.
#7 Level of seriousness is low. Casual daters don’t usually find themselves sighing on a bench, in a garden, fantasizing about a long, lasting future with someone. The expectation is low, so marriage and family planning aren’t really on the table. The minute serious topics come up, someone has developed feelings.