Defining casual dating is tricky. In a general sense, it refers to loosely-agreed upon terms for a relationship, where the level of commitment is decided in advance. Usually, it’s meant to provide some parameters on how a dating situation will proceed, and how emotionally intimate the relationship is allowed to get.
The problem with strictly defining casual dating is that it can mean different things to different people. It can mean monogamy, but low priority, where you’ve agreed to only date each other, but also keep the level of future commitment and emotional investment within shared low expectations. It can also be an arrangement where you’re both free to date other people.
The main principle of casual dating is, basically, that it’s a looser situation than what your traditional monogamous, committed relationship might be.
The good thing is that casual dating can be whatever you want it to be. But that’s also the hard thing, because you and whoever you’re with has to decide what it will look like. That’s why it’s important for the boundaries to be set pretty early on in the relationship—so you both can have an accurate expectations and start out on the same page.
There are more than a few ways to go about casually dating, but perhaps the most commonly understood meaning of the phrase is that the relationships you enter will not be monogamous. (It’s important not to confuse non-monagamy in casual dating with polyamory—a polyamorous person can be a non-monagmous casual dater, but that’s not always the case.)
Casual dating is meant to be more of an in-between phase, where you’re not ready to be in a serious relationship, but you still want to enjoy romantic company until you find someone you feel is worth the commitment. It can be seen as a way to play the field a bit. Look at it as a way to meet new and interesting people and have some fun, memorable experiences. Try to resolve what your goals are before embarking on the casual dating journey—it’ll make the whole thing more enjoyable for you and those that you date.
If you’re interested in dipping your toe in the casual dating waters, there are a few things you should keep in mind. You need to be okay with your dates dating other people. If you’re going to, you have to be cool with them getting the same amount of freedom. If you know you tend to be a more jealous person, it might not be a good idea for you to try it.
If you enter into a casual dating arrangement with someone, you’re both going to need to be honest and upfront. Do you want to hear about the other people they’re dating? If not, you have to make that a boundary from the start. If you’re okay with it, you’ll have to talk about the level of detail the two of you will share. You can choose whatever feels best to you, but for most people, casual dating is about limiting the depth of your emotional connection, so you may not want to share on those topics.
One thing casual dating does not mean is that you can disregard the feelings of your dates. You are both still important to each other, regardless of whether or not you’ve already decided this won’t be a major thing. You have to treat people kindly and with respect, no matter what the future of your relationship might be. If you’re with someone who acts like casual dating means they don’t have to care about your feelings at all, they’re just being a jerk. Being considerate is just basic human decency—plus, it’ll make your time together, however limited that may be, more enjoyable.
It’s okay if you try it and find you’re not that into casual dating. It’s also okay to make that your main mode of dating for however long you want to. As long as you’re being honest and kind, there’s no wrong way to do it.