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Why Casual Relationships Don't Work

by Kayla McCullough

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Being unattached to the guy your hooking up with and acting as though you are unscathed by his willingness to eye every girl that walks past him like she’s a piece of unearthed treasure is awful, and demeaning. There I said it. Today’s generation has a weird fascination with keeping love at arm’s length. We downplay any feelings that bear semblance to love, we are careful to avoid looking like we care “too much,” and it’s (almost) normal to be in love with someone you’re not even following on social media. Almost every woman in her 20s can talk about a significant, life-altering relationship she has had that was never even defined as a relationship. There is no proof that the “relationship” ever existed—except in the minds of the people who lived it and the friends who helped pick up the pieces—because there were never any photos, status changes, outings, or any other physical or virtual trace that suggests anything beyond the occasional mumble that two people were sleeping together for a while.

People have always had sex. But sex hasn’t always been meaningless and compartmentalized. Where our parents were wearing each other’s letterman jackets and mailing love letters, we—yes, the rejected, sad, lonely 20-somethings—are exploring Tinder for “something casual” and staring wide-eyed at the ellipses on our iPhone screens, praying that what we just typed, thoroughly and totally without AutoCorrect’s help, doesn’t make us sound like the emotional wrecks that we are. Sex is an inherently emotional experience. Once you sleep with someone, you develop a soul tie with them. So even when you are no longer in bed with them, they will remain in your head and it will be as if you’ve been with them a thousand times before your thirty-minute hookup. Your thoughts will be consumed by their absence and you’ll feel disconnected from the start because you’ve given away your most prized asset. Using sex to create the illusion of an emotional connection may work for a night, but the next morning, you’ll feel emptier than ever. You’ll cover your body with a blanket to be less vulnerable, but it won’t work because the vulnerability will stem from your soul. Using sex to feel more self-confident may work (temporarily) until he leaves, and you’ll then realize that you feel worse about yourself because he didn’t stay, even though you knew what was on the table. In a causal relationship, you’ll have sex with him because you want a relationship, and you hope that someday, he’ll choose you. You’ll reason with yourself that having this (whatever this might be), is better than not having anything at all, and that’s tragic, because this equates to settling, and settling for a relationship that offers no commitment is like settling for a house that has no foundation – it doesn’t make sense.

When it comes to a casual relationship, neither one of you owes each other anything. That means the lines between commitment suddenly blur and ghosting is the new form of breaking up (which is probably given). What happens in most cases is, even if you have written out the law binding boundaries that you both will “follow”, one person will undoubtedly get hurt. This isn’t because you’re a flawed human being and you can’t abide by the laws that govern society. It’s actually because you are abiding by a set of Universal Laws that govern the heart. You see, the heart will always want what it can’t have. It doesn’t matter if this person is probably the furthest thing you need, your heart is going to perceive them as the one thing it craves. When you enter into what I call a limited relationship (one that exists in the in-between), you are giving your heart an expiration date and committing to picking up the pieces when it shatters. When two people don’t want to commit to one another, it leaves room to date other people. Like it or not, unless there is a discussion or promise to be exclusive, each party is free to do whatever they would like, with whoever they would like. This can be quite uncomfortable when reality slaps you in the face, and you realize you do not want to share the person you’ve been investing time in with someone else. It happens a lot in casual relationships and usually leads to one or if not, both people feeling extremely hurt. Once the realization that the ending you were tragically subsiding from passes, the path to healing becomes clear – it comes time to cut ties and “break up” with this person - that way you’re one step closer to finding you’re one and only. And when an almost relationship comes to an end, there’s usually not a definitive breaking point. There’s just drifting, fading, and then, of course, an inquiry – the thought of what happened, what went wrong. This form of an almost relationship is not sustainable and it’s crazy to think that it’s normal to connect with someone on such a raw and deep level and then just not care about it.



It's normal to want to form a connection with someone and casual relationships allow that to happen, quickly. If you don’t have a support system of strong women behind you, most of the time the next best thing is to find that support in someone else. It’s okay to feel things. It’s okay to want a relationship, and it’s more than okay to say that out loud. Conversely, it’s also okay to “just have sex” when you aren’t doing so out of an ulterior motive. If you aren’t ready for a relationship and you want to have casual sex, you are free to do that. If you find freedom and empowerment in casual sex, then you should be safe, comfortable, and reassured that your choice is your own. You should do whatever makes you genuinely happy, it’s crazy to act like a connection you forged between you and another human being at your most vulnerable point is normal to walk away from as though it meant nothing. Casual relationships are great for feeling true freedom but don’t be afraid to scratch the surface in a world that values shallow connections.


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