What I Learned from a Casual Relationship. Or Didn’t…I’m Still Unsure.

People in my age range (18-25), are obsessed with the hook up culture. Not all, mind you, but the majority. Humans are hardwired to seek out emotional partners. Yet, we have trained ourselves to accept a degree of emotional detachment for the sake of physical, and, although normally unexpected, emotional gratification. The rush induced by feeling wanted by a partner is often times overwhelming. We crave a person’s touch, insight, intelligence and wish for nothing more than the feelings to be reciprocated. However, our penchant for settling on one night stands exiles the most important feature of any relationship: attachment.

One night stands, or a casual string of hook ups leaves certain indivudals in a state of limbo. The sex can be great, sure, but what does it all mean? Receiving drunken texts at 2 a.m. to come over for an isolated sexual encounter only provides a degree of satisfaction, even if we refuse to acknowledge there may be more to the equation. There are two types of hookups: casual, and intimate. The former being an arrangement between two indviduals where sex and the occasional hang outs are acceptable. While the ladder involves “feelings;” conversation, dates, sleep overs.

I recently experienced what I believed to be an intimate hookup relationship. Yes, we had sex. Great sex, for that matter, but it went beyond just the occasional hook up. We explored nature together, enjoyed dinner dates, slept over at each other’s houses and engaged in intellectual conversation focused on our wants and needs, desires, childhood and emotional downfalls. Basically, we acted as any couple would without the social stigma that accompanies a full fledged relationship. I.e., we were not “boyfriend and girlfriend.”

Up to this point in my life, I had never been presented with the idea of a casual relationship. To be honest, I don’t fully understand what it means. I have a difficult time separating emotions from any relationship. The idea of any relationship falling under the casual category doesn’t make much sense to me when there is a connection established between the two of us. If you are comfortable with a person, enjoy each other’s company and develop a sense of trust, how can it be “casual?”

I met a young woman on Tinder (I know, I know) a couple of months ago. Both of us were fairly new to the dating app, and decided to meet up. That’s what Tinder is for, right? Neither of us had any expectations and figured it couldn’t hurt to go out with somebody new. From the beginning, she was clear with her intentions: it was meant to be a casual fling in which we hung out, had sex and spent time together. For good reason. She currently attends Cal State Monterey Bay, and is leaving for home in a month to pursue a major more relevant to her interests. It was understandable why she had no desire to enter into a committed relationship.

From the start, we learned that we got along quite well. There was no awkward phase in which you exchange half hearted small talk in hopes of avoiding a catastrophe. We meshed well. Our conversations were lively, we spent long periods of time together and enjoyed each other’s company. About a month in, I developed feelings for her. Strong feelings. It confused me because I knew she wanted nothing more than a casual fling, but in my eyes, we had entered that gray area in which there are clearly emotions involved, but you have no idea what to do with them. Feelings are difficult, huh?

Anyway, I decided to act on these emotions (in hindsight, mistake), and tell her how I felt. At this point, we were seeing each other 3-4x a week, had shared intimate details about our past and were excited about each new encounter. Again, she reiterated her commitment to keeping it casual, focusing on the notion that she was leaving soon and did not want anything long term. I settled for her explanation, but refused to believe there wasn’t something more to be had between us. Needless to say, we continued our unorthodox relationship and it continued as normal.

The next month we experienced an uptake in intimacy. While still carefree, our time spent together became increasingly less focused on sex (not that it ever really was), and more so on getting to know one another on a deeper level. We went to the beach, hiked and discussed our fears. Shared ideas with one another, went out in public and acted like a young couple experiencing the pleasures of feeling connected to another person. I was happy. Extremely happy. She helped make me a better man and encouraged me to utilize my talents. I began to recognize my own self-worth, while in turn helping her understand what an amazing young woman she truly is.

With all these emotions floating around, I became frustrated. She was committed to the idea that our relationship was merely casual, but in my mind, her actions painted an entirely different picture. Spending quality time with a person and building a foundation of trust is anything but casual. That gray area shrunk as a I struggled to repress my feelings and plunged further into limbo. I truly cared about this person even though, in a sense, it was forbidden. You aren’t supposed to fall for somebody who doesn’t want anything beyond a couple of months. My issue with the situation focused on the fact that I had never attempted anything casual. Generally, when two people fall for each other, there is an unspoken agreement acknowledging the idea that maybe, just maybe, there is a chance for the relationship to develop, and grow.

This brings me to the focal point of this particular post. Humans are driven by emotional desires. When feelings are present, labels no longer suffice in catergorizing a relationship. Expecting a person to separate what he/she believes to be legitimate feelings of attraction and trust in what is supposed to be a casual relationship is tough. Nearly impossible. It requires an indivudal to numb themselves to what is natural, inherent. Remove the feelings, and yes, casual has endless possibilities. However, when two people share mutual feelings in these situations, it greatly complicates matters.

Therein lies the problem: a truly casual relationship thrives off minimal to no emotions involved. The two are content with the occasional hook up, spending little time together other than for sexual or friendship persons. On the other hand, an intimate hook up combines all of the feelings involved in a normal relationship, without the committment. You are not in the “friend” category, but you are also not in the “boyfriend” category. It is madness, and disheartening. You cannot help but think what could be, but deep down understand it never come to fruition.

The intimate hook up relationship ends in one of two ways: disaster for one or both parties, or accepting the fact it may be more than casual, despite your initial intentions. Most people who wind up in the intimate category are surprised by the level of emotions in play. “This wasn’t suppposed to happen! I can’t be falling for him/her. It goes against everything we agreed on.” Chemistry? Check.  Trust? Check. Intimacy? Check. Comfortability? Check. However, this isn’t enough.

When we have an idea of our ideal person, or predetermine the outcome ahead of time, we will do anything in our power to meet those expectations. Drifting from our original idea is counterintuitive to our nature. We will find excuses for it not to work despite all evidence to the contrary. Often times, we will convince ourselves these feelings are simply misplaced, and to act on them is utter nonsense. This is what I experienced in my first, (and hopefully only), ambiguous casual relationship.

The lovely young lady whom I met on Tinder and myself went our separate ways. I was unable to remove my emotions from the equation, and she was extremely resistant to the idea that maybe our relationship harbored more than a chance, casual encounter. In all honesty, I am beating myself up over it. It didn’t end because we fought all the time, or we weren’t compatible. Quite the opposite, actually. We were extremely compatible. More so than I ever would have expected. It ended because we entered the “danger zone” that is a casual, turned intimate, turned god knows what relationship. In essence, our relationship ended because emotions were involved. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

So, what did I learn from my first casual relationship? Probably not enough, but I did learn something extremely important: when a person states their intentions, chances are, they mean it. Regardless of feelings emerging along the way; regardless of emotional attachment; regardless of chemistry, when an individual commits to a certain mindset and expected outcome, they will do everything in their power to ensure nobody knocks them off course. I wanted much much more than she did, but I like to think deep down inside she recognized the potential between us. It was far too obvious.

To conclude this piece, I will share what I didn’t learn, and that is, how to exclude my own emotions from the equation. It didn’t take me long to realize she meant more to me than intended. All the pieces of the puzzle were there, except we couldn’t put it all together. Different wants and desires caused tension. I’ve concluded that casual relationships are not for me. I recognize when a person is special to me, and when the feelings are reciprocated, even if not expressly stated. I do know this: I deserve clarification, and even if done so unintentionally, I cannot handle being a person’s emotional outlet without expecting something more.



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