“Can we keep this casual?” “Sure, what does that mean? “I don’t know, I heard it in a movie once”. Helpful. So, am I in a relationship? No, it’s casual. And I have no idea what that means.
Perhaps it’s different for different people. For us, it appears ‘casual’ is being with someone in a way that was less serious and committed than our previous relationships. For others casual is just sex, meet in the dark and leave in the dark, maybe you never see their face. How exciting. Clearly, I’m still discovering what casual means. After every meeting we ask each other whether we’ve figured it out yet …
“Casual means the other person doesn’t get disappointed” Vague. “Casual means we’re not exclusive” I don’t sleep around. “Casual means no commitment” But what does that mean?
Is it even possible to do casual in a town so small? I imagine in a big city, ‘casual’ could mean we get on with our own lives for a few weeks and meet up when we feel lonely or have nothing else to do. Here, casual is meeting every few days because we never seem to have anything else to do after the library shuts.
I find myself second guessing messages to send and regularly asking my friends for advice with the words: “That’s not very casual of me though, is it?” I hate playing games, but I find myself falling into traps I should have avoided. Such as accidentally letting slip I mentioned him to my parents. Suddenly wedding bells sound like alarms in the distance and I’m scrambling to diffuse the situation. “I tell my parents about all new acquaintances, casual or otherwise”. Did that cover it? I’m over-thinking this and over-thinking isn’t very casual. Making plans for holidays becomes even harder. I’d like to go away with him because he’ll be a fun travel companion but asking for a mini-break doesn’t feel casual. I’m desperately trying to negotiate my way around a casual minefield and it’s a dance I am ill-prepared for.
“What do we call this?” We ask. Dating? Seeing each other? A thing? He arrives on ‘situation’. Which echoes a bad action movie where the hero dramatically explains: ‘We have a situation here, boss’. Should I rename this section ‘Love, Sex, Relationships and Situations’? I think not. Situation is too negative and it suggests a problem.
But there is a problem with casual, and it’s the same problem that friends with benefits has – someone ends up getting hurt. It’s easy to do because you’re sleeping with the person and having some form of relationship – feelings are bound to build. As soon as the other person tests the limits of casual, those feelings rise to the surface. Being in St Andrews makes it harder because you can’t just end it with ‘thanks see you never’ because you have to see them all the time.
Then again, we cannot deny ourselves casual relationships just because we’re in a small town. I firmly believe that casual is possible, but only if communication is involved. Set yourself boundaries and define it. If you want to avoid feelings, then don’t see them every day. If you want to start off casual with the intention of seeing if it can go somewhere, tell them that from the start. Knowing what you want from making it casual can help keep it casual, otherwise you end up on different levels wondering why they don’t feel the same way.
Casual, for me, is limbo. It’s teetering on the edge of a relationship and friendship, avoiding commitment to either. Limbo isn’t sustainable, but I don’t want to think about that right now. It’s certainly not ‘casual’ to think about sustainability.
For now, we’ll blunder along with ‘casual’ and hope we figure out what that means.