Recreational dating: have fun finding what you want in a relationship
Not all dating has to be a search for “The One.” Recreational dating—dating just for fun—serves a very important role. You may not be ready for a committed relationship for a number of reasons, and just want to have a good time. Especially if you recently ended a long-term relationship, just doing some recreational dating is a great idea. Besides, as you play the field, you might stumble on your perfect partner.
- be honest
- set a time limit
- break it off when problems start
- honor your own boundaries
- use it as an opportunity to learn about yourself
- be exclusive
- let sex get in the way
- assume compatibility and having fun mean a long-term relationship will work
- slide into a permanent relationship—make a conscious choice
Do be honest
Be clear that you are not ready for a committed relationship and just want to have some fun, and be sure that your ‘dating companion’ feels the same way. Even though it may feel a bit awkward at first, if you are not clear about your intentions, you may find yourself in an even more uncomfortable position.
What if your date thinks this is about being “a couple” and has developed romantic feelings for you, and you don’t feel that way? You will be faced with having to say things that will be hurtful, or even having to end a relationship that could be a good friendship.
When you are honest right up front you can just enjoy the time together and not worry about assumptions the other person is making about where this relationship is going. You might change your mind along the way—and be honest about that if it happens.
Do set a time limit
There are two reasons to do this:
First, the longer a casual dating relationship goes on, the more your friends and family are likely to think you are in a serious relationship. That’s great if you have made a conscious decision that your once-casual date now has a lot of potential, and you are thinking about making a commitment. But, if you’re not, this long-term casual dating relationship is probably sending the wrong message.
Second, if you get complacent, you might miss “The One” because you aren’t paying attention.
Do break it off when problems start
Why in the world would you want to invest time and energy in saving a relationship that doesn’t have a chance of being the right one for you? It’s time to move on. No one needs that kind of drama for no good reason! Acknowledge that it was fun while it lasted and it served its purpose. No hard feelings—especially if you were honest up front.
Do honor your own boundaries
As you embark on your quest to have a good time, decide what you are and are not willing to do. Is casual sex okay with you? If not, be clear about that and don’t compromise. Do you intend to date others if a good opportunity comes along? What do you expect your ‘dating companion’ to do? Communicate that both ways.
How much time do you want to spend together? Cohabitating should be out of the question even if sharing the rent sounds like a good financial decision. That really is a commitment and can feel a lot like a divorce when it ends.
Do use it as an opportunity to learn about yourself
Recreational dating is a great way to practice both your social skills and your relationship skills. If you mess up, heck—it was a learning experience.
This is a great time to work on writing down your requirements and needs in a relationship. Just thinking about them isn’t good enough. Have you ever thought you had a very clear idea about something until you tried to write it down and then it became a bit squishy? Writing your relationship requirements down is very important if you want to find a healthy relationship.
A good relationship coach is trained to help you get really clear about what you need for a relationship to really work for you. Working with a relationship coach can be invaluable for your future.
Do not be exclusive
Recreational dating is all about meeting different people. Ideally, you will be dating two or three people at the same time. However, that isn’t always possible just because of the current supply of eligible candidates.
But even if you are dating only one person at the moment, you should make it clear that this is not an exclusive relationship. That leaves you free to date someone else who appears in your world. Who knows, he or she just might be the person you’ve been searching for. What a tragedy if you miss her or him because you were exclusively dating someone who you were really just having fun with.
Do not let sex get in the way
Having sex can be a trap—especially for women. We often focus on the chemistry under the covers and interpret good sex as love. It’s easy to think of sex as a kind of compatibility test – if the sex is good then the relationship will be good as well.
Women especially can become emotionally attached to her sex partner and begin to think she is in a kind of committed relationship as soon as you have sex. Understand that a relationship needs more than great sex to thrive.
Do not assume compatibility and having fun mean a long-term relationship will work
So often we think that if you are having fun together and are getting along well, you are compatible and a committed relationship will work. The truth is—the process and criteria for choosing a recreational relationship are very different from choosing a Life Partner.
In a successful long-term relationship you definitely need to feel compatible, but there is much more to it. You have to be compatible on many more levels than having fun and getting along in a dating relationship. And there are issues in addition to compatibility that you both must be aligned on for it to work.
Do not slide into a permanent relationship—make a conscious choice
Things are going so well. You are having a ball and the sex is great. Terrific! Enjoy it!
As the weeks and months pass, you become a couple and are very emotionally entwined. That sure feels good!
Rather than just letting momentum carry you along this pleasant stream, stop for a moment and make a conscious choice. Look at all of the aspects of a long-term relationship that are important to you. Are all the important things there in this relationship? Are you making any excuses about behavior or beliefs?
A really big mistake couples make is not talking about all of the aspects of their possible life together and their assumptions about it: a couple who had been married for five years were living their idyllic life—until he said he wanted to start their family and she said she never intended to have a family. They are divorced now.
Talking through your expectations and consciously deciding that you are compatible on all levels is critical to a happy long-term relationship.
Dating just for fun is a great strategy. Just be clear about what you want and communicate it to your dating partner. Use that time to learn about yourself and what you want in a relationship, and be sure you make a conscious choice before moving into a more committed relationship.