Casual dating can organically turn into something more exclusive and serious. However, what do you do if you want it to progress and it hasn't yet? Recognizing the signs that you're ready to move to the next level is the first step. After that, you and your partner will need to have an important conversation of defining where you stand. Although it can be awkward and uncomfortable, being transparent about your expectations will prevent inevitable heartache and time wasted in a relationship that you don't really want.
The Difference Between Casual and Committed
Casual relationships often involve dating multiple people. They lack the effort, commitment and exclusivity characteristic in something more serious. Committed couples see one another regularly, but casual daters hang out so infrequently that their names may not pop up with friends or family. Casual dating is all about fun, and while you may have fun in a committed relationship, it isn't the primary goal.
According to the Relationship Counseling Center, entry into a monogamous relationship involves having a conversation about your expectations. Both partners are clear about their goals to support, be honest and date only each other. People who are in a committed relationship have a level of intimacy that is unavailable in casual flings and dates. The expectation is that sex is something saved for the two of them exclusively.
Signs You're Ready
So how do you know you're ready for a more exclusive relationship? There are a few things you can look for to see if you and your partner might be ready to talk about having a monogamous relationship.
- You've stopped dating other people and you don't have a desire to date anyone besides your partner.
- Your friends and family have either met or know about your significant other.
- You've had serious discussions about your future together.
- You see each other regularly.
- He or she has become one of your closest confidants.
Discussing Your Relationship
It may not be easy to broach the topic, but discovering whether you and your partner are on the same page is vital if you want to avoid the embarrassment and heartbreak of learning they are still dating other people.
Where and When to Bring It Up
First, set up time to have "the talk." Choose some place private that is conducive to an intimate conversation. A bar or coffee shop where you have to raise your voice to speak may not be the best location, but a night at home or walk at a park may be the perfect place to pop the question.
How do you know it's the right time to bring up your relationship? You've been dating for a few months now and are clear about what you want out of the relationship. Experts suggest that there are indicators to tell you when you should have a serious conversation. For example, have you each met each other's friends and family or have you left personal things at each other's houses? If you answered yes, that can indicate that you're heading in the right direction. However, a negative answer can also point to an urgent need to discuss where your relationship is headed.
What to Say
Be honest and clear about your expectations without giving your partner an ultimatum and trying to sway their decision either way. Expressing your true feelings, (e.g. "I love spending time with you and don't want to see anyone else. I was wondering if you're feeling the same way?") is a better way to approach the subject than asking your partner where she stands or accusing him of seeing other people. The next step is giving them the time and space to respond. Hearing what he or she really thinks is scary, but it's better to know where your relationship stands sooner rather than later.
What to Do If Your Partner's Not Ready
Although hearing that your partner isn't ready is the answer you've been dreading, it's important information. Now you can decide whether it's worth continuing on the road you're on or ending the relationship. Many people remain in limbo because they hope they can convince their partner to commit eventually. If you're willing to put in the time and are okay with not moving to a higher level of commitment, you might choose to stay in the relationship, keeping it casual. However, you may also end up resenting the time and energy invested in a partnership that's going nowhere. Think about how you will feel five to ten years from now. Will it bother you that your relationship hasn't progressed? How you answer that question will help you decide what to do next.
How Your Relationship Will Change
Once you put your cards on the table, change is inevitable. Exclusivity may take some of the excitement out of the relationship. Instead of the fantasy of who you believe your partner is, you will get to know your partner better, seeing reality. This will inevitably lead to more challenges, issues and difficulties that weren't evident when you were dating casually. Know and expect for your relationship to take work. Maintaining the lines of communication open throughout is the foundation for building a strong, healthy and long-term romantic relationship.