Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Lost Art of Casual Dating

Suzie says: After a while of not being able to find good guys to date, I got on a dating site. It went great and now I've got guys falling out of the sky. I am curious to go out with all of them, but it doesn't seem right to do that. I am worried that they will get upset or even think I'm cheating on them.

Once upon a time, there a was this concept of "just dating." People would go out on dates, but not be considered to be a couple. This was a mechanism whereby people could get to know a variety of potential partners, learn more about what they themselves were looking for, and, hopefully, find a good match.

Sometime in the last thirty years, this concept fell out of fashion. Many people will go on a single date and immediately believe that they are in a "relationship". As a method for selecting a good partner with whom one can get along well with, this is slightly less effective than having your parents arrange a marriage for you. At least with arranged marriages, your parents shop around a bit and your potential partner is honor-bound to treat you well.

Suzie would be well advised to go on dates with all of the men that she meets (taking all reasonable safety precautions). It would boost her confidence to have so many men interested in wooing her. It would give her a good selection of men from whom to get a better idea of what she might be looking for.

The most important thing, going into this situation, that Suzie should keep in mind is that she is not in a race to find a partner before some deadline. Life is a journey, not a destination. She should enjoy the company of pleasant people, (and suffer the company of the rest.) Discover how many wonderful people are out there in the world. In the end, if Suzie finds a man that she particularly likes, she will know that she likes him because there are things about him that she really finds appealing, as opposed to liking him because he is the first man that she met who compares favorably to loneliness.

It is even acceptable to go on multiple dates with various people before committing to a relationship with one of them. This is how the process works. Suzie should consider, however, that although she knows that she intends to go on multiple dates before committing, the men she is seeing may not be thinking the same thing. She needs to make clear at the outset that they are not in an exclusive relationship, even if they end up getting more serious sexually, until they explicitly discuss taking things to the next level.

I know that the example used above is a woman seeking a man, but the same principles of casual dating to find a partner apply to any person seek to find another person with whom to form a serious, exclusive, romantic bond with.


  1. I don't really feel that this is a concept that has fallen out of fashion. At least in my experience, this is the difference between "high school/college dating" and "adult dating".

  2. I agree with Sarah, I don't think this style of dating has fallen out of fashion at all. I go on dates with many different people without being a "couple" with them. Not sure where you got the idea that it have many friends who casually date people.

  3. i think that this was something that was frowned upon when you and i (we're of approximate age) were not yet in college, but which was pretty common during the college and post-college years. of course, some people practiced "casual dating" and called it polyamory (probably from the same issues that caused them to have issues with casual dating in the first place), and some just played the field, but it was never as out of fashion as you imply. it became more accepted as people grew up, leaving the mores and odd behavior patterns of youth behind.

    there are some comments and assum
    ptions you make -- here in this article as well as in general throughout this blog -- that are a little strange, and have rubbed myself and a few other readers the wrong way. being a guy, i think you need to choose your words more carefully. things are not the same for both sexes, and to assume that you can speak for women makes you sound like you're entitled. for example, i don't think that safety alone should restrict Suzie from making dates -- Suzie can date who she wants, and is not responsible for dating anyone she does not want to, like many men assume she will. she has choice, and just as much right to exercise that as a man does. within the traditional roles of aggressive male vs. elusive female behaviors in the sexual/dating world, Suzie should be picky. she has the power in all her dating choices, and using men for an ego boost, or dating just to date are bad pieces of advice for anyone to follow regardless of what dynamic they find themselves in. there are certain situations where one may be socially expected to find a match, even a temporary one, so perhaps Suzie's situation is more complicated than this ideal version you explain. some of those pressures are ones you, as a man, might not perceive or understand, but they are real enough to poor Suzie, and perhaps a reason why you should confine your examples to what you know about men instead of guess and assume.

    plus, everyone i've met that went through middle school knows that things are not official or necessarily expected until some sort of conversation is had acknowledging the state of affairs if not defining them -- from "will you go out with me?" to "so, this is a thing, huh?" if there are no terms, there is no expectation of exclusivity. when sex is involved, it becomes part of the "safe" in "safe, sane, consentual" to have some sort of discussion about the status of the situation, but is not a part of casual dating for everyone. if there is no expressed interest for more, Suzie is in her rights to do what she wants without any men who wish to date her expecting more of a commitment -- she is not their property, and if they want more it is their role to voice it instead of explicitly hers to correct their mis-assumptions. women are not the gatekeepers to sex, to be dominated or tricked into giving up some secret treasure, they are not responsible for the progress of a relationship or casual thing any more than the other person involved is.