What comes to our mind when we say “casual relationships?” maybe friends with benefits, or one-night stand? How about casual dating? Are these forms of relationship the same? Or are they different? Today’s millennials seemingly have a nuanced and sophisticated understanding of different types of casual relationships.
Canadian researchers, Wentland and Reissing, identified four types of casual relationships which are not similar and come with different set of expectations. This article will examine the different influential factors of the types of casual relationship that are practised by young adults.
Four types of casual relationships
Let’s start with the four types of casual relationship as identified by Wentland and Reissing. The authors ran four focus groups with 23 participants within the ages of 18 – 24 and were able to identify four primary forms of casual relationships, from the least intimate to most intimate.
- One-night stand
- Booty call
- Fuck mates or buddies
- Friends with benefits
The researchers omitted casual dating from the study as they wanted to examine the relationship types that were not regarded as “dating” by the participants.
The authors pinpointed five unique characteristics that influence each type of casual relationship. These characteristics are type of contact, frequency of contact, personal disclosure, relationship discussion, and friendship. Let’s take a look at each of them.
Type of contact
The first characteristic on our list is the type of contact, and it’s categorised into two: sexual only, and sexual and social. Individuals under booty call and one-night stand category only have sexual contact.
Friends with benefits and fuck mates both share sexual and social contacts. Social contact means merely that the persons in the relationship relate with each other outside the bedroom. They can belong to the same social circle or even be friends.
Frequency of contact
The next defining characteristic of casual dating separates one-night stand from the other three types of casual relationships. By definition, a one-night stand is a single encounter that goes no further. Once the encounter becomes repetitive, we’ve made our way into booty call, fuck mates and FWB zone.
By “personal disclosure,” the authors mean that the parties in the relationship discuss their emotions and feelings with each other. While booty call and one-night stand don’t have an expectation of personal disclosure, fuck buddies and friends with benefits do.
This characteristic and personal disclosure might look similar, but they are not really the same. According to the study, only members of the FWB zone discuss their relationship. Individuals involved in fuck buddy relationships, booty calls, or one-night stands (obviously) tend to avoid talking about the relationship at all. This implies that although fuck mates can discuss their feelings and become emotionally intimate; they really don’t apply intimacy to their relationship.
Casual relationships have three levels of friendship: none, resultant, and pre-existing. People in booty call and one-night stand relationships tend not to have any degree of friendship with one another. Fuck buddies tend to become friends after the relationship begins, but friends with benefits are friends before they start their sexual relationship.
Casual relationships – as you can see – are more complicated than most people think. There are different levels of social and personal engagement, as well as different routes towards longer-term relationships.
Why get involved in casual relationships?
People, particularly young people of university age, get involved in casual relationships for countless reasons. A synthesis by Fernet and Rodrique examined several pieces of research and came up with a few different themes.
They cited, first, that casual relationships tend to be more common in certain periods of people’s lives and contexts. For university students (the majority of participants in these researches), most of it is about the university context giving room for those forms of relationships. University students often discovered that they didn’t have the energy or time to emotionally committed and long term relationships. They also explained how the party culture normalised casual relationships.
A lot of the studies stated how millennials use casual relationships to satisfy intimacy, sexual, companionship and even self-confidence needs without having to put in a lot of emotion and energy into a relationship. This lack of accountability, communication, and commitment that is found in casual relationships makes them attractive for young adults struggling to find their place in the society.
This study also mentioned a few negative sides of casual relationships, like women feeling a lack of agency that decrease their sexual pleasure, the sexual double standard (women who sleep around a lot are “sluts”, men are “studs”), and the pressure for female partners to accept penetrative sex as the main activity.
Respondents also identified several risks related to involving in casual relationships, which includes unrequited feelings, the possibility of hurt feelings, mistakes and possible regrets because of the relationship. Respondents also mentioned the risk of destroying the friendship with sex. However, the researchers cited that good communication can limit most of these issues.
Casual relationships are normal
During young adulthood, university life and the beginnings of a career, casual relationships can serve as a means to explore different kinds of sexual activities, to get involved with others intimately without the committing to a long-term partnership, to develop a social circle, and to relieve stress.
From a sex-positive point of view, casual relationship can be satisfying and fun, so long everything is consensual. Even though most of the scholarship has millennials as participants, older adults can also enjoy the benefits of casual relationships. This commonly occurs after the end of a long-term relationship.
Individuals engage in casual relationships for different reasons. But casual relationships are not free from miscommunications, hurt feelings and potential problems. Most people who had been involved in casual relationships as millennials eventually settle down in long-term relationships and marriages as they grow older.
But if you don’t feel like engaging in a long-term, committed partnership, for now, casual relationship can help satisfy your need for sexual pleasure and intimacy. Just enter with an open mind, communicate with your partner(s), and engage with a spirit of care and compassion for the people around you.