Can Casual Sex Turn Into a Serious Relationship?

Couple In Bed

Xiaoyi Cheng Xiao Yicheng / EyeEm / Getty Images 

At one time or another, we've all been involved in a purely sexual relationship. Whether it's a friends-with-benefits-style connection or a random, onetime hookup with no strings attached, there are all sorts of ways we enjoy strictly physical connections with other people. But is it actually possible for these fleeting run-ins—ones based solely on the foundation of casual sex and little else—to turn into more serious connections worthy of marathon phone sessions, bae status, and (gasp) eventual protestations of love?

Surprisingly, yes: It's absolutely possible. But it takes diligence. Here's how to turn a quickie into a longer-lasting relationship with substance.

Casual Sex: Three Types

Psychoanalyst Paul Joannides, Psy.D., identifies three main types of casual sex in a 2015 article he wrote for Psychology Today. Here's how he breaks it down:

  1. No Strings. "Sex with no strings attached is as casual as casual sex gets," says Joannides. "It often involves sex with a total stranger whom you might have only met in the last hour." One-night stands fall into this category, and, as he points out, alcohol is often a factor.
  2. Friends With Benefits. Although this one's pretty self-explanatory, friends with benefits (aka booty calls) can still be a bit murky, because, he says, they're still technically considered relationships. "It can be with an acquaintance who is maybe a Facebook friend, but not someone you’d call when you need a real friend," explains Joannides. "It can also be with a good friend, which doesn’t always end up as bad as you might think."
  3. Sex With An Ex. Especially when the sex was the best thing about the past relationship, many exes choose to reengage after they've officially ended their coupling. As Joannides points out, "the potential pitfalls in having sex with an ex are endless," so we're focusing on previously and currently uncommitted pairings. (Let's keep it moving forward, people.)

Why Casual?

For one, it's the novelty. TKTKTKTKTKTK. <<<<In the same way that it’s fun to stay in a hotel, even if you have no desire to live there, there’s something inherently sexy about getting down and dirty with a new person.>>>>

Many may also choose to be sexually active with someone they're attracted to before getting to know them on an emotional level to find out whether sexual chemistry exists; some folks need TKTKsexual connection before pursuing something more serious and lasting.

Ironically, many of us end up being open to (and commencing) a more serious relationship once we discover we not only enjoy the sex but that we also like our sexual partners as people—after having hooked up before and spent time canoodling, eating breakfast, or chatting—right after the deed is done. In this way, an emotional bond is often the catalyst for something more serious, and a committed relationship may often be the next step.

It's also fair to say that—romantic or not—the very act of sexual intercourse inspires us to partner up. After all, you’re clearly attracted to this person and (hopefully) fully enjoy the intimacy.

Is It Healthy?

It's important to point out that casual sex isn't practiced only by college students, as prevalent medical studies would suggest. Rather, it's something for the ages—and many, many studies TTKTthat everyone seems to have partaken at one time or another.

<<WaPo article>>

(Looking for even more proof? Then head over to The Casual Sex Project, a website created by TK researcher, Zhana Vrangalova, Ph.D., wherein people from virtually all consenting age groups (from teens to septuagenarians) share their personal "no strings" stories.)

And even those of us who prioritize no-strings hookups aren't necessarily opposed to full-fledged, loving relationships, either.

Bottom line? Well, it's two-fold. As the clinical sexologist Robert Weiss Ph.D., MSW, posits in a 2015 article he wrote for Psychology Today, "If casual sexual activity doesn’t violate your moral code, your sense of integrity, or the commitments you have made to yourself and/or others, then it’s probably not going to be a problem for you in terms of your psychological wellbeing."

But—he goes on to say that casual sex (like everything else) can have psychological drawbacks for certain folks. And, as Vrangalova tells Women's Health, it all comes down to one's sociosexual orientation, "which is a complex combination of genetic and cultural factors that influence your feelings on no-strings-attached sex." In other words, know thyself before TKing casual sex.

How To Take It Next-Level

If you’re interested in transforming your casual physical connection into something more, take steps to see if a serious relationship is in your future.

Determine if your partner is also interested. One of the best ways to take your casual sexual relationship to the next level is to pay close attention to your partner’s words as well as his or her actions. For example, does he or she only seem to text you late at night to come over on a whim? Or does he or she text you for the sheer purpose of really interacting with you, without any underlying sexual motives? By tuning in to your partner’s behaviors and tendencies, you can better gauge if a serious relationship is something in which he or she’d even be interested in pursuing.

After being sexually intimate with someone, try talking to them or spending time with them. You can end up talking for hours and really get to know this person in a new kind of way.

Tell him or her how you feel. If you’re truly interested in having a serious and committed relationship with your casual sexual partner, the next step is to tell him or her exactly how you feel. After all, it’s very possible that he or she actually shares your desires and wants to take your relationship to the next level as well. However, if your partner doesn’t reciprocate your sentiments, the good news is that you’ll finally have an answer and can decide for yourself if you’d like to continue your current arrangement or move on to something and someone else.

Take the initiative to spend more time together. If you’d like to turn your casual relationship into a committed, long-lasting connection, it’s important that you become proactive in terms of how you spend your time together. For instance, you can ask this person to accompany you to more conventional date-like activities, such as attending a party together, going bowling or having a meal at a restaurant. Not only will his or her response to your invitation help you to determine if this person could potentially be interested in something more, but spending time with him or her out of the bedroom can enable you both to see each other in a new light in every respect.


<<<Some of us, though, benefit from casual sex more than others: For better or worse, still TK of us equate sex and romance as if there cannot be one without the other.>>>

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