Being Single

Dating Diaries: Someone Please Explain Casual Dating to Me

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So, I’m casually dating someone now. Actually, I prefer to call it “quietly dating,” a la the celebrity lifestyle. It’s the guy that told me pre-first kiss that he didn’t want anything serious. Specifically, he told me he was “really great at being the guy to hang out with for two months,” whatever that means. I had a major eye-roll about it, but since I enjoy his company, and do not specifically need a long-term boyfriend, I figured it would be fun.

Now I see this guy about once a week and we go to bars and restaurants and get wrapped up in conversation. The obvious danger here is falling in love with someone who I do think is smart and funny, but doesn’t want to be committed, so I’ve developed an on the fly strategy for protecting myself. It includes: 1. Rarely texting or calling him first, 2. Never initiating physical contact, 3. Putting the burden of making plans on him and 4. Absolutely no lying on his chest. Spooning can happen only if he makes the move. We also haven’t ever talked about our families or anything we might disagree on (so far politics and religion are okay). Basically, I show up, get wine poured for me and, at the end of the evening, make out. It’s a pretty sweet deal, except only three or four weeks in, the façade of simplicity is starting to crack.

Related: 15 Signs There’s Going to Be a Second Date

It’s hard to say whether I’m being honest with myself about it or not, but I don’t think I like him more than I want to. In fact, it’s kind of refreshing to see things as they really are. His tattoo of his motorcycle’s name “Gloria” is pretty ridiculous, but I would have thought it insanely awesome in the haze of infatuation. It just feels weird to be developing a friendship (is it a friendship?) with someone while actively changing my behavior to maintain distance. And I can’t help but spend time second guessing things.

We’ve made plans for the future. Not like, a ski trip in October, but he has suggested going to a basketball game and on a day trip to the beach at some point. I think he might have tried to hold my hand last week, but I was confused about what was happening and just let his hand slide down my arm. Maybe it was just a clumsy caress. Other times he has been successful with displays of affection, kissing my head, running his hands through my hair and putting his arm around me, all in public. I know that affection does not mean intimacy and I’m not foolish enough to think that he’s changing his mind about wanting something serious. But why would he even want to hold my hand? To me, casual dating means no hand-holding and no talking about beach trips. Where is the rule book on this?

Related: Public Displays of Affection: 7 Common Sense Guidelines

He’s been really sweet about complimenting my work, and checks up on me via text about my job search. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever had a boyfriend this supportive in regards to my career. He helped me sit down and craft a 5-year plan after our second date. How does he invest this kind of time and energy into someone he doesn’t care about?

What is clear to me is that he’s really good at, or at least comfortable with, this casual dating thing. But I can’t exactly ask him for tips. Also, I’m starting to wonder if this means he is an actual sociopath, given his ability to remain detached from another human being while going through the motions of closeness. Then again, I’m getting pretty good at that too. I guess the problem isn’t that the relationship casual, but that by announcing that he wouldn’t stick around, he scared me into thinking he might bolt at any time for any reason. So I just sit on my hands, afraid to make any sudden movements that might give him an excuse to dash, and avoid being proactive because then it might look like I care. Healthy, it is not. But when you’re casually dating, can you sit a guy down and ask that you talk about it? Or are SOTR addresses strictly for real couples?

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