“I Don’t Do Casual.”

January 16, 2014

CASUAL+SEX.+D_24c0cb_3144151In my experience, most young women want a boyfriend. And most feel sort of embarrassed about that, which leads to their going after what they want either indirectly, doing things they don’t feel good about, or just hoping for the best. All in the name of saving face. If things don’t work out, they take comfort from the possibility that the guy never really knew how hopeful they’d been.

This is a poor strategy for getting into a relationship:

1. It’s extremely inefficient, and wastes a lot of your time.

2. The possibilities for misunderstanding and miscommunication are endless.

3. By not taking active control of your own life, you cede the power to others, who naturally put their own interests ahead of yours.

Today I’m going to tell  you how to stop wasting time and feeling crappy about your dealings with guys you like.

What do girls want, and why?

Most young women grow up dreaming of a time when they will fall in love for the first time. We want romance, passion, and devotion. Some girls experience this in high school, but many don’t. The majority of girls go off to college with high hopes of meeting someone special. Those with boyfriends often vow to make their relationships work long-distance. 

Why are girls embarrassed to admit they want a relationship?

A woman who has a committed partner that she values highly enjoys increased social status, especially among fellow females. Often, a woman who doesn’t have that worries that in some way she is not “good enough” to have elicited male interest, especially interest in commitment or “locking it down.” Girls feel intense time pressure around this issue. One of the most common worries they share with me is that they have never had a serious boyfriend. This unease sets in around age 19, and gets worse over time, particularly if the woman is a virgin.

The number of women having this experience is increasing, owing to an unfavorable sex ratio in college and after. This encourages behaviors that amount to a crapshoot and are rarely successful. 

Kyle met Libby when they were both new freshmen. They hit it off one night, and hung out together several weekends in a row. Their friends viewed them as being “together.” They didn’t have sex, but they shared an intense physical attraction and spent a lot of time making out. Things were heating up. 

Libby wanted Kyle to be her boyfriend. They’d never had any kind of talk about their relationship, but she told me that “He is clearly trying to move this forward. I know for a fact that he’s not been with anyone else.” Libby felt confident they were headed to becoming an official couple. 

Shortly before Thanksgiving break, a mutual acquaintance revealed to Libby that Kyle had a serious high school girlfriend. They had agreed to “see how it goes” first semester. When Libby learned this she confronted Kyle and he admitted it was true, but that he felt just about ready to end that relationship anyway. She was very upset by the “overlap” between her and his soon-to-be ex.

Kyle didn’t see what the big deal was. He said, “What do you want from this? You weren’t looking for a relationship, were you?” Libby, feeling ashamed that she had blown their whole connection out of proportion, was too ashamed to say yes, she wanted to be his girlfriend. Instead, she said, “No, not a relationship. But you should have told me you had a relationship already. I refuse to be the in-between girl!” By not admitting what her beef really was, she left Kyle perplexed.

Libby made the right call to end things with Kyle – continuing with him under those circumstances would have made her feel terrible about herself. But the point is that Libby could have avoided the entire misunderstanding by being more upfront and matter of fact about what she wanted. Kyle may have bolted sooner, but isn’t that a good thing? Who wants to snag a Reluctant Boyfriend? Or live through one after another of these drama-filled, confusing relationships?

As it turned out, Kyle was furious that the friend had blown up his spot. He came back to Libby and said, “Please. Tell me what you want this to be. I don’t want this to be over.” Notice how indirect his language is at this point – he was not willing to be open about his feelings even then, same as Libby. For Libby, it was too little too late – she was embarrassed, humiliated, and felt deceived. Kyle kept trying to rekindle things with Libby for the next few months – and he did break up with his ex at Thanksgiving. Eventually, Libby stopped talking to him. But the fault was not entirely his – Libby should have taken responsibility for herself and gone after what she wanted in no uncertain terms. 

Sometimes guys use social pressure to denigrate the value of a relationship. Women commonly report guys saying things like, “What, haven’t you ever heard of friends with benefits?” Or “We can be together, but I don’t want a relationship right now. I’m only ___ years old, I want to have fun with my friends. Don’t you too? It will be better this way.” Other times guys hook up simultaneously with different people, taking any opportunity that comes their way. Of course, all hell breaks loose when the truth comes out.

All of this could be avoided if girls were up front about what they want. What is the best way of doing this? How to communicate your preference and your boundaries without feeling lame?

“I don’t do casual.”

That’s all you have to say. Here’s what this one phrase accomplishes in only four words:

1. You communicate a limit, not a desire for something specific with him. The comment indicates neither interest nor disinterest.

2. The firmness and simplicity of the statement makes clear that you have considered the matter carefully and made a decision. This is not moaning “I caaaaaan’t….” as he reaches inside your waistband.

3. You signal in no uncertain terms that you are not a slut. This is important to most guys. If the guy was hoping you are actually a slut, you’ve just effectively sent him packing.

4. You maintain control of your emotions by talking about sex (how it starts) rather than commitment (where you hope it’s going).

5. This statement can easily be the beginning of a conversation. If it’s not, and he peaces out, good riddance. If he is interested in talking about it, you’ll end up knowing what he’s thinking, and you’ll have a chance to share what you are thinking.

When you make this statement is up to you. My advice is to say it before doing anything that you will regret if you never hear from him again. 

The beauty of this approach is not that it will make more guys want to be in a relationship with you. In fact, a high percentage may run away, depending on which guys you’re going after. The value in this proposition is its use as a filtering mechanism. You want the guy who is either willing to slow things down or move into more serious territory. 

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