Looking at how “relationships” have changed over the years is an interesting study. As we move forward, now, it seems that casual relationships and open relationships are becoming much more common. Is this the new way of human interaction? Do we get what we need from these random encounters that don’t for any kind of attachments? Is Intimacy still important and can we even get it from these more casual interactions? There are still a lot of things that have to be considered in how these proceed or how they work for each person involved.
Intimacy is defined as: close familiarity or friendship; closeness or an intimate act, especially sexual intercourse. As broad as this definition is it still speaks to a closeness and close familiarity. Intimacy comes from repetition and understanding of the people involved. Psychology Today wrote an article titled The 7 Elements That Define An Intimate Relationship and discussing how it is different from a casual one. Let’s take a look at the steps they outline in their article. 1.Knowledge – it is the sharing of information, we hold dear to us, with another person without judgement. With someone we trust we share deeper information that we do with a person we just meet and sleep with. But why is that? Can we not open up more to even those fleeting encounters? Many people fail to take the time to learn about the person they take home for the night and make it as quick as possible. 2.Interdependence – is a reinforcing dynamic where choices and desires are based on the dependency of the people involved. Think of it as your actions and reactions influence the person you are with and in turns influences you to make choices based on them. 3.Care – showing concern over the other’s well-being, how stress is affecting them, and safe keeping. This relies on communication that happens once routines and trust is established. 4.Trust – this is the backbone to any relationship and is a must for all seven of these tenants to hold together. It is hard to give trust, but when we do it can become very implicit. It is what allows us to let someone become very close to us, to know us at our very core. 5.Responsiveness – recognizing, supporting, and understanding the needs of the other person, during times of stress or happiness. 6.Mutuality – This is the point where the closeness changes the couple from “me” to “we” in how they relate to things. 7.Commitment – Ah the big “C.” The word that can strike terror into people and send them running. The word that people feel can limit a relationship from being more. But commitment isn’t all bad, it allows the other tenants to grow and strengthen. It gives us a sense of safety and surety. A shelter in a storm and the strength to continue when we think we can’t.
Are these all indicative of a monogamous relationship or can they be achieved in a casual one? There is no right answer to that, unfortunately. None of these tenants will guarantee that a relationship with the same person every day will last and be perfect. These are only tenants that an article states are part of an intimate relationship. If commitment is the biggest reason you pursue an intimate relationship, then you may be doing it for the wrong reasons. Each one is just as important as the other but not all have to be there for an effective relationship to happen. Intimacy can happen in casual relationships just as well as in committed ones. It comes down to the types of casual relationships you may have. The website VeryWellMind helps define some of them in an article they call, Casual Relationships: Are There More Than One Kind? They list four types: One Night Stands, Booty Call, Fuck Buddies, and Friends With Benefits. We will only look at a couple for this article. Fuck Buddies and Friends With Benefits both come from people who meet more frequent than just a hookup. These are people that you aren’t in a committed monogamous relationship with, but you also know will be there for you, when it is needed. You have that trust in knowing that you both know what the other likes and how they think. You can be responsive to their needs because you know them deeply and can support their choices healthfully. Many times, these relationships fill the very void with have without the strings that may come from a more committed relationship.
Booty Calls, Fuck Buddies, and FWB all give us the intimacy we need while allowing us to remain open to other relationships, as needed. And also allows both parties to see each other in non-sexual terms and maintain a friend base with other people. These types of relationships can be beneficial for someone who has a high stress job that requires a lot of travel, the type of setting that would not be conducive to creating a family. Not being home can create a stressful situation for the other person involved. Not having them there when times are rough or needed support. A FWB can be the needed assistance to help manage those situations. It is important to point out that these types of relationship are completely normal. If both parties are aware of the boundaries, it can be a great place to experiment, have fun, and be satisfying.
The down sides can be when the friendship and sexual line gets murky. There is also the aspect where one person may start to develop deeper feelings when the other does not. While it can be a good break after coming out of a long-term relationship, the cautions must be navigated to prevent hurt feelings. It is important that you have an open line of communication to the partner(s) you are with, be open with the person, share your feelings with them, and respect them for the person you and they are. It can provide sexual satisfaction and the needed intimacy you are looking for in a relationship.
The problem with intimacy, causal relationship, open relationships, and commitment all stem from beliefs we have been taught at a young age. We are told that random sexual encounters are about engaging in carnal lust and not what a “good person” should do. That we should be looking for a partner to settle down with. Then we are taught that affection should be saved for that all elusive person and relationship. So casual sex becomes furtive and quick, feeding a need then getting out before you have to get invested in the person. Who says that is the way it needs to happen. Sex is intimate, by its very nature, opening yourself up to another person to assist you in feeling pleasure takes a lot of trust, so why not go all the way. Look them in the eye, take your time for foreplay, cuddle with them, and take time for after care. It is how we want to be treated, so offer the same courtesy. Take time to see how they respond to your touch and kiss. Watch how their bodies respond, breathing changes, and be in the present. Intimacy will come from that because you are taking the time to share something so personal with them.
Intimacy comes from you as much as it does the other person involved. It can be achieved but you must start with communication. That is the key to any relationship. Understand what you want and what they want and talk about how you both can contribute to each other. You both are individuals seeking similar things, so treat them with the respect you want and expect. Be honest with yourself before you start and as you go along. No one can tell you what your relationship is or what is the right kind. Most of it is by trial and error but know that there are two people involved in it and can get hurt just as easily.