- Casual relationships don’t always stay casual.
- If someone begins wanting to hang out outside of your hookups, they could be falling for you.
- If you’ve developed pet names, that could be another sign.
Casual relationships are pretty commonplace nowadays, but even if you’re both trying to keep it simple, there are certain and unsuspecting times where it can actually become just the opposite, Helen Fisher, anthropologist, a senior research fellow at The Kinsey Institute and co-director of Match’s annual Singles in America survey, told INSIDER.
According to Match.com’s Singles in America site, out of the 55% of singles who have had a friends-with-benefits relationship, 45% of them have had it evolved into a full-fledged relationship. Likewise, out of the 40% of singles who have had a “hanging out” relationship with someone, 29% have gotten into a relationship from it.
Whether you call them flings, situationships, or friends with benefits, here are 13 subtle signs that it could be turning into something a bit more serious.
You’ve begun exchanging thoughtful text messages with them.
Casual flings usually have limited communication through text messages unless it involves setting up an encounter. According to a forensic sexologist, chief of sexology, and director of clinical research programs at Felnett Health Research Foundation Damian J. Sendler, Ph.D. though, if the text messages with your fling have started to increase, you may be moving toward a real relationship.
“Typical flings are not meant to last long. Therefore, even the quality of messages that you are exchanging with your fling is poor,” he said. “When you notice that the person you’re talking to invests considerable time to ask meaningful questions, it means that they want to know more about you. It’s the chance for both of you to get to know each other in a non-obligatory way. Plus, things like asking how your day is going is another sign that you’re heading into more serious direction.”
Either or both of you have started seeking opportunities to hang more often.
Casual flings aren’t usually the type of situations that require you to spend time with one another outside of having sex. If it’s beginning to turn into something more than that, however, you may find yourself looking for more reasons to hang out with your fling.
“It’s obvious that when we like someone, we want to spend as much time with them as possible,” Sendler said. “There’s also a general principle that when someone is not that receptive to our offers to hang out, that’s the sign to move on, and never bother this person again. The same applies to relationships. It’s an especially strong sign of affection and romantic interest when the person you’re seeing cancels other plans to spend time with you. This is especially relevant when you just met this individual, who’s made some plans in the past, and they want to risk their time and energy to get to know you.”
You’re touching each other when there’s no sex involved.
Engaging in a casual fling usually finds you and the other party having sex and nothing more. When it’s starting to become more than just a fling though, being touchy-feely during times when you’re not having sex could become a normal part of your interaction.
“This is not about sex. It’s more about going back to the basics of dating,” he said. “Nowadays most people start with sex, and then they figure out what’s romantic about each other. When someone essentially begins to gently explore your physical body without strong sexual innuendo, it means that they want to make a good impression.”
You’ve started to plan greater outings together.
Planning things with your significant other is normal for a healthy relationship, so when you’re engaged in a casual fling, this can be a sign something is more serious.
“It might be a hiking trip or going to concerts, but the most important quality of making plans together shows that there is mutual interest in spending more time together,” Sendler told INSIDER.
“It’s a sign that they care and they are willing to cross the boundaries of what makes them uncomfortable.”
Both of you have started to introduce each other to some of your friends and find no problem with doing so.
Has your casual fling started to become your plus one to every engagement? Have you started introducing each other to all of your closest friends? Sendler said that this is a telltale sign that the fling is ending and a relationship is beginning.
“This step obviously depends on the level of socialisation that each one of you believes in,” he said. “Another important factor is how many friends each one of you has as some people are more of a social butterfly than others. But if you are being introduced to someone else’s friends because the intention is to make them aware about who you’re spending most of your spare time with – that’s a sign that things are heading into a more serious direction.”
You’ve developed pet names for one another.
When you’re in a relationship, developing pet names for your significant other can be seen as sweet and cute. In a casual fling, however, that may seem a little unusual and clingy. What it could also be though is a subtle sign that they are ready to turn your fling into something real.
“Boo. Bae. Baby. If you’re calling your fling by a pet name, then that’s a subtle sign that your fling is turning into something more serious,” said Margena Carter, licensed psychotherapist and founder of Carter Care Therapeutic Services. “Using terms of endearment and pet names are part of a love language and a clear indication that you see the other person as a significant other.”
They have changed the way they introduce you to others.
As like the above, if your fling has gone from calling you a “friend” to something more, the days of having just a sexual relationship are on its way on the door, according to dating expert and vice president of Dating.com Maria Sullivan.
“There is always an awkward moment of uncertainty when you have to introduce your “casual fling” to someone else,” she said. “When your partner wants to build a relationship with you, they won’t want to jeopardize things by introducing you as a friend. Pay attention to what they say and who exactly they are introducing you to. If they say to their friend for example, ‘I want you to meet Sarah,’ they want to be associated with you and have possibly mentioned you to that person prior to the introduction.
“If they bring you around their friends, especially of the same sex, it is common that they are looking for an outside opinion and approval. What their friends say may or may not make an impact on what they chose to do next, but when they eagerly introduce you to people in their lives, you can bet that they want things to take a more serious turn.”
The way they compliment you has changed.
If your sexual partner has randomly shifted their compliments to things that are a little more personal, it may be time to consider adding an official title to your situationship.
“With a casual fling, you can expect more surface level compliments like ‘you’re sexy’ or ‘that shirt looks great on you.’ The reason someone develops feelings is that they begin to grow fond of more than just your appearance,” Sullivan said. “When they fall in love they begin to notice the way you laugh, tell stories, or the way you interact with family. Look out for compliments that show the person is paying attention to your quirks and personality traits. If they are making these kinds of comments, they may want to turn the fling into the real thing.”
You have started to mention a future together.
Having a conversation with a fling about the future will probably exclude you from the plans. Once things are starting to become a little more intimate though, Sullivan told INSIDER that you’ll notice them including you in their future plans and vice versa.
“You can really expect for things to get serious if your partner talks about the future,” she said. “This can even mean next month or next week. If your casual fling wants to make plans, they probably want and hope that you will stick around.
“Asking if you are available to make a plan is also a great way for them to gauge your interest. If you are willing to commit to an activity in advance, they will assume you are interested in sticking around as well. If plans consistently come to fruition, then you know your partner is in it for the long haul.”
You’re talking to them more often.
According to Carter, quick and non-personal calls from your casual fling will quickly become a thing of the past if they have decided that they want more from you than just sex.
“If you begin talking to your fling with a little more frequency, then that’s a subtle sign that your fling is turning into something more serious,” she said. “For example, the morning calls, wishing you a great day; the text messaging throughout the day; and the nightly calls wrapping up the day’s events, indicate that the fling is becoming more invested in you and what you do. As communication increases, a natural pattern of frequency will develop and the conversations will become more personal. Both parties will feel comfortable sharing intimate details of their lives, including their childhood.”
Sex is more comfortable between the two of you.
Licensed professional counselor April Kirkwood told INSIDER that sex with a casual fling can usually cause you to go out of the way to make it an incredible experience. When it’s turning into something more, however, you’ll be just as comfortable having sex with them as a couple who’s been together for years.
“Your sex life, though still hot, is now more comfortable,” she said. “There’s no longer a need for games in which charming them into the bedroom is part of foreplay. You now leave your underwear on the floor and they pick them up without a second thought. The comfort zone has moved to the bedroom.”
You spend more time together at home – without the sex.
If you’ve gotten to the point with them when you’re just hanging out rather than having sex, then you may need to consider that things are moving in a different direction
“Nights out have gone more from clubbing to hanging at the house because you love the same shows on Netflix,” Kirkwood said. “Your first name pops up as a user next to theirs. Once it’s in writing, you may as well say that the ink has dried and it’s all over now. You are now an actor in your own romance series.”
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