When does dating move from the casual phase to the serious phase? Obviously, the answer is different for every couple and often for both participants. One of you may view the dating serious from day one; the other may never view the dating as serious (which obviously creates lots and lots of problems for both of you). In this chapter, I give you guidelines from which you can begin to evolve your own personal perspectives and discuss them together.
Casual vs. Serious vs. Heavy Dating
Any relationship can survive if you’re both on the same wavelength, and any relationship is going to run into problems if you’re not. Like anything else, heavy dating may best be defined by what it is and what it isn’t: It’s not casual dating, and it’s a step beyond serious dating.
Casual dating means that neither of you is taking the relationship terribly seriously because one or the other of you is
- Dating others: You like each other but see other people as well.
- Living far away from each other: You live so far away that you can see each other only occasionally.
- Only in town temporarily: This is similar to a holiday romance; you know that the relationship will last only as long as the business trip, vacation, or whatever does.
- Not interested in a commitment: You want the relationship to be without long-term expectations.
- Not being sexual: You’re abstaining.
- Not being seriously sexual: You’re not being monogamous (not a terrific idea).
- Seeing each other less than twice a week: You get together less than twice a week, either because you’re not interested in seeing each other more frequently or because proximity keeps you apart.
Even though no one is crazy about auditioning for the role of significant other, casual dating has much to recommend it: It allows both parties to get to know one another without the pressure of exclusivity, and it allows for comparisons that are natural and not necessarily odious.
Serious dating is a transition between casual dating and heavy dating. With serious dating,
- Your relationship is exclusive.
- You see each other once or twice a week.
- You live in the same city.
- You are possibly sexual, possibly not.
The idea of dating is to see who’s out there and to keep do-si-doing and switching off until you find someone who seems a cut above the rest, someone worthy of additional time and effort and consideration. Once you decide that you have someone who is worth abandoning all others for — at least temporarily — you’ve moved into exclusivity, which is a precursor to heavy dating. Heavy dating involves:
- Being mutually exclusive by design: You discuss and consciously agree to see only one another.
- Having three or more dates a week: You take time and effort to be together often.
- Dating on weekends: You spend weekends together rather than with the guys or girls, and when you do have to be with others, you often go as a couple.
- Living in the same area code: Living relatively close to one another makes it possible to see each other often.
- Often being sexual and, certainly, practicing sexual exclusivity: In other words, if your relationship includes sex, you are monogamous.
Sexual intimacy, although not necessary to a committed relationship, is often one of its hallmarks. Whereas some think the key is the “sex” part, the real key is the “intimacy” part: a connection deep enough to involve body and soul. But intimacy depends on a number of factors, not just (and not necessarily) on the sex act. If you think that you can achieve intimacy solely through sex, you’re mistaken.
The Role of Sex in a Relationship
In our society, sex is a big deal. It’s commercialized and romanticized; it’s used to sell everything from toothpaste to chewing gum, cars to condos, jeans to Jacuzzis; and it’s wrapped in ribbons and adorned with hearts and flowers. No wonder there are so many mixed messages. For example:
- Everybody seems to be doing it on sitcoms, afternoon talk shows, the news, the movies, and the soaps . . . but it’s sacred and special (according to your pastor and papa).
- To be a great lover, you’ve got to have many partners . . . but save yourself for the right person.
- Sex is wholesome and natural . . . but venereal disease is a punishment.
Wow, if we used the same criteria for words, we’d all stutter all the time, and sexually we are a stuttering society.