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I mentioned my love of the TV adaption of Sally Rooney’s novel, Normal People, on Instagram Stories last week. Boy, did I get a lot of replies! People were ‘shook’ by the portrayal of a casual (and sometimes secret) relationship mixed with a complicated friendship. I think it pushed some people’s buttons because they could see themselves in it.

In this week’s episode of The Baggage Reclaim Sessions, I talk about why we end up not being anywhere near as casual about casual relationships as we expect us to be. There are mistaken assumptions about what we can expect from the other party due to ‘friendship’. We often tie a bow around the proceedings and pretend it’s a friendship to make what we’re doing more palatable. Feeling a sense of betrayal due to disrespect and straight-up lack of consideration can deal a blow to the friendship, never mind the sexual side of things. It turns out, we can get surprisingly hurt by casual relationships! But we can learn from them too.

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Nuggets From The Episode

  • Humans don’t like to be treated casually. We convince ourselves that we’re okay with being treated casually but struggle with the consequences of doing so. All humans want to matter. That’s tricky though, in situations where it feels like we only matter for one thing or when it’s all on their terms.
  • Casual relationships are the romantic equivalent of zero-hours contracts. We try to enjoy the fringe benefits of a relationship without the trappings of one (commitment, responsibility, accountability, caring, vulnerability, etc).
  • They’re often pitched as ‘mutual’, but someone ends up advancing their self-interests at the expense of the other party. Someone doesn’t have the wherewithal and self-esteem to advocate for themselves properly.

We enter into casual relationships scratching and gratifying a short-term need without thought for the consequences. It’s like ‘Future Me will deal with it’.

Normal People and Casual Relationships podcast episode by Natalie Lue for The Baggage Reclaim Sessions. Illustration of a woman wearing a paper hat with'sex' on it and a man wearing one with'relationship'. One thinks that they're on the same page, and the other thinks that it's going to turn into a relationship. Illustration by Natalie Lue. All rights reserved.
  • How hurt we’re going to get by a casual relationship (or how much we hurt the other party) depends on our level of self-awareness and how honest we are with ourselves.
  • Each party uses stating that it’s casual or their agreement to participate as a Get Out of Jail Free card.
  • When we begin a casual relationship with a friend, two assumptions lead to big problems. One party will assume that the other won’t screw them over because they’re friends. And the other will assume that given that they’re supposed to be friends, they should know what they’re like.
  • We often call casual relationships ‘friendship’ or ‘friends with benefits’. It’s not because we’re genuine friends but because it makes what we’re doing more palatable. Of course, calling it ‘friendship’ creates expectations that we (or they) thought we’d dodged with a casual relationship.

Casual relationships indicate how casual or damn near-apathetic we are about our needs, expectations, desires, feelings and opinions. Or, yes, how casual we are about someone else’s.

  • Most of us don’t want to feel like the romantic equivalent of ordering a takeaway from UberEats or Just Eat. We’re not Dial-A-Lay.
  • When we secretly hope that a casual relationship will lead to a bonafide relationship, we’re doing the equivalent of offering them a low introductory APR on a credit card. We think that we can showcase ourselves and that by being ‘patient’, accommodating, not putting any pressure on them, etc, that they will desire a relationship.
  • If we get involved with something with our proverbial ‘sex hat’ on, we’re not being relationship-minded. We can’t expect to miraculously find ourselves in a relationship after centering things on not caring and sex.
  • We are the common denominator in our life. We’re the only person who’s shown up to every act, scene and moment in our life. If we keep finding ourselves in variations of the same situation that we blame, for example, on people ‘catching feelings’ or getting the wrong end of the stick, we need to check ourselves. What are we bringing in to each of these situations? Who are we being? What are we saying/doing (or not)?

Links mentioned

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