Playing it cool this summer: How to navigate casual relationships

Avoiding common problems and keeping it sexy

Casual dating can be super fun and exciting (and sometimes also frustrating and disappointing!). To keep things on the fun and sexy side of the line, there are a few things we recommend doing:

Communicating your wants and needs

You would think communication in casual relationships would be simpler and maybe even less crucial than it is in more serious relationships, but you’d be wrong. Make space to talk about your needs, boundaries, and expectations. While certain conversations may be awkward or hard to have, it’s worth it to make sure everyone has a good time.

Negotiating consent from the beginning

In any kind of relationship, consent is queen. And not just consent, enthusiastic consent. Make sure you and the other person have a clear understanding of each other’s boundaries and desires. And remember that you or they can change your mind at any time.

Navigating feelings as they come up

While it’s totally valid to focus on fun in casual relationships, it’s also a good idea to stay mindful of everyone’s emotions as you go. If you’re seeing one person regularly, feelings may develop and evolve over time, and if things start to change, it’s important to address it quickly. It’s okay to change your mind, it’s just better in the long run to be honest about it.

Protecting your sexual health

Just like you’re taking steps to protect your feelings, it’s key to protect your physical health as well. Have an honest conversation before things get going about everyone’s sexual history and any potential risks. For protection against STIs (and pregnancy), use condoms or internal condoms. Dental dams and/or gloves can also offer STI protection, depending on what kind of sex you’re having, but they don’t offer protection against pregnancy. You may also want to consider PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), which is a daily pill or an injection you can get every two months to decrease your risk of getting HIV. And getting regular STI testing (for both you and any partners) is a good practice.

Ending things respectfully

Whether it’s a temporary break or a permanent goodbye, it’s important to handle the end of any relationship, no matter how serious, with respect and kindness. Follow the golden rule and avoid ghosting people unless there’s a safety issue. Everybody deserves closure.

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