Teen Talk

Teen Talk: Keeping relationship casual can’t work one way

Kelly Richardson
Kelly Richardson Sacramento Bee Staff Photo

DEAR KELLY: Last year me and a guy who I was really good friends with decided we were going out, but keep it really casual because neither of us wanted it to be serious. I had just gotten out of a really super serious relationship and he had, too, and we both agreed that neither of us wanted that.

At first I thought it was like the perfect relationship because there was no pressure or stress. We just kind of hung out when it worked and we didn’t freak out when the other person was talking to someone else or hanging with friends. I really liked hanging out with him and he was super sweet to my whole family, especially my younger sister with special needs.

We were cool until one night when my friends and I hung out with a bunch of guys from another school. I Snapchatted a picture of us hanging out while I was sitting on one of the guy’s laps. All of a sudden I got a text and he was like flipping out because I was posting pictures with another dude, and that there were four of us and four guys all kicking it together. He texted me and said that if I was going to do things like this I should be honest with him and not disrespect him in public. I turned my phone off and didn’t reply.

The next morning I saw he had texted me like 32 times the night before and was so mad that I wasn’t replying. When I finally did reply, I told him that we weren’t “anything” and that we agreed to just be casual and that I didn’t know he felt like this. He proceeded to tell me that he cares about me and has deep feelings for me and he didn’t plan on it happening, but it did.

He said he can’t just be casual because he doesn’t want me to see other people and he thinks he’s falling in love with me. I had no idea he felt this way and didn’t know how to reply. Now I feel stuck and I don’t know what to do.

I like him, and he’s an amazing guy who gets good grades and all the important things, but I don’t want a serious relationship. I’m afraid I’ll lose him if I don’t become his girlfriend, but I don’t really want to do that because I just want to have fun and no stress. He’s one of my best friends and I’m scared to lose him, but we made a deal to keep it casual.

Please help me, I’m so confused.

Maggie D.

DEAR MAGGIE D.: A casual relationship is relationship where there are no clear rules or long-term commitments toward the relationship. It allows people to be connected without the same rules and boundaries of a regular romantic relationship. It seems easier to get in and out of the relationship without things getting heavy and serious, but it also creates confusion and frustration if feelings change. It might keep you from feeling tied down, but more times than not, someone gets hurt when things get muddy and feelings become connected to the heart.

Even though you established it was casual from the beginning, his feelings changed. Somewhere along the line he developed an emotional connection to you and he wants committed, not casual. It’s easy to say, “We are just going to keep it casual,” but hard to do when you spend a lot of time with the person and cross the friendship line. My guess is the more he got to know you and your family, the more interested and invested he became. The relationship probably started with a fun physical attraction and turned into an emotional attraction the more time you spent together.

You feel confused, but you really aren’t. You know what you want (to be single), but you’re afraid of losing someone you like (but not in the same way). Being afraid is not a good reason, though, to get in a committed relationship. It’s healthy to say, “I’m not ready” for another serious relationship. Listen to yourself and be OK with setting boundaries.

If you are just getting out of another relationship, the worst thing you can do is jump right back in another one. Spending time with friends or just getting reacquainted with yourself is valuable. Don’t rush into being someone else’s girlfriend when you know you aren’t ready. Figure out your identity as a single person before you commit your time and energy to another person. A lot of people make the mistake of falling in love with the idea of love rather than recognizing real love.

Stop with the “casual relationship.” It’s too blurred and he can’t do it. Tell him that you care about him as a friend and know what a good guy he is, but you aren’t ready for a serious relationship that involves a commitment. As hard as it may be for him, ask if you can be friends right now, which means no crossing the line and sending mixed messages: no kissing, no hooking up and no flirty tests. Just friends.

If he can’t do that right now, respect that but don’t compromise. Hold your boundaries. Teenagers shouldn’t be in super-serious relationships. Honestly, it’s too much. Hang out with friends, be single, no hookups, and enjoy being in high school.