I’ve realized recently that in spite of being generally more averse to labels than most, I have still managed to fall into one of the traps I associate with labeling.
I was having a conversation with a friend from out of town this week where I referred to our relationship as “casual”. When she told me she didn’t think of our relationship as casual, it clicked in my brain that my definition of the word “casual” is not the same as it is for many people in the context of sex. I can remember other conversations with friends of mine where they said they don’t do casual sex, and sometime after that they and I had started hooking up in a way that I interpreted as casual. It was strange at the time, but makes perfect sense in light of this realization.
My instinctual interpretation of the idea of a “casual” sexual relationship is one that isn’t serious. Effectively, this means that all of the partners I have had in the last year and a half or so, maybe more, have fallen into the “casual” category in my brain. This doesn’t mean that I haven’t cared about any of them – I have. I just haven’t thought of any of them as Long-Term Serious Relationships, and in my mind the term “casual” encompasses all relationships that don’t fall under the umbrella of Long-Term Serious.
The impression that I’m getting is that many people think of “casual” as indicating little-to-no emotional connection or interpersonal familiarity. I definitely would not describe my feelings toward most of the people I have had sex with as lacking emotional connection or familiarity. My reflex is to think of my relationships with most of the people I have had sex with as casual, but also to think of most of them as friendships, and both emotional connection and a sense of familiarity are important for friendships for me.
I feel like I need a new word, now, for the logical complement of the Long-Term Serious Relationship category, to avoid unintentional miscommunication. Is there such a word?