For some people, divorce is a chance to finally experiment with all that great, wild sex they’d imagined characterizes single life. But for others, “sex” and “casual” no longer seem to go together as ideas. How can we have an active, enjoyable sex life before the next Mr. or Ms. Right comes along? Can a mainly sexual relationship become something more? We turned to dating coach and blogger Francesca Hogi for advice. A former lawyer, movie producer, and reality TV show survivor, Hogi is known for her unwavering belief in the power of love and a penchant for finding the fun in most any situation.
Splitopia: If you meet someone you’re attracted to, but not in love with, how do you decide if casual sex is a good option?
Francesca Hogi: You can be a woman who is seeking a relationship but who gets attracted to someone to fill a need at the moment. Be honest with yourself about what your intention is.
I have a litmus test that I suggest to clients. If you meet someone you’re very attracted to, yourself how you’d feel if you had sex and never heard from him again. If the answer is, “I might be fine,“ then maybe you can do it, but be selective. If you’d feel terrible, then you shouldn’t have casual sex. Many of us delude ourselves. We tell ourselves it’s casual, but if, in our heart of hearts, we are hoping for more, then you should wait until it’s a real relationship before having sex with that person.
If you’re someone who’s uncomfortable asking a man whether or not he’s sleeping with other people before you have sex with him, then you probably shouldn’t have sex with him. And if a guy is freaked out by that question, then he’s not going to be your man.
Splitopia: I realize it’s different for everyone, but what is a reasonable amount of time to wait before having sex with someone new?
FH: I don’t think there’s a blanket rule. It always comes back to what you’re seeking. Just be honest with yourself. If you meet a guy who looks good, but he’s not at all what you want in a partner, then right away ask yourself if you’re comfortable with a sexual encounter that should not go further.
If you meet someone you think there’s more potential with, then it’s a good idea to wait until you learn whether you’re on the same page.
Splitopia: What are the top three—or more—must-know details before agreeing to try a casual sexual encounter?
FH: Yes, there are several things you really need to know:
- His relationship status.
- His goals and intentions toward you. People are usually clear. For example, if you meet him online, notice his first words. Take a cue if he writes something like, “Hey, sexy,” or “Hey, wanna go for a drink at 10 pm?” Online, a lot of men are very direct in saying what they’re looking for, like, “Not looking for serious, but want to meet fun, interesting woman.” Some will say, “I’m looking for a partner. The more effort he puts into planning and seeing you, the more likely he is to be interested in knowing you. Otherwise, his intentions may well be more casual. We often infer what we want and don’t pay attention to what people tell us.
- His character. If you are open to a casual relationship, you probably still care that he’s a respectful, good person. Pay attention to what he reveals. Some cues include honest communication, such as letting you know he is not looking for something serious. Is he boastful? Notice how he treats the bartender; does he seem to care about others beyond himself? And then think about whether he’s someone you want to sleep with, even on a casual level.
Splitopia: Can a casual, sexual encounter ever evolve into a real relationship?
FH: The markings of a casual relationship are clear: Not a lot of time getting to know each other; sex is usually the point; you don’t do other things together, you and/or he could be seeing other people.
If a casual relationship starts to become more serious—you start to feel more attached, and you’ve lost interest in meeting other guys—then it’s not casual anymore, at least not for you. That’s when it’s time to have a conversation about monogamy.
I talk to women all the time who say, “This guy I’m seeing says he wants a relationship, but he’s casual with me.” He may be seeking a relationship, but not with you. If you want a relationship with him, ask yourself, “How is he treating me? Is he making an attempt to move the relationship forward?”
Susan Orlins is an award-winning journalist and author of Confessions of a Worrywart: Husbands, Lovers, Mothers and Others and co-author of Still Standing: How an Ex-Con Found Salvation in the Floodwaters of Katrina. She has three grown daughters and has been divorced since 1998. For more than a decade, she has taken yearly vacations with her ex-husband and their daughters. She lives in Washington D.C., where she is an editor of Street Sense, a newspaper written and sold by homeless vendors.