The Pros And Cons Of A No Strings Attached Dating Approach

Let's put the myth to rest once and for all: No, romance and sexuality don't always go hand in hand. Aromantics (people who aren't interested in romantic relationships), members of the asexual community, and almost anyone who's had a successful one-night stand all know this to be true. Still, the societal standard is to date until you find "the one," seal the deal with a ring, and have monogamous sex for the rest of your life.

If looking for a serious relationship isn't on your radar right now, no-strings-attached dating might be a better fit. A quick scroll through Urban Dictionary proves that there isn't one clear-cut definition for this dating style. No-strings-attached relationships might look like friends with benefits, a slightly more intimate situationship, or a one-time hookup. What these relationships all have in common, though, is that they're generally non-committal, non-exclusive, and built on sexual encounters.

By now, you may have already experienced a hookup of some kind (the American Psychological Association suggests that between 60% and 80% of college-aged adults have), but are you ready to embrace a fully no-strings-attached approach? Here are the pros and cons to consider.

You have to keep your expectations low

In any kind of physically intimate relationship, some ground rules should be in place. Your boundaries must be respected, you should be on the same page about your intentions, and sexual health will always come first (that means wearing protection and getting tested before getting frisky). Besides these guidelines, though, you should expect, well, very little during no-strings-attached dating.

When commitment is nonexistent, you can't rely on casual partners to always respond to your "u up?" texts. They might place you on the back burner to explore other options, or you might get ghosted just as your sexcapades were heating up. Then, you're back to scrolling through dating apps for your next fling. This can be especially painful if you've been seeing the same person for a while. "Difficulties tend to come up when one partner meets somebody new, or if they decide to end it," psychosexual therapist Kate Moyle told The Guardian. "There is a sense of a relationship even if they want it not to be a relationship, because we have a form of a relationship with anyone we are regularly connecting with."

Of course, low-expectation affairs might be right up your alley if you're tired of feeling disappointed. Assuming your dates won't end in sweep-you-off-your-feet romance may leave you feeling pleasantly surprised, or at least not as frustrated as if you had approached dating with a long list of must-haves and deal-breakers.

You can discover what you want — and don't want — in a partner

Playing the field is a good way to meet a variety of people and date beyond your usual "type." Going on multiple first dates and chatting with strangers you may have missed if you were dating exclusively can help you learn more about the qualities you value in a partner — as well as the red flags to watch out for in the future.

But here's the catch: If you end up in a casual relationship with someone who turns out to be pretty much exactly what you're looking for, it's all too easy to catch feelings. Dr. Gary Brown, a dating and relationship therapist, explained this disadvantage to Elite Daily, particularly as it applies to FWB (friends with benefits) relationships: "There is a strong likelihood that, at some point, one of you may very well start to develop more romantic relationship feelings. If the other FWB does not feel the same way, then this could wind up being a painful experience for you or them. This is especially true [if] you face a situation where sex and emotional attachment occur at the same time."

Generally, no-strings-attached relationships are predicated on an agreement to not fall in love with each other, but sometimes the heart wants what it wants. If the other person decides to remain non-committal, you'll likely have to let it go and focus on other flings instead.

The hookups can be hit or miss

When it comes to heterosexual hookups, women tend to get the short end of the stick. One 2005 study published in Women & Health found that men are more than twice as likely to orgasm compared to women, a discrepancy known as the "orgasm gap." "Subsequent research finds the orgasm gap is largest in hook-up sex and smallest in relationship sex, but never closes altogether," Dr. Laurie Mintz, a professor and author of the book "Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters – And How to Get It," shared with Glamour.

One way to bridge the gap is by communicating about sex, according to a 2017 study published in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy. However, this can be tricky when you're only hooking up with someone once or twice. No-strings-attached dating offers little opportunity to discuss what each person likes in the bedroom and what turns them on. This can be a letdown, especially if the reason you're sticking to casual encounters is to experience mind-blowing sexy time.

On the other hand, you may get to try new things and discover kinks you might not have found in a monogamous, long-term relationship. There's greater room for experimentation (as long as everyone consents), even if it doesn't always lead to consistent satisfaction.

You can devote more time and energy to yourself

Work, hobbies, self-care, and socializing require a lot of time and energy, meaning you might not have space in your life for a relationship too. "If you don't have the time or energy for a full-blown relationship, or the right person simply hasn't come along but you would like to get your sexual needs met, then an NSA [no-strings-attached] relationship might be for you," Indigo Stray Conger, a certified sex therapist, told The Knot.

This may also be the case if you're still grieving a break-up and aren't emotionally ready to get serious again. Instead of putting Prince (or Princess) Charming at the top of your priorities list, you can take this time to date yourself while still flirting with cuties at the bar and finding hookups on dating apps.

Eventually, though, no-strings-attached dating may start to feel impersonal, and you might crave deeper intimacy and emotional support. Moreover, devoting most of your time to yourself can sometimes mean showing up to a wedding without a plus-one or not having a partner to call when you need a favor (though, of course, you can always turn to friends and family). If flings and one-night stands start to feel empty rather than fulfilling, take a break from the dating scene for a while or consider pursuing a different type of relationship instead.