In continuing my description of Relationships As I See Them, we’ll be exploring a very unusual and often misunderstood type of relationship today:
The C-Level Relationship (also known as the Tertiary Relationship)
That would be Casual. A casual relationship is also known as “friends with benefits”, but sometimes the “friends” part becomes secondary to letting the trouser snake out to play or “scratching the mutual itch”. Casual relationships are almost always awkward because, more often than not, one person “totally agrees that casual is awesome” when really, they want something more, but they’re afraid that if they don’t agree to the “casual” part, they won’t “qualify” to be with the object of their affection. There are many downsides to this complication because the one carrying the torch 1) doesn’t get their emotional needs met and 2) they probably don’t know how to have a casual relationship.
On the other hand, the open-endedness (if you’ll forgive the pun) can be refreshing, especially if you’re “between serious commitments” or are unsure of where you’ll be living in the next six months. In a poly situation, this is the “fringe relationship” that you hook up with when you’re visiting their home town (or vice versa), the one you see only every month or so. If they find someone else who makes them happy, it’s not a big deal to lose their attentions because you can honestly be happy for them in their further endeavors. Tertiary relationships only very, very rarely “advance” to Secondary or Primary relationships.
I feel I should mention here that C-Level Relationships are not the same things as “one-night stands”. Relationships imply a longer-term arrangement, even if it’s just for a little mutual satisfaction. The nature of the word “relationship”, especially in this sense, is to call a spade, a spade, and recognize your own personal responsibility in playing safe both sexually and emotionally. If your feels change or grow, you need to tell your partner as soon as is convenient, because sometimes people get into C-Level relationships due to their own inability or unwillingness to get into a more serious one. And if you try to coerce someone into a relationship level that they don’t want, then you kinda deserve what you get next (which is almost never pretty).
A quick note on one-night stands (ONS)
The vast majority of ONS start off with non-matching intentions. One party or the other might just be looking for a quickie, but the other person will be wondering if this is some kind of fateful encounter that leads to the imaginary Happily Ever After. And, to be fair, a minuscule fraction of them do turn into something magical. The odds, however, are stacked against you. A single night is normally not enough time to learn how to be good lovers for each other, and disappointment and lackluster performance will not inspire one or either partner to call back (assuming someone went to the trouble to remember to exchange numbers).
My general advice on this is to be very, very clear. If you are looking for something more (even a negotiated C-Level relationship), do not make the sign of the double-backed beast on the night you meet. If you really are just looking for a potentially disastrous but also potentially exciting one-off, then state that clearly that you don’t plan on seeing this person in an intimate sense ever again after that night. Finally, if you were looking for Miss Amazing and ended up with Miss Oh-God-What-Have-I-Gotten-Myself-Into, be honest enough to say that it wasn’t really your cuppa and you’ll be moving on now. This is a daring and atypical move, one that is so bizarrely uncommon that it will probably blow the mind of your would-be partner, but it is one that should definitely be employed to avoid further awkwardness in the future.
Tune in tomorrow for the really exciting stuff, and check out the first part of this series here.
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