Last summer I was head over heels with Josh. He was tall, good-looking, and had this mischievous smile on his face, so I couldn’t help but notice him while sipping on Dirty Martini in my favorite bar. Moments later we were chatting away with sparks flying in the air and it didn’t take long to determine that he was quite a catch. That’s how we started dating.
We met up for a coffee one Saturday afternoon before heading to his apartment for some “dessert”. We sat at an outdoor terrace of his favorite coffee shop. A warm breeze was ruffling his hair and my smile was reflecting in his sunglasses. I was casually caressing his hand while admiring his sexy physique. And then he popped the question. No, not that kind of question you are probably thinking of right now. “Would you mind if we keep it casual?”.
A few moments of awkward silence ensued. “You mean like… seeing other people?” I finally asked. He shrugged his shoulders and mumbled something about the no strings attached type of arrangement while having the most innocent look in his eyes.
What the heck is the NSA relationship?
When I returned back home later that day, I had to call a couple of friends who were more experienced in the no-strings dating department than I was. Before giving Josh an answer I wanted to fully understand what came in the package.
A couple of hours later I was armed with theoretical knowledge about NSA relationships and faced the reality: I can expect anything but commitment and accountability. And ‘anything’ pretty much implied sex. Well, maybe coffee before or after it.
After pondering over all the pros and cons of such a relationship I decided to give it a shot. I found Josh attractive, right? I didn’t want anything too serious like family and kids just yet, right? The chemistry between us was mind-blowing. What could possibly go wrong?
Little did I know that the NSA relationship sounded much easier in theory than it actually was in practice.
Keeping the expectations low
I was fully aware that I should keep my expectations realistic and not demand any commitment from Josh. And yet I kept on checking my phone for his goodnight messages – a habit that I had developed with my ex-boyfriend. I was secretly dreaming of Josh showing up on my doorstep with a bunch of flowers when I was sick or offering to go on a holiday together.
The reality was that I found myself sitting at home in my pajamas with a box of tissues and flu meds while gazing at the phone screen showing that my text message was seen 3 hours ago and Josh was online. Needless to say during the times like this I was feeling sorry for myself being reminded that this was not a real relationship.
At the beginning of our fling, we texted each other quite a bit, but in fact, it was more sexting than anything else. If I sent him regular updates of my day, he usually wouldn’t reply or react with an emoji. Eventually, our messages became more transactional, we texted a couple of times a week or so, just to coordinate our meetups for NSA fun.
Sex was the only expectation that was met and exceeded and that kept me hanging on to Josh – he was just too damn good in bed to let him go.
Controlling the emotions
My friends warned me to stay away from emotional attachment, but it was easier said than done. I am a caring type and I tend to develop a bond with the people I care for. Josh was no exception. I would empathize with him when he had a rough day, but he’d never do that to me. On the contrary, sometimes I felt like the more I cared, the bigger the distance he was keeping. I was never a priority number one in his life and that affected my self-esteem.
It took me some time to recalibrate my mindset and stop thinking of him the moment when I walked out of his door as there was no other way around it: he clearly drew the boundaries and I had to accept the rules of the game.
Distancing myself from Josh was an ongoing struggle and there were days when I would feel sad, rejected, and not appreciated for who I am. The basic human needs of love and belonging were not met and it made me realize how important these things were to me.
Suspecting that Josh had some other casual encounters triggered my sensitivity even more. There were times when Josh’s phone would beep non-stop and he’d be totally distracted while I was talking to him or smiling mischievously when texting somebody. I knew he had another life, or maybe a few other lives outside of our regular bedroom dates, and the possible scenarios kept on running through my head. I never asked him any questions about his private life as I don’t think I could have handled it well.
Coping with the lack of depth
We were together, but not together at the same time. We never met each other’s friends nor did any activities that proper couples do such as traveling, attending events, or parties. I knew he’d thrown parties for his friends at his place, but I was never invited.
In the beginning, the lack of quality time together wasn’t an issue: we both were crazy for each other in terms of sexual attraction and a drink at a bar before or after a steamy affair in the bedroom was enough. But over time the novelty of having a no strings attached relationship wore off and I started longing for deep conversations, meaningful interactions, and emotional intimacy.
A few times I stayed at his place overnight, but the next morning it felt awkward and somehow wrong. Putting my clothes on and dashing through the door wasn’t exactly my idea of intimacy. Despite a night of mind-blowing sex, I was feeling a moral hangover, questioning myself what I was doing with him and why I was doing it.
Is the NSA relationship worth it?
No strings attached relationship with Josh taught me a few things, first and foremost about myself. One of those things was learning to let things go. While I admired Josh’s looks and charisma, there were certain features that were driving me crazy. His absentmindedness, lack of organizational skills, and general vision in his life were the properties that I was certainly not looking for in a man of my dreams.
Accepting the fact that our relationship was not going to end up with Happily Ever After helped me to develop a certain distance from him and to be less demanding. If I treated him as a boyfriend, I would have probably tried to change him and in this case, I just let it go. My inner control freak was cured and I considered it a small victory that my future relationships would benefit from.
Another lesson that this relationship taught me is to be here now. You might call it hedonism, but for a rationalist like me who tends to plan and project everything, it was more about learning how to be present in the moment and fully enjoy it.
Would I do it again? Probably not. At some point, I admitted to myself that I want something more meaningful rather than just no strings attached sex every now and again and a few days of silence in between.
If you’ve read this article that far, you might be looking for the answer if the NSA relationship is right for you. While it didn’t work out for me in a long run (I and Josh parted our ways after almost eight months of NSA dating), it does not mean it will not work out for you as long as you keep your expectations low and stay away from emotional attachment. Keep it real and don’t try to soothe yourself with false hopes that one day your fling partner is going to change and offer you a serious relationship.