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Is commitment required in a relationship? In Thailand can pickup a bargirl in a casual way or pick up girls where it's a series committed relationship. Casual serious relationships are more the norm than the exception.

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The Casual Serious Relationship
casual serious relationship

Are you serious . . . . about screwing around?

Relationships have a lot of room for interpretation.  In Like Father, Like Son, I discussed that not all of us had pops who took us to sports games and scout meetings.  Some dads enjoy frequenting brothels and doing blow with their progeny. 

Now it's time to dissect the boyfriend-girlfriend relationship -- how flexible is that one?  For the sake of this discussion, I will make a few very basic assumptions which I'm sure no reader will beg to differ with:

Each person in the relationship is a heterosexual.  Gay and bisexual relationships, I believe, have a lot more room for maneuver with vaguer definitions of commitment, but I am in no position, either personally or tangentially, to dissect the flexibilities.  That said, gays and bisexuals have been practicing the casual serious relationship for years without calling it that.  Were they ahead of their time?

  Each person in the relationship views the other as his or her partner, and any outside observers, like mutual friends of the two in the relationship, consider the two together.

I do not assume that the couple are in love or that the couple even like each other all that much.   That helps, but isn't required.  Two people can be together out of boredom or lack of better options.

In the typical (or call it the accepted) boyfriend-girlfriend relationship, the male and the female are good friends with one another, perhaps best friends.   Each can confide in the other the most intimate details.  This intense like usually turns into love.   A sexual component is involved.  It may be as innocent as hand-holding or kissing for very young couples, but the mutual sexual interest is necessary, even if activity goes unexercised.   Without that interest on both sides, what remains is just a friendship at best; and with interest on just one side, an unrealized obsession that can turn into a stalking nightmare at worst.

Living in Thailand for awhile, you see other sorts of boyfriend-girlfriend relationships that, next to the typical relationship, seem like they couldn't possibly work, yet do.  As with anything, repeated exposure to something makes it seem normal after awhile. 

In case you're unaware, Thailand, along with the Philippines, enjoys a reputation as a land of the easy pickups.  For more information on the copious seduction opportunities, click here.   Bars dot any tourist town in Thailand and some not so touristy towns as well.  For less than the price of a take-out basil-chili-onion Chicago-style deep dish pizza, one can take out a young Thai lady for an all-nighter, social aptitude and sobriety not required.  For about ten times that take-out fee, a man can rent out the girl permanently  --  in effect, buy himself a girlfriend.   

I know a man, in fact, who did just this.  Ryker was a tall and rotund Danish man my age, not too bright, running a guest house in my town.   We met on a bus doing a visa run to Myanmar.  Ryker had purchased his first teenaged girlfriend out of a bar.  That relationship lasted maybe six months, with him accidentally impregnating her just a week before they broke up.  He visited another bar and rented out another teenager whom he also purchased a long term extension on.   When I met him, his new girlfriend was working the front desk in his guesthouse and calling him her king.  I'm not sure if it's legal for a Thai citizen to proclaim loyalty to two kings.   

One friend  of mine, Jake, semi-fluent in Thai, could have qualified for born-again virgin status in his native England.  Doubtlessly, this is one reason he hates living in the UK.  He lives in a perpetual drought there.   In Thailand, he loves to frequent seedy bars, play pool, drink beer, and chat with the ladies.  We were to meet once for dinner in Bangkok.  I arrived fifteen minutes late, and he told me to meet him in the bar around the corner.   He'd already secured a 19-yr old bargirl's number (she turned out to be 17, he found out later) and invited her to travel with him to my town, a  Thai beach resort, the following day.     

They maintained a rocky and tumultuous relationship for the next few weeks until he returned to the UK.   There, he rang her daily until he came back to Thailand 6 months later, and they moved in together.  On the side, she continued to work in the bars and solicit pay-for-play action, and he, on the side, continued to try to obtain the numbers of girls he'd meet on the subway or coffee shops.    Eventually, he dumped her, and she moved away, but he became obsessed with getting her back almost immediately and continued illicit trysts with her as she simultaneously dated an American cocaine addict while still collecting cash for bar-side pickups. 

Another friend, Josef, met a coffee stall worker in the shopping mall in our town.   She was 21, he was 38.  He had another girlfriend then, one all of us liked, but Josef pronounced  her "not hot enough" -- that's the official reason he dumped her -- and forged ahead in attempts to seduce the junior barista a few weeks before giving the girlfriend the axe.  The 21-yr old lass, meanwhile, was conducting shenanigans with a married 25-yr old Thai who was also helping to financially support her.  At some point soon after, each man found out the other was also seeing her.   You can imagine the series of clever lies she had to regularly spin to keep each man's jealousy levels within tolerable bounds.  Because this girl was not exclusively his, Josef became obsessed with her and rarely sought out other women.  When he moved away to Phuket for a new teaching job, afraid of losing her for good, he invited her to move in with him.  The assumption was that she, living hours away from her Thai romancer, would cut off all ties to him and solely commit to Josef, just as he was committing to her.  Josef thought himself victorious in this Battle of the Lovers.

A mere two months after cohabitation, Josef confided in me that he regretted the decision to invite her to move in, even to continue the romance,  and was plotting ways to extricate himself from the relationship.  As far as he knew at the time, she hadn't done anything wrong.   His reasons  for wanting out this time around were that he was too young to settle down, this girl wasn't his soul mate, and he wanted to experience the hot island fleshpots Phuket had to offer.  He happened to come across some damning evidence a few weeks later which revealed that his girlfriend was still communicating with her Thai lover.  She had gone so far as to spend a week with that "ex" just a month after she and Josef had moved in together while Josef was in Europe to visit his mother.    Josef wanted to confront her immediately and throw her out on her behind by week's end.   "I don't want to be her chump," he said.  I managed to convince him not to do so, not because I felt sorry for or sympathized with her, but because in throwing her out immediately, he would only be hurting himself.   When Josef doesn't have a girlfriend, all he talks about is getting a girlfriend.

What Ryker, Jake, and Josef have in common, to varying degrees, is that all of them were involved in a casual serious relationship.  Casual is too weak a word to describe what they had and serious is too strong.  In a casual relationship, there is no pretense towards exclusivity or any kind of a long term horizon.   If asked, "Where is this relationship going and how long do you think it'll last?" the answer would be something like "It doesn't have to go anywhere and for as long as we're having fun."  The rich and famous can have casual flings with multiple groupies simultaneously.  Both sides usually know it doesn't mean anything.   In a serious relationship, it's stated (or at least heavily implied) that the couple are to be faithful.  If one strays, it's done so clandestinely.   

Ryker, Jake, and Josef conducted their relationships on hybrid ground.   All were quite casual in the selection process.  Ryker picked his out of a bar after a couple beers, Jake the same but didn't pay, and Josef's hormones went out of control when chancing upon his conquest during a coffee break.  Yet once these on-the-spot selections were made, each pursued a path that's more commonly observed in a serious relationship.  Ryker and Jake moved in with their girls.  Josef, locked in a competition with a man coughing up a lot more dough, had to make do with seeing his girl whenever she could make time for him, but fretting whenever she couldn't.   Were Josef seeing her casually, he would've been indifferent to her seeing other men and likely lined up a few more side projects of his own.

A relationship only works if both parties are on the same page, if they have the same expectations.  If one party wants it casual and the other wants an exclusive long term commitment, the relationship is doomed.   

Was Ryker committed?  His teenaged lovetoys needn't have possessed a graduate degree, let alone have completed junior high school, to realize that any man picking up a girlfriend for payment out of a bar after just a few hours of drunken chats could and would do the same thing again whenever he felt like it.   I guarantee that if you poll one hundred couples still committed to each other after five years, none met because one party paid a cash handout to the other.   Jake was no more committed.  Josef undertook his seduction while he and his target were still involved with others.  How committed is that?

It takes two to tango, as they say.   I argue that the reason that these three mens' relationships worked for longer than a weekend was because the girls were equally as uncommitted.  Ryker's and Jake's girls had ample paid experience learning how to be 'committed' for short periods of time, be it a night, a week, or a month -- casual serious commitment as I discuss it here.   Josef's girl was poor, from the north of Thailand, sending money home to support her mother and brother on her meager salary.   She needed assistance any way she could get it, even from an already married Thai man known to play around or a foreign man looking for a bit of fun on the side.  

Josef was shocked when he discovered his live-in lover was continuing to see the Thai man she'd supposedly broken off all contact with, and I think it would've been justifiable for Josef to get upset had he and she been in a serious relationship.  To the casual outside observer, including myself, it seemed that they were serious about each other.   It was all an illusion.  Josef was never committed.  He wasn't committed during the two years he'd been sharing her with the Thai man, and he wasn't committed after he invited her to move in.  All he was committed to was winning the battle for her affections.  It really wasn't about winning her.   She was committed, not to him, but to receiving some affection, even if not exclusive, as long as her financial needs were taken care of.  She had no reason to fully trust Josef, her Thai lover, or any other man.  Seen that way, I believe each party got what s/he deserved.

It's unreasonable to assume you'll get total commitment unless you're also willing to provide it.  Jake and Josef were devastated when they found out their "soulmates" were conducting other relationships, sometimes not even behind their backs.  In their minds, Jake and Josef deluded themselves they were serious about their partners and vice versa.  If they were willing to be serious with their girlfriends, they would've chosen different girlfriends. 

Casual serious relationships can work.   My girlfriend's son has several Thai friends who are half Thai, the father being of some Western nationality.   One father works in shipping in Singapore, the other in security in various locations outside Thailand.  Both fathers are away the majority of the time.   In a Western sense, these marriages probably wouldn't work because of the separation.  In Thailand, they do, for the very same reason.    Separation is not an obstacle in the casual serious relationship.  It's a facilitator.  If a man is looking for some form of stability without being tied down, and the woman is seeking primarily financial support and a sperm donor to create the children she wants to raise, the casual serious relationship is ideal. 

Since I really do not know either of the men above, I cannot say with absolute certainty that their marriages are casual serious relationships.  Perhaps they have some other understanding going on that I'm not aware of.   I'm just doing the math.  A relationship is only going to work if a partner is chosen to fit one's lifestyle, not the other way around.   

It wasn't always that way.   During my parents' generation and before, there was only one relationship publicly acceptable:  the serious (heterosexual) relationship which led to marriage and children.  If your lifestyle didn't suit that relationship mold, too bad.  You suffered. Too many baby boomers got stuck in too many stifling marriages that only now, with divorce more of an acceptable alternative, the sufferers are escaping from.  The casual serious relationship might have been a way out for many.   

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