Smouldering looks, cocksure touches, electrifying whispers.

The hook-up culture has been designed by sexual people for sexual people. Being founded on tiny thrills and flirtatious pleasures, it allows us not only to actualize our wildest dreams, but also to explore, without any judgment or shame, the inane, frivolous side of what we call physical attraction.

And boy, is there a lot to explore.

In this newly erupted “sociosexually unrestricted” movement, there’s a place for every curve and every blemish. It’s Woodstock all over again, only this time, we’re hoping to learn a little bit more about who we are as people, and what we need as beings that equally enjoy mere sex and deep love.

Because, let’s not kid ourselves – sex is very, very important.

But sex is also profoundly intimate, which is why it shouldn’t surprise you if your hook-up starts to feel more like a relationship than a casual encounter. It’s happened before, and it’ll happen again. The lines between loveless sex and making love are so thin that it’s really no wonder that they get blurred.

The only trick is, you can’t always tell what side you’re on.

To spare you the embarrassment of having to ask, we’ve created the following guide.

Consider it a sobering quickie.

1. The Conversation Is Deep and Meaningful

Aside from the precedent about consensual adults, casual sex has only one unwritten rule – that the perfect stranger must leave the scene of the crime before the first morning coffee. But this can cause confusion too. Do both of you want to end it there? Or do you secretly wish for it to last a little longer?

And how do you know what the beautiful stranger wants?

Should you break the spell by coming clean?

Our advice is to let it go, at least for a day or two. Take things as they come, and see what happens. If after some time you two start giggling and having conversations after or before sex, then it’s safe to say that something is cooking on a deeper, more personal level. Your pillow talk will only grow softer.

Meaningful conversations are usually a reliable tell-tale sign that the casual relationship is going in a totally different direction. And, they don’t even have to be heart-to-heart talks; long and engaging chitchats can be just as intimate. They are another kind of deep connection, a counterpart to the sex itself.

Sooner or later, your beautiful stranger will share something personal about their friends, career, or family. These refreshing insights into their life are only one conversation away from stories about their childhood, at which point the line between a hook-up and something deeper is already far, far behind.

The more you talk about yourselves, the closer you’ll become.

Like it or not, there’s no escaping that.

2. You Care About Each Other’s Problems

As the conversation between two people who are attracted to each other grows deeper, the everyday anecdotes and stories grow more heartfelt and serious. It’s time for both personal confessions that will take you back to the past, and intimate reveries that will reveal whether you have a future together.

It’s also time for spontaneous outbursts of feelings.

If your beautiful stranger decides to call or text you when they’re feeling under the weather (and vice versa), then you can be certain that you’re more than just a booty call. While meaningful convos signalize that you’re becoming interested in each other’s thoughts, sober texts usually indicate trust.

Of course, this entire scenario works in the opposite direction as well. If you are the one who calls or texts to share your problems, but the mysterious stranger still responds, the lines are once again blurred. It means they care about what’s happening to you, so much so that they’ll rush to text back.

A booty call is a one-way street. This is something different.

In most people’s vocabulary, casual sex translates to “no commitment”. And, what is listening to someone’s problems if not commitment to their wellbeing and happiness? It’s a selfless act that’s reserved only for the people we deeply care about, those in whose fulfilment we want to participate.

The people we actually want to ask how their day was.

People who are our friends, family, and partners in love.

3. You Keep In Touch In-Between Hook-Ups

happy couple eating desserts together

For any of this to happen, you and your mysterious stranger must be in contact in-between hook-ups. Just like out-of-the-blue texts, staying in touch without any second thoughts means that the conversation if flowing. Sex is for night, while talking is for day. This is exactly how relationships work.

You know what else resembles a relationship?

Sharing eggs and bacon for breakfast.

Different couples have different morning routines, but spending the night in the same bed and waking up together with the first sun rays is pretty much a definition of a relationship. That’s why people who prefer casual romance rigorously avoid it, and why it’s time to ask yourself what do you prefer yourself.

If it feels nice, then it can’t be a mistake, right?

There’s something surprisingly elegant and simple in hook-ups, a unique code of respect that both parties have for their own and the other one’s personal space. It says: “Don’t call me if you’re sad. I don’t need to know if you’re feeling cheerful either. The only thing I want to know is when and where.”

By nature of this code, untopical arrangements (the only topic here being casual sex) are typically frowned upon. If both of you accept them without any complaints, then sorry to break your bubble, but you’re aiming beyond the boundaries of a sociosexually unrestricted agreement. And that’s great.

One of these days, you’ll probably find yourself holding hands.

And that’s great too.

Who knows? You might grow old like that.

4. You Hang Out Without Hooking Up

A text with no words to censor? What’s next? Hanging out without hooking up?

That’s exactly what awaits you in the next phase, presuming that you’ve already had a meaningful conversation, a back-and-forth about your personal problems, and a Facebook convo that details what you’ve had for dinner last night. You know, everyday stuff that most casual lovers would deem unsexy.

We dare you to have a thrilling exchange of thoughts, dreams and ideas on Monday morning, and repeat the same old hook-up routine on Friday night. It doesn’t work that way. Words will crawl under your skin just like touches do, and you’ll come to realize that you want more of where they came from.

More chuckles, more how-will-Game-of-Thrones-end debates, more of everything.

And yes, that includes a comfortable silence and tickling battles too.

It’s a recipe for a lovey-dovey relationship. It goes without saying that an actual date is the first real conformation that what you have is sailing towards the official waters, but falling in love with a person you’re hooking up with twists and inverts this sequence. First comes the sex, and then comes the rest.

If you think about it, this non-standard inversion of events may be even more natural than the traditional three-date rule. Everything’s already in the open, every intimate quirkiness and every odd-looking mole. When there’s nothing to be insecure or ashamed about, dating is way, way more fun.

Always accept the invitation for a date.

In the worst case scenario, you’ll go back to having amazing, sweaty, meaningless sex.

5. You’re Part of Each Other’s Social Circles

couple with friends at the beatch

In the best case scenario, the next date you’ll have will be with your mysterious stranger’s friends.

Casual lovers are usually not for showing, no matter how incredibly hot they are. Another unwritten rule here is not to have a person you’re only sleeping with in a family photo album. None of them will ever be your plus one, at least not until the ice is broken and they are introduced to your close friends.

Anything else is a signal for a relationship.

If the person you’re sexually experimenting with invites you to a social gathering, or accepts your invitation to a Thursday night hang-out with the crew, the stakes are already up. Both of you have a responsibility to your friends and family, and that includes not wasting their time with random people.

Being part of each other’s social circles implies commitment. Whether that means that you need to spend a day picking an outfit or that you’re expected to share personal details about yourself with your lover’s cousin, meeting these people suggests that you care enough to enter somebody’s world.

To see them in a different light, and get to know how they behave inside of their safe zone.

To see their awkward phase photos, and fall head over heels for their stupid teenage acne.

To share a pint with their best mate, and drink tea with their mom.

6. You Take Care of Each Other

The difference between a friend with benefits and a romantic partner is in a hot bowl of soup. We’d go as far as to call it the ultimate will-we-won’t-we test – skip the night because you’re “feeling sick”, and see what happens. If there’s soup on your door within a couple of hours, you’re in for a long-term thing.

Nothing in your sociosexually unrestricted contract says that the other part is obligated to take care of you. If they choose to do it anyway, lay back and enjoy. The instinct to nurture another human being is the lubricant for a deeper connection; Rick Blaine would call it a beginning of a beautiful friendship.

“Friendships and romantic relationships have a lot in common: a sense of reliability, closeness, fun, friendship”, says couples therapists, Evie Shafner. According to her, a sense of commitment is still the only thing that separates so-called friends with benefits from lovers who are engaged in a relationship.

But a soup-giver is not just a passing fling.

This is a person who’ll come to your rescue whenever you’re feeling down, and that’s hardly the casual sex way. It’s someone who’ll hold your hair after a bad drinking spree, but also give you advice about what to do with your life. If you ask us, that’s a bonafide relationship material that must not be wasted.

Never let the person who cares slip through your fingers.

It’s extremely rare and too precious.

7. You Are the Only People You’re Interested In

sweet couple

By definition, causal relationships are polygamous and open-minded.

While it’s all fun and dandy while it lasts, having to share somebody you’re intimate with is downright scary. Not everyone is ready to stay in such a relationship for a long time, no matter what they say or how nonchalant they act about it. Sooner or later, every hook-up must either end or evolve into love.

Here’s what this means.

Every aforementioned sign of a hook-up becoming something more meaningful and deeper, every hint of psychological attraction, devotion, and care, doesn’t have to mean anything until both of you are ready to leap into full monogamy. And as monogamies go, it starts with disinterest in other people.

The moment you feel like your stranger is the only person you want to spend a night with, your casual sex days are over. The only thing left to determine is whether or not they desire the same thing. If you’re lucky, the feeling will be mutual. If not, no big deal; as we said before, there’s a lot to explore.

So don’t rush it, for time really does reveal every hidden truth.

Sexual chemistry can be very confusing, we know, but it never, ever stays the same. What you’re feeling now will grow weaker or stronger in a week, and then you’ll know where you stand and what to do next. Will you kiss and tell, or will you book a table for two, is something that only time can tell.

Until then, do savor every succulent moment.