Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Wellness > Sex + Relationships

Have you ever been a “long distance low-commitment casual girlfriend?” What does Barbie get right about modern relationships?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Bristol chapter.

In a modern world of ever-expanding social media, exposure to everything the world has to offer is both a blessing and a curse. There is seemingly a never-ending amount of options – whether this be career paths, lifestyle choices or even personal aesthetics.

The unfortunate reality is that this increased access can have a detrimental effect on how we view romantic relationships. Countless dating sites and empowering Instagram ‘thirst traps’ can inundate your messages with a whole array of perfectly plausible suitors, whom we may accept into our lives for a weeks worth of conversation, or who leave their mark in a long-term romantic partnership.

So when you think you’ve found this shining beacon of an idealised partner, you may find yourself accepting far less than you deserve in a desperate attempt to keep them in your life. Perhaps you wait months before asking the terrifying question of ‘are we exclusive?’, to be met with the heartbreaking revelation that they have been sleeping with other people throughout.

Greta Gerwig’s satire in her record-breaking film, Barbie, resonated with many viewers for how it hit a little bit too close to home. TikTok has been but one platform where people have spoken out about being the real-life ‘long distance low-commitment casual girlfriend’, with some asking ‘am I the problem?’, while others admit to enjoying the relaxed status.

This leads us to the question of whether unconventional or casual relationships ever truly work? Can you engage healthily in a casual, physical partnership without the messy consequences of emotional involvement?

I am by no means suggesting that you aspire to only enter relationships with people you are fairly certain you could spend the rest of your life with. After all, life is full of transitory periods where low-commitment relationships can be perfect in fulfilling a desire for passion and companionship. The problems arise, however, when a lack of communication leaves two individuals on starkly different pages.  

We can learn more about the need for mutuality in romantic partnerships by looking at Barbie’s relationship with Ken. The driving force behind Ken’s desire to be with Barbie is his lack of an independent identity. He does not know who he is without her and therefore wants to be with her for the self-serving purpose of feeling whole. Barbie offers Ken far more than Ken offers Barbie so their relationship dynamic is totally unequal.

Love in any form requires some element of compromise and sacrifice; you should not enter into a relationship for purely selfish reasons. In doing so, you risk hurting the person that in theory you should be supporting. Ken is hurt by Barbie’s inability to make him feel whole, and Barbie is hurt by Ken turning to the patriarchy (and horses) to satisfy his needs.

In today’s climate of modern dating, people can forget to ask themselves why they have entered into a relationship in the first place. The most straightforward answer is love – you think someone is so wonderful that you wish to give a large part of your life over to them. The more complicated answers are lust, mental stimulation, status, stability, or a fear of being single. All of which become more confusing when categorised under the vague title of ‘casual’.

Because social media and dating sites have made relationships more obtainable, people can forget how special a compatible partnership actually is. The faster pace of modern life can see us interact with hundreds of people in a single day, in far less organic and sentimental ways. It’s almost as though the modern world is reminding us not to settle too quickly in case you meet someone even more amazing tomorrow. Perhaps ‘long distance low-commitment casual’ relationships are a result of romance becoming less sacred and people unintentionally taking each other for granted.

So, what can we do to ensure that we are entering into someone’s life for the right reasons? The first step is to be honest – to your partner and, even more importantly, to yourself. If we accept ‘long distance low-commitment casual’ status, when in reality we’re hoping for a deeper connection, we must pause to consider the future emotional impact of doing so.

Relationships and feelings are in a constant state of change, and what we believe at the start may not align with how we feel after months of intimacy. The irony is that even though there are many opportunities to connect with people on a more mutual level, being in a relationship for any amount of time can tie you close enough to someone to make leaving them difficult. Sometimes, having someone in any capacity, regardless of how casual, seems better than not having them at all.

Open communication is key. Telling a romantic interest what you want, and listening to what they want in return are the early stages of any functioning partnership. Long-term relationships can begin in the most unconventional scenarios, but only if two people are on the same page. As long as two people are benefiting equally from each other’s companionship, then who is to say what they should or shouldn’t do. But you can’t enter a ‘long distance low-commitment casual’ relationship and be surprised when it stays as one.

Ella Woszczyk

Bristol '24

Third-year English Literature student at the University of Bristol. Aspiring to work within the journalism industry. On the senior team of our university's award-winning student newspaper, Epigram – working as Deputy Editor.