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Wellness > Sex + Relationships

The Long-Term Hookup: Unofficially Official or Officially Unofficial?

On any college campus, it’s a classic situation to casually hook up with a guy you may, or may not, know very well. What happens, though, when he becomes your go-to hookup? You’re not “together,” but no matter what other guys you talk to that night, you’ll always end up at his place. If this lasts for a few weeks, a month, or longer – are you unofficially dating?
Her Campus spoke with America’s Dating Doctor – the real life Hitch – David Coleman, along with college guys and girls about these long-term hookups to help us answer the question of: how casual is your long-term hookup?
*Most of the students in our survey chose to remain anonymous for privacy reasons.
It might be more serious than you thought if…
1. You’ve been hooking up for months (and months).

The first issue is deciding what qualifies as “long-term.” In our survey of forty-four college students from various schools across the country, fifty-four percent of respondents said that they consider a long-term hookup to be one lasting at least over one month. Eighty percent said sometime in the past they had been in, what they considered to be a long-term hookup. Another fifteen percent said they were currently in one.
Coleman says that the duration of a consistent hookup matters. “Once is an occurrence, twice is a repeat, three times is a pattern,” he says. “When you reach three times with the same person, you’re a couple.”
Sure, to those of us in college this might seem a little soon to be considering yourself a couple, but, after you’ve hooked up three times (without hooking up with anyone else between, of course), you’re probably more likely to call each other and make the hookups or hangouts even more common.
As Coleman says, “when a guy is hooking up repeatedly with the same girl, his friends will say ‘you’ve found a mattress partner,’ but when it continues for two months, three months, or longer, they’ll tell him, ‘I don’t care what you say, dude. That’s your girlfriend.’”
Once you get to hooking up with the same guy consistently for two or three months, or maybe even lasting an entire semester, you might start to feel as if you are actually in a relationship – you call each other at the end of the night to hang out (if you weren’t already hanging out earlier), and end up spending a significant amount of time together during the week.
“Most people don’t just hook up and then leave. You often hang out after, or outside of the hook up setting,” Coleman says. This, he adds, leads to “one or both of the people secretly falling for the other.”

One junior girl, who is currently in a 3-month-long hookup said she feels there are some mutual feelings of caring with her hookup guy. “It’s still a ‘no strings attached’ thing, but we wouldn’t still be hanging out if I was only seen as a booty call.”  Some nights, she says, they hang out but don’t ‘hookup’. “It can definitely be harder on your feelings, but I feel like there’s a little bit more caring [in a long-term hookup] than a one night stand offers.”
Another junior girl in our survey said her 3-month-long hookup was casual for the first couple months, but then became more serious. “Usually a long term hook-up results in a relationship,” she says. “Which I think is better than a one-night stand.”
One junior boy even noticed his feelings for his current hookup of one month. “We still aren’t boyfriend and girlfriend, but we definitely feel like we have obligations to each other that are more than sexual,” he said.
Make sure that you’re both on the same page though. If one person in the hookup thinks of the situation as more couple-like than the other, this can lead to serious hurt on that person’s end. Jealousy then becomes a huge factor.
2. You get upset when he talks to other girls.

Eighty percent of students in our survey said they considered their long-term hookup to be causal, or no-strings-attached. Yet seventy-nine percent said they would still be upset if they found out their hookup had hooked up with someone else. Does this mean we think our hookups, no matter how casual, should be exclusive?
To Coleman, this is just another indicator that regardless of whether it’s official, you and your hookup may be a couple. “The minute you hit long-term, you’ve become a couple,” he says. “And if one or both of you don’t have the same thing in mind for your relationship, watch how quickly the jealousy can come out.”
An example Coleman gives is: imagine you’ve been hooking up with the same guy at least twice a week for three weeks or more. “If he calls you one day and says he’s moved on to someone else, how would you feel?”  If the answer is terrible, upset, or frustrated, Coleman says this is because, although neither of you had discussed the situation, you may have felt like you two were a couple.
Ultimately, since these long-term hookups aren’t usually declared as exclusive, “jealousy always interferes when the other person finds someone else,” Coleman says. “If you’re jealous that he’s talking to another girl, or has pictures with another girl, you are, or want to be a couple.”
One junior guy at Syracuse University said that his hookup of one month was exclusive with no strings attached. But was he in a relationship? “It’s a grey area to say the least,” he says.
Pittsburgh University senior, Jordan, says, “If both people are clear that you are just hooking up then there is no reason to be upset if they hook up with someone else. However, if you have stated that it’s just hooking up, but you are doing so exclusively, then be as upset as you want!”
Although the amount of jealousy you have towards him to talking to other girls may not totally qualify as couple-status, it may indicate your feelings for him and that, perhaps, it is not quite as no-strings-attached as you had originally thought. Take note of how upset you get if, for example, he’s tagged in pictures with other girls. If you’re feeling that other girls should lay off your man, tread easily on the casualness of your hookup situation – you may be falling for him more than you realize.
It’s probably just a hookup if…

1. The sex came before cuddling.

Whether it’s wanting a regular sexual partner, or being able to build an emotional connection over time, seventy-eight percent of students in our survey said they would prefer a long-term hookup over a one-night stand, or a two-night fling.
Alexa, a freshman at James Madison University says that long-term hookups can allow you to, “figure out if you would like to continue something with that person, and maybe turn it into a long-term relationship instead.”
Coleman, however, advises girls to be wary of how quickly they jump to sex, even with a hookup. “When I ask men, if a woman has sex with him the first time he meets her, will she meet his parents, ninety percent of them say no.”
Usually, casual sex before a regular non-sex hangout puts your situation on clear hookup-only status.  Coleman tells us, if you’re engaging in casual sex with a guy, it’s best not to assume that it will lead to a more meaningful, real relationship (although it certainly can).
Our college hook-ups may not always lead to “meeting the parents,” but Coleman explains what he means by this: generally, “the quicker a guy wants to have sex with a girl, the less long-term plans he has for her. If you think you could ever potentially want to date that person, don’t have casual sex with them.”
For us girls, this means, if you think eventually you may be looking for something more than just a hookup buddy, wait to have sex. Be careful about (excuse the pun) jumping on it right away, and then wishing it were more meaningful, and not just a hookup, later on.
Sometimes the casualness and casual sex that get the hookup started in the first place can be exactly what keeps it from turning into anything more serious in the future.
2. You would never want to date him.

Once you’ve been hooking up with the same guy for a month or more and your feelings about wanting to keep things casual have changed, you’re probably hoping that some time in the future he’ll want to date you – so you’ll just stick around until then.
It’s not always girls who are the commitment-hunters though. Both guys and girls in our survey said that there are several reasons they don’t want to turn their long-term hookups into relationships.
One junior girl surveyed said, “Sometimes guys are better hookups than boyfriends. Having the long-term hookup allows you to keep your options open and meet new people.”
A junior boy surveyed said, “if you want emotional attachment, it can get confusing with long-term hookups. When do emotions become involved? What if you start getting feelings for each other? There are a lot of complications; sometimes it’s just easier to have one or two night stands.”
Coleman says long-term hookups are sometimes a way for us to avoid dating people. “Hooking up gives you that security that you can tell your friends, ‘I’m all set, I have a guy,’” without being in a fully committed relationship.
Thirty percent of students said that dating their hookup partner would change the relationship. Coleman says part of this is that the “passion disappears, and the novelty wears off,” when it’s official.

So you want to have “the talk”…
If all you’re doing is hooking up, either late-night or some afternoon delight, perhaps it’s not best to bring up the relationship question just yet. However, if you and your hook-up hang out other than that, maybe a relationship conversation shouldn’t be far off.
Try starting the conversation off by telling him you hadn’t expected to want anything more when you first started hooking up, that way he doesn’t feel like you’ve been hiding anything from the beginning. Tell him you thought things could stay casual, but that you’re starting to have feelings for him. Be honest about how you feel, but don’t try to pressure him into a relationship. If it started off as just a hookup, remember that he still may not be interested in making things more serious. 
One senior girl surveyed said, “My long-term hookup, which lasted about a year, turned into a relationship after 12 months of swearing it would never go further. Then he admitted he was in love with me. Just because a relationship starts off on sex doesn’t mean it can’t be a whole lot more.”
On the other hand, Alexa from James Madison says, “if the guy you are hooking up with isn’t interested in [dating], but you are, it could be like beating a dead horse. His feelings aren’t going to change and you are keeping yourself in that miserable state longer than you should be.”
The only way you’ll really know how he feels though, is to ask, and be honest about how you feel. Who knows, maybe he’s been waiting for you to bring it up!
Before your next hookup…

The most important thing going into a hookup, whether it’s a one-night stand, a two-week fling, or a three-month hookup buddy, Coleman says, is to make sure you and your guy are one the same page.
“Be honest from the moment you meet,” he says. “If you don’t want a real relationship, say that upfront.”
If you’re not interested in dating, let him know that from the get-go. It will save you stressful situations and conversations down the road, if he knows what to expect. On the other hand, remember Coleman’s advice about being wary about casual sex if you are looking for a more meaningful relationship.
Whatever your hookup situation, Coleman adds, “never have unprotected sex with a casual sex partner.”
These long-term hookups can be fun and low-key, but always protect yourself sexually, and, as Coleman suggests, know that from the beginning, you and he are on the same page on where the hooked is headed.
College students from across the country
David Coleman, America’s Dating Doctor

Heather is a 2012 graduate of Syracuse University's Newhouse School with a degree in Magazine Journalism. Growing up in southern Vermont, she learned to appreciate the New England small-town life. During her time at SU she served as Editor-in-Chief of What the Health magazine on her college campus and was a member of the Syracuse chapter of ED2010. This summer Heather is exploring the world of digital entrepreneurship at the Tech Garden in Syracuse, NY where she is Co-Founder of Scrapsule.com. Aside from social media and home decor, she loves vintage jewelry, strawberry banana smoothies, running, and autumn in Vermont.