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NSA Relationship!? What the! (Definition, Facts, More)

My friend Jeremy asked me a question at a party the other night. He said, “Ryan—what is an NSA relationship? I was on a dating application the other night and someone asked me if I would be interested in that and didn’t know what it meant.” Well, I laughed a little bit because that’s probably an awkward situation.

According to Jessica Fern, a psychotherapist and the author of Polysecure: Attachment, Trauma and Consensual Nonmonogamy, as of September 2020, about 4% of Americans, nearly 16 million people, are “practicing a non-monogamous style of relationship.” This seems like a number that’s growing quite rapidly in the United States.

NSA relationship

First, my experience with this…

While I have never actually been in an NSA relationship—what I can say is that many women behave like they want to be in one. And that’s the part that for some men, can be really hard. It can spark a lot of feelings of jealousy and deep rooted issues that aren’t going to be easy to solve.

There are many signs that the person that you’re with would like to be in an open relationship. Primarily, if you take a look at where they place their priorities in life—it’s going to be extremely telling.

The NSA relationship

An NSA relationship stands for a “no strings attached” relationship. It is a non-monogamous relationship where the other might either have another partner they are with. Or looking to be with you without any commitment.

This means that the person really isn’t interested in having an exclusive or committed relationship. Note, it’s very important to realize that both commitment and exclusivity are very different. And depending on your goals—you’re not going to get either of them.

Related: What is friends with benefits?

Characteristics of an NSA relationship

In many cases, this is what an NSA relationship is going to look like:

  • He/she might have multiple partners: They might have multiple partners that they are with—meaning that you are part of a group of them.
  • There’s no desire for commitment: There’s really no intention of the relationship ever turning into something serious or long-term.
  • The chance for “love” to arise is very low: You’re most likely not going to fall in love with each other. The intention of the relationship is to “have fun” so to speak.
  • You’re going to get what the relationship offers: One of the main things that the relationship offers is intimacy. But note: that’s all that you’ll ever get out of it. Meaning, if you’re looking for something with deeper feelings or emotions, you probably should not choose this type of relationship.

See also: Signs she is cheating on you

Benefits of an NSA relationship

Some benefits of the relationship can include:

  • Having a reduced stress level: If long-term relationships cause you a lot stress—then you’re probably going to appreciate this type of a relationship.
  • If your interest are “intimacy”: If all you’re looking for is to be intimate with someone—then this might be a perfect type of relationship for you.
  • When you’re already in an open-relationship: When you already have a relationship that you’re in that’s open and non-monogamous, then this might be a perfect fit for you.

Related: What is a free use relationship?

Drawbacks of the relationship type

Some drawbacks to consider:

  • If you want something serious: Really ask yourself if you’re looking for something serious or not. Many people enter into these types of relationships thinking that the relationship type might change. It probably won’t. And even if it does—is this the way you want the relationship to start? Probably not!
  • When you are a jealous person: If you have any type of deep rooted jealousy within yourself or struggle with issues of insecurity—you should never enter into this type of a relationship.
  • If you’re thinking this an opportunity to cheat: Maybe you’re the type of person who isn’t concerned with cheating (I hope not!), but if you are—this relationship type isn’t going to work for you, either. Even though the person wants an NSA relationship—it won’t make it any easier.

See also: What does bookie mean in a relationship?

Conclusion—What to know about the no strings attached relationship

NSA stands for “no strings attached.” In most cases, it’s when someone wants to get intimate with you and has no intentions of “having feelings.” In some cases, you can think of this as a “friends with benefits” type of scenario.

The person generally only has interests of having either a brief or potentially ongoing encounter with you and potentially other people. If you’re interested in having a relationship (committed or long-term), you probably shouldn’t engage in this type of a relationship.

If your interests are purely intimacy-related—then this relationship type might work for you. It really depends on your goals, age, and interests as a person. When you’re not sure if this relationship type fits you or not—I advise you speak to a professional and figure out what your intentions are with love, relationships, and your own general future.

Fact checked:
Board reviewed by Marianne Tomlinson, LCSW (Couples and Family Therapy). Content is rigorously reviewed by a team of qualified and experienced fact checkers. Learn more.

About the author

Ryan Sanderson (LCSW) Ryan is a game and relationship enthusiast who enjoys all things quizzes, games, fun, love, relationships, and family. He's a licensed social worker and helps families, couples, and children in need. He's spoken about love and relationships on Salon.com, Forbes, and Mirror, to name a few.

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