I have to confess something. I hate the term “friends with benefits” with a passion. It sounds like you’re adding value to a business deal or buying a car. It sounds like the friendship wasn’t that valuable in the first place, and you’re just hanging around, mouth breathing, waiting and hoping to get more.
Whether that “more” is from your “friend” or with someone else, the whole idea of “friends with benefits” is that your emotional needs aren’t fulfilled with this particular person, so you’re going to laugh a little with them (maybe) and bone a lot, while you wait for your real prince charming. After which, the friendship often gets completely jettisoned.
While browsing around, I found this article, where the author describes how to maintain a successful “friends with benefits” relationship. It is totally centered on not prioritizing your “friend”, because you could accidentally slip into creating expectations that will lead to something more.
OMG, expectations…to which I want to yell “GROW UP!” If you’re having sex with someone, you’ve got to be prepared for some basic “expectations”. Why are you practicing scratching the itch with someone who just doesn’t measure up? Also, if you’re scratching the itch with someone silently hoping that it’ll turn into more, why keep lying to yourself?
Usually “friends with benefits” goes like this:
Two people meet. They have a good enough time together, sometimes for days or years before they eventually fall in bed together. One of them mentions that they aren’t looking for a serious relationship right now. Then they agree that they don’t need a relationship with each other so they decide to keep knocking boots with the understanding that there won’t be a romantic relationship. The sex continues.
This starts out fine for the most part. Everything goes along peachy until one of the friends develops feelings for the other one (or always harbored them).
Usually it doesn’t stop there. The person with the feelings either denies they have feelings completely (and starts hoping) or comes out with a big loud admission that they have feelings and want the relationship to be something more. The other person who was happy-go-lucky up until this point now feels bait and switched.
The silent hoper goes back and forth on whether they should wait around and see if things change or actually admit to their feelings. While this internal dilemma occurs, they are silently crushed when their “friend” sees other people, goes on dates and generally doesn’t prioritize them outside the bedroom.
At this point I get a letter along these lines:
“Elizabeth, we had sex every week for the last year. Why doesn’t she/he want to be my girlfriend/boyfriend? I was hoping s/he would change her/his mind.”
To which I just want to bang my head on my desk.
My response usually sounds like this: “when you had the “we’re friends with benefits, this is all we’re doing” talk, did you think your “friend” would eventually want to change the rules if you hung around long enough? Why are you doing this silently hoping that it will magically change?”
To which, their sheepish reply is usually “well I started to really like her/him.”
The problem is that the person who develops feelings probably didn’t go into this with the intention that their feelings would change. It’s easy to develop a friendship and think that you’d never have romantic intentions for the person, but after enough trips to pound town, all of the sudden something changes.
Saying someone is your friend with benefits is like saying “if I HAD everything I wanted, I wouldn’t even be doing this”. Too often people settle for this arrangement while on the search for someone/something better, but it eats up a great deal of time, attention and emotional energy in the meantime.
For the person whose feelings are being shredded, the damage is obvious. The happy-go-lucky participant doesn’t change their mind very often. Mainly because whatever was wrong with a romantic relationship with their friend from the start is still wrong. They haven’t magically changed into someone worth dating.
Basically, “friends with benefits” is most often a road directly to heartbreak (yours or someone else’s). Save yourself the pain in the ass and either date them or don’t. Don’t settle for less if you’re looking for love.