From dating to friendship
“Having a friend with benefits is great because it’s just—it’s just less ,” he said, smoking a cigar and dressed in an inexplicable beige silk onesie. It’s not encumbered by obligations, which just lead to resentment.”He then gave me —the one that means he’s about to admit to something despicable and blame it on humanity.“We are all selfish—we all live in this Ayn Rand–ish self-centered world, whether we like it or not,” he said. You can have your sex-power persona, or you can play the super-misogynist pig, or the bimbo, and it’s okay, because you’re not being judged.
And while I can’t imagine being with my Cuba date “for real”—I mean, he’s a low-key homeless anarchist who once took me on date to his Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous meeting; there are red flags—I still value our relationship immensely.When I met him, he was 45 and charmingly grumpy, and he would always tell me: “Sex is so perfect. ” I’d go over to his apartment for a couple hours in the afternoons, we’d have sex (soberly, which meant I could actually cum), and then afterward we’d drink tea and complain about stuff. There were times when we saw each other frequently, and other times when things dropped off for a while, usually because one of us had a partner. It felt like we had entered this secretive bubble of transparency—we were emotionally intimate, yet free of the burden of jealousy and ownership.And sure, when he would get a girlfriend I would be a little bummed out—I’m (unfortunately) not a sociopath—but it didn’t cause me to spiral into an emotional cyclone the way I would have if I’d been cheated on by a boyfriend. We could spill our guts to each other because we didn’t have anything to lose.We are taught that all relationships that don’t end up in marriage are failures (because, ya know, hetero-normativity and patriarchal narratives or whatever).But subscribing to that belief ignores the fact that romantic friendships can be extremely fulfilling, enlightening, and straight-up fun.And he actually knows me better than a lot of my partners ever did.
So what is it about the friends with benefits dynamic that is more sustainable, and often more transparent, than an actual relationship? They’re like: How can you have sex with the same person, again and again, without falling in love?
“When you’re in a friends with benefits situation, you don’t have go to the other person’s awful friend’s birthday party. But if you change that dynamic into being a real relationship, then those games might not seem so sexy anymore.”In other words, your fuck buddy gets all the good stuff about being in a relationship—the wild sex, the cuddles, the juicy dark secrets—minus all of the boring, would-rather-die activities that go hand in hand with commitment, like having to help assemble your boyfriend’s IKEA bed, or having to watch your girlfriend stab at the ingrown hairs on her bikini line while she watches the Kardashians.
But if you behave like that within a conventional relationship, it causes problems. (That’s me—I’m the girlfriend who does that.)Essentially, you’re taking a relationship and removing the creepy ownership of another human being, which leaves more room for hedonism and sexual exploration.
Sometimes it feels like we are more honest with our friends with benefits than we are with our partners.
This paradox always makes me think of that episode when Betty seduced Don at their kid’s summer camp, well after they had both remarried.
Afterward, when they’re lying in bed together, Betty says of Don’s new wife, “That poor girl.