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Would friends-with-benefits work for me?

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Anonymous asks:

I've been confused about my sexual attraction to a guy I've liked for the past 2 years. He has always made it clear that he only wants sex from me, but he has no romantic feelings for me, and I've always been confused about how far I've wanted to go with something so unstable. Recently we started our first year at the same college, and I guess with the new freedom and everything I decided that I would try to have sex with him. In that attempt, I just couldn't allow myself to do that, cuz when it started to hurt more and I started thinking about did I want to permanently lose something that I can't have back. But now after the situation I feel like I regret that decision and I want to try again, because I can't stop thinking about it. How can I let him know that? And am I wrong for wanting to have sex with someone who clearly only wants me for sex? And is it bad that I felt uncomfortable discussing what I want to do with him? I've looked around your site, and I see that it doesn't have much information about friends with benefits? Is that because it's condemned?

Heather Corinna replies:

We don't condemn or dismiss any kind of relationship model around here. What model is right for any given person or couple is highly individual, and depends on what the people involve want and need. There's no one right kind of relationship for everyone, and we've talked about casual sexual relationships, open relationships or friends with benefits plenty around here over the years, especially at the message boards. I also address it in some depth in my book.

What I hear you saying, though, is that this may not be the right thing for you, but that you're considering settling for it because you like this guy and this is what he wants. Thing is, you can't have a healthy relationship which really only takes the wants and needs of one member into consideration: in healthy relationships, both people want similar things and the same relationship model. When you say that you find what he wants to seem unstable to you, what I hear is that you don't feel secure in this kind of relationship. To someone who wants this kind of relationship, it wouldn't seem unstable, or that person would prefer -- and feel better about -- a relationship that didn't have some of the aspects a romantic relationship does. Mind, romance doesn't somehow automatically add stability to a relationship, but when romance is what you want, and sex is all you're being offered, you're not likely to be happy. You ask if it's wrong for you to want to have sex with someone who only wants you for that, and the answer is that if you don't want the same thing yourself, then it probably is going to be wrong for you. If you DO want that same thing, then it may be right for you. It all depends on what you really want and what you're comfortable with.

(And just in case you've got the idea that having sex might change his feelings, think again: someone who isn't in love with you or doesn't have romantic feelings isn't likely to develop them just through sex.)

Only you can have the best sense of what you really want and are comfortable with. It might be helpful to ask yourself if you'd feel differently if he WAS in love with you and interested in more than sex or not. You might also want to visualize the relationship if it remains only sexual and see what that looks like to you: do you see it making you happy? Do you see yourself being satisfied with that or not? As well, do you have any ethical issues or personal beliefs about casual sex that would make it more likely to make you feel bad rather than good?

If after considering these kinds of things, it does seem like a friends-with-benefits relationship is something you want (and not just something you'll settle for since you can't have what you really want), one thing you've got to be down with if you want a relationship that is in any way sexual -- including a romantic relationship -- is talking about what you want and need candidly.

If one partner in a sexual relationship is passive or silent, not only can the other not obtain real consent, find out about limits and boundaries, discuss important things like safer sex and birth control, it also tends to be a pretty one-sided relationship with pretty blah sexual experiences for one or both parties. You're much more likely to have positive and beneficial sexual experiences with a partner who you can talk to openly -- including about when something hurts so he knows to change what he's doing, switch to a sexual activity you enjoy or stop and take a break -- and with whom you can earnestly express your desires. Too, if you know your heart is on the line and someone else's isn't, that's one more reason why being able to communicate is important: sounds like he's being clear about what he really wants, and you need to be able to do the same for him.

So, if you have decided that this is a kind of relationship you want now, and that you want to have it with him, the thing to do is to give him a call or arrange a time to meet up where you can let him know that if he's still interested in exploring this, so are you. And if doing even that feels like something you just can't bring yourself to do and be assertive about, then it's safe to say before you have any kind of sex with this guy -- even if it turns out he comes back round and offers it up again -- you need to take more time to get comfortable with him. After all, if we're not comfortable enough to open our mouths, it's pretty odd to posit that we're somehow comfortable enough to open our legs.

Here are some more links to help you out:

written 23 Feb 2008 . updated 29 Jan 2014

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