Monday, August 06, 2007

Can friends-with-benefits work?

Deirdre: A friend of mine has a perennial argument with a male friend of hers: Can a man and woman (both single) have sex and then still be just friends?
Alisha: Gosh, when I first started typing my response, I had: "Easy answer. Yes." After more thought, it's much more complicated. It all depends on the people involved.
Deirdre: So true. When she put the question to me, I immediately thought of a particular man in my past. He once asked point-blank if I could have sex with him and remain friends. I wanted him very badly, so I immediately said of course I could. But he knew me better than I knew myself. We didn't do it ... and I'm glad we didn't. I realized later that I really wanted more from him than friendship. I think plenty of people could find themselves in the same predicament.
Alisha: But what you did is something a lot of people don't take the time to do, and that's a self-assessment of intent. If a person wants a relationship eventually, then those feelings will slowly manifest and ruin any chance of a friendship.
Deirdre: Um, I didn't do a self-assessment until after he'd decided for the both of us that the sex wasn't going to happen. I was willing to risk the friendship. And I can testify that when you really want someone, you'll convince yourself that anything is possible. That everything can be the way it was -- when maybe it won't be.
Alisha: I do think there are "successful" cases of men and women who can maintain a friends-with-benefits relationship.
Deirdre: OK, here's the rub: I know people who have friends they get together with to have sex. But that's as far as the friendship goes. They don't call each other just to say hi, or have dinner, or go to movies -- you know, the non-sexual stuff that friends do. Is that friends-with-benefits, or just friendly benefits?
Alisha: It's still friends-with-benefits. Unless you're just devoid of caring about other's feelings, I'd think you'd have to enjoy hanging around the person in order to have sex with them beyond a one-night stand.
Deirdre: While I believe as you do -- that it IS possible to have a sexual relationship within a friendship -- I have a hard time not believing that sooner or later, one of the two will want more. Isn't that human nature?
Alisha: It might be common for that "bond" to develop into something more, but I still say if both parties are completely honest about their feelings and intentions, then it's realistically possible two single people can have sex and just be friends.
Alisha: Age and maturity play important factors in this argument. I don't see two 18-year-olds lasting as just friends-with-benefits for a long time, whereas I could see two divorced fortysomethings being content with this particular setup for quite sometime.
Deirdre: Hmm. If I'm in my 40s and still unmarried, I'll let you know.

17 comments:

Gene said...

I think it can work if you're older. I'm 64 and have a lady friend about the same age. She spends one weekend a month at my house and I spend one weekend a month at her house. We also go away for the weekend on occasion on one of our weekends. In face, we just came back from a 3-day weekend in the mountains (whitewater rafting + etc.

On weekends we do day trips to interesting places in each other's area + etc.

Neither of us have any intention of marriage.

Anonymous said...

Any age can work. It is really common for teens do just exactly that HOOKUP. It is scary but true tons of teens are doing the no strings attached thing. "Women" in a whole have changed alot in this regard. It used to be that women would carry emotions on their shoulder but shoot these days they will play the men.
Thanks goodness I am married scary world!

Anonymous said...

Let's call it what it is: f---ing. Girls (not women) like to pretty it up with the "friends with benefits" label so that they don't think of themselves as sluts. But honestly, if you are a well-rounded person *capable* of emotional and spiritual honesty, why would you limit yourself to a one-dimensional relationship to have just one need met instead of all your needs?

Guys love that girls have coined this phrase b/c it allows them to get laid, no strings attached, with booty calls instead of the bar pickup scene every week.

I think a self-respecting woman CAN have a one-night stand. But an ongoing "get-laid-only" deal speaks of intimacy, self-esteem, or commitment issues.

Anonymous said...

For anonymous 1:22 pm: I think you're right, to a certain extent. It's definitely better to be in a relationship where more needs are being met than sexual ones. But speaking as a self-respecting woman who was in a "friends with benefits" situation for close to five years, I don't think this is an indicator of self-esteem, intimacy or commitment issues. I wasn't afraid of commitment; he was, but I enjoyed his company and decided that when a better situation came along, I'd still be open to it. I don't think the term "friends with benefits" is a "slut" term either. I think it is the best term to describe the situation I was in; I am not proud of the situation and I'm glad it's over now, but not everyone in them is promiscuous or afraid to get closer to someone.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 5:06, the issues I cited could've been for the man as well as the woman. Like you said, you weren't commitment wary, but he was. Now the question is, if you say "I am not proud of the situation and I'm glad it's over now," what are you not proud of? Why, if it apparently worked fine for you, are you glad it's over?

This is the self-esteem or intimacy issue of which I speak. I think you compromised your needs or chose to be with a man who didn't want to commit for reasons that maybe weren't the healthiest. And you did that for years.

I'd be interested to hear more from your side, because I'm getting conflicting messages in your post.

Anonymous said...

P.S. Forgot to specify that my "sluts" comment is meant to say that that is what many guys will think of a female "friend." Not that the woman sees herself that way, or that I view such a woman that way.

But I can tell you from seeing one 30-something friend try to walk this line, the guy who's getting laid WILL tell at least one of his buddies, and the guys WILL think that the woman is easy. Double standard or not, that, my friend, is the reality.

BUT no modern day woman wants to believe that the double standard still exists. So the girls tend to give it this "feminist label."

Lastly, many women who were abused as children or teens have intimacy issues--that is, trusting and loving men when their experience has been abuse. So this is the kind of behavior that is comfortable to them (they are in control, make the choice to be with the man who only shows value for women sexually--the expected way, etc.). Does this mean I think the woman is a loser? No. But I think you'd be hard-pressed to argue that it's an emotionally healthy dynamic.

Anonymous said...

I had a "friend with benefits" for two years in my late twenties. We liked each other as people, but not as mates, had little in common except THAT, and neither one of us wanted anything more. I don't have Daddy issues, I didn't care if his friends or my friends knew and once I got into a serious relationship, it was over. It was at a time in my life where I was working and traveling a lot, I didn't see the point in having one night stands with total strangers and we were protected accordingly. You can say what you want about this kind of relationship, and they are NOT for everybody, but until you have walked a mile in another man's shoes...

Anonymous said...

I have this discussion with a friend of mine too. I'm one of his best friends, but he says he couldn't be friends with me if he gave into the desires for each other that we both keep in check. So we travel, we do movies, dinner, etc., when we're in the same town. But we don't have sex. I think it's a shame. However, I do believe him when he says it would ruin the friendship ... I belive him because of who he is, not because I think this type of relationship isn't possible.

He couldn't do it though, because like an earlier poster said, he'd just come to think of me or any girl who gave it to him regularly as a slut. He'd lose respect for me. And I think he has issues about how he thinks women are supposed to be and how they are in the 21st century -- but that's another blog.
Anyway, I think it would be somewhat more special than that with him b/c he does care about me and like me and enjoy my company, not just that I have girl parts. Or basically, I think it COULD be like that with the some men, but not this one. ... And I also accept that I could be wrong because my experience in such matters is limited. SO we'll stick with his plan. ... But I don't think I can go to Hawaii or the Bahamas with him ... just too darn romantic....

Anonymous said...

I should add that just because I think this could work for some people, it's not what I'm looking for. I'm looking for the real deal: love and friendship, marriage and family. .... Some people say THAT doesn't exist or work either!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 8:46, you make some good points. Curious about your age and relationship status now.

Anonymous said...

It is so sad that a topic like this would arise just goes to show this world is on slippery sloap to hell....


Now go ahead and justify you actions.

Anonymous said...

I find it incredible that the subject of "friends with benefits" is noted as an issue of retaining friendships than what it really is - which is rationalized promiscuity. Too many people have a very unhealthy and cavalier attitudes regarding their sexuality, and robbing them of the joy of a truly intimate marital relationship.

Anonymous said...

For Anon. 1:22 and 7:11 (same person): The situation worked fine for me while it lasted, in that I enjoyed his company whenever he came over; but I don't think a "friends with benefits" situation is designed to last, and it got old after a while...I craved something more meaningful, and he wasn't going to make it happen. Looking back on it now, I'm not proud that I let someone come around, get what he wanted from me, talk to me for a few minutes, then leave until the next time he wanted to come over, and that I let this go on for years. I had a crush on him before we started, and so even though I was an adult, my adult wisdom went out the window and I foolishly believed things between us would change for the better, and this would change into a more mature relationship. It didn't. So I look back on it now, and I'm glad that phase of my life is over...but at the time, it seemed to be promising, or so I thought. So yes, you could say I did compromise.

Anonymous said...

I think "friends with benefits" is good in your early to mid 20s (when you are learning more about your adult self). But, my friends are exactly that...friends. Men and women both claim during this type of relationship that they are not emotionally attached...which I have experienced too. But after going on the roller coaster ride of mate hunting, and being in my 30s now, I am emotionally attached to my sex and I want to be with a man who I can be sexually uninhibited with. For me, sex is more "in my head" than just the physical act and to connect with someone who konws how to look, talk, touch, want, and understand my needs and desires...that is something only time and commitment can bring. That is what I call a "relationship with benefits and rewards" program.:)

If you're not a member, you may want to sign up :)

Anonymous said...

I do not think it can work. I was in this situation and you inevitably get hurt in the end. If a person does not want a commitment, then you probably shouldn't sleep with them.

Anonymous said...

Some people can be so judgmental. If it is 2 adults consenting and neither of them expect/want anything more, who is it hurting?

Sometimes people are in a place in their lives where that type of non-relationship works for them. It doesn't mean they are loose or insecure or all of the other negative connotations the one anonymous poster used.

Grow up people. Sometimes sex is just sex. And it is probably a better/safer alternative to a one night stand with someone you meet at a bar.

And like one poster said, maybe the two enjoy each other's company (like the man who has the lady-friend that he spends time with and travels with - nothing wrong with it), but know they aren't destined for a relationship. At least they are mature enough to recognize that a relationship would be a disaster, but they still meet needs (physical and emotional) for each other.

As long as intentions are honest, no one gets hurt.

Anonymous said...

In humans, as in many other species that appear on the surface to mate for life, what a female seeks in a mate is not necessarily what she seeks in a sire.

It is an established fact that many women who "cheat" do so most often during the fertile time in their cycle.

In a mate, a woman seeks a man who will support, protect, and care for her and help her raise and protect her offspring. She chooses a sire for his physical attributes which will hopefully be passed on to her offspring, thereby making them more apt to survive and thrive.

Women who do not understand these conflicting drives, find themselves shopping with their sex drive and going from one unhappy marraige to another, always wondering what is wrong with themselves that they can't make one work.

I do not believe that an extramarrital affair is either good, or bad, for a relationship. However the deception and consequent loss of trust that often accompanies the affair is toxic to the mated relationship.

When a person of either sex discovers that their mate has "cheated", the massive, painfull, emotional reaction is not the result of the affair, but is a result of the lie. The trust upon which your relationship is built has been destroyed. The very foundation of the relationship crumbles.

Nothing good can come of that.