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Friends with Benefits

Friends with Benefits

Friends with Benefits: fact or fiction? One reader asks if a friends-with-benefits relationship is healthy or even possible. The 4-Way panel talks friendship, sex, and the combination of the two.

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Dear 4-Way,
Is it possible or even healthy to have an ongoing friends-with-benefits relationship with someone? Neither of us is seeing anyone else. Our lives (or mostly his life) are way too busy for a social life or a committed relationship. We’re good friends and we really do care for each other, but our timing really stinks right now. What do you think? —EH, San Francisco, California

The Straight Woman’s Perspective: Rebecca Brown
Hold on, EH … let me get this straight. You have no time for a social life? So what do you do with your time? Is your life so full of work, scintillating television, and hours of fascinating time on the Internet that you have no time to engage with real friends? I don’t get it. Everyone who wants a social life can have one; after all, you say you have a good friendship with this guy, so apparently you had enough time to socialize to develop that friendship with him.

In my opinion, the only way friends-with-benefits ever works is if you’re both on the exact same page as far as your expectations for the arrangement. So when you say that it’s “mostly his” life that’s way too busy for those things, that’s a bit of a warning signal to me because that definitely doesn’t sound like you two are on the same page. In fact, it sounds like you’re trying to talk yourself into it and also justify his reasons for not giving you more.

Good friends who really care for each other would recognize that screwing when it’s convenient might be fun in the moment, but it never leads to anything good or healthy. If you really value the friendship you’ve built, respect it by making sure it will last. I’ve got absolutely nothing against you having some good, dirty fun, but if physical fun is all you’re looking for, find that with someone where the stakes of your behavior aren’t so high.

Have fun, EH … but not too much. At least not with this guy.

The Gay Man’s Perspective: Darren Maddox
In my experience, it’s hard to be both. You’re either good friends or you’re friends with benefits. Which is it? It’s much harder to find good friends than the latter (see: craigslist.org). If you do, in fact, care for each other as friends, be friends. If a relationship evolves at some point, then it evolves and you can go at it for days and have tons in common along the way.

I will, however, go on the record as saying I think it’s completely healthy to have a friends-with-benefits relationship as long as you acknowledge it for what it is and have no expectations from it. The problem here is when you say you’re “good friends and really do care for each other.” That’s another level in my book. I may be reading into your question a little bit, so please excuse me if that’s the case, but it appears that you’re implying here that he is too busy for a relationship while you are secretly longing to be in one with him. If that is the case, then you’re letting your feelings get involved and you’re not truly in a relationship free of obligation. You know your situation. Is this something you can continue to do without feeling like you’re missing something? Give it some thought before you dive in.

The Gay Woman’s Perspective: Jody Fischer
Your letter has me confused. What stinks? The fact that you don’t have time for a social life? The fact that you are not seeing anyone? The fact that you want to have sex? Or is it the fact that you need someone else’s approval to have casual with sex with a friend?

From where I stand, I never want to be so busy that I have no time for a social life, a committed relationship, or sex. That’s not a life.

EH, only you and your good friend can decide if this kind of connection will work for the both of you. Of course it’s possible to have this, and it can be healthy for the right people, but it takes work and communication. Do you have time for that?

I guess I’m wondering if you’re being honest in your reasoning. Is it really that you don’t have time to go out looking for someone, or it something else? A friends-with-benefits connection requires time and work. It’s also a gamble. You may lose a good friend; you may not. Good friends are precious things and take time to cultivate. Tread lightly. Think carefully. Create the life you want—one with enough time to experience what’s important to you with the people who matter.

The Straight Man’s Perspective: Chris Kennedy
To answer your first question, yes and no. Yes, it’s possible to have an ongoing friends-with-benefits relationship. No, it’s not healthy.

Let’s call this what it is—a booty call. The friends-with-benefits term is masking what it really is, which is two people who feel too moderately about each other to have a real relationship, so they engage in a vaguely outlined one built on a foundation as solid as an eggshell.

So, your friend is too “busy” for a committed relationship? No. He’s not into you … not in that way, at least. Face it, you’re both just stuck. Indecision is actually a decision not to do anything. Why do nothing? Life’s too short. Cut it off and be in the dating world with a clean slate.

An example. There’s a girl who makes a suitor wait at least a month or more before she’ll get physical with him if at all. These suckers, I mean suitors, spend money and time taking her to dinner, sending her flowers, engaging in long conversations, sending text messages and emails, and making efforts to get involved in her life. She makes these aspiring gents work hard to gauge their true interest in her. That’s great. She’s testing them. The problem is, she’s cheating because even if she desires contact with the suitor, she can withhold from him because she can use the crutch of her friends-with-benefits situation and release her tension there. The wrong place to do so, no? Because of her artificial arrangement, she skews the natural dynamic of the courting process. She puts these poor suitors through the ringer and then this pseudo-prude gives them a peck on the cheek goodbye, picks up the phone, and calls her friends-with-benefits buddy to come over and finish the deal.

The friends-with-benefits/booty call arrangement is a shallow sham that misdirects one from finding a great mate. So cease and desist ASAP or continue with the FWB and be SOL.

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