Thursday, February 16, 2012

Do Sleepover Friends Prevent a Real Relationship? When Friends with Benefits isn’t Beneficial at All

By Rosie Munger

“…the only relationship that can make both partners happy is one in which sentimentality has no place and neither partner makes any claim on the life and freedom of the other. ” 
 - Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

We all know that mutual respect and clear ground rules are as essential to a “friends with benefits” relationship as physical chemistry. Even in the most fun, straight-forward scenarios, one or both of the parties run the risk of developing deeper feelings and getting hurt – this is not earth-shattering news. Yet there is another risk, perhaps an even greater one: do these “erotic friendships,” as Kundera’s Tomas called them, keep us from finding more significant relationships? 

When I posed this question to some friends, I expected a pretty resounding, “Yes!” I was sure that my friends who had been in these situations would share with me that they missed out on finding more meaningful relationships because they’d allowed themselves to become too involved with their special friends. I was certainly surprised when the first two people to respond told me that they actually met their husbands while in a “friends with benefits” relationship with someone else. Another friend explained that she has these relationships because she refuses to settle with someone she knows is not a good long-term match; alternatively, she enjoys fun times with her friends instead of being miserable in a more committed relationship heading nowhere.

These three women are confident, fun and caring individuals, so their stories made me question my initial theory. Well, it turns out the next few voices were on the completely opposite side of the fence. One universal truth about human kind: what works for one person does not necessarily work for another. Not everyone wants to be with one single partner, not everyone wants to be in love. However, if you do want these things, get to know yourself and be clear about your emotional needs. For many, the physical and emotional cannot be separated, no matter how hard you try. While protecting your heart is of the utmost importance, ensuring your sex buddy does not impede on the rest of your dating life is crucial. 

If you are in a FWB situation or are thinking of starting one, be wary of these three signs that suggest you might miss out on the more significant relationship you desire: 

1. You find yourself planning your schedule around hanging out with your FWB. 
It’s great to make time for each other, but this should not be your primary relationship. If you are spending more free time together than you are apart, it’s time to evaluate what’s really going on. What are your motivations? Is FWB really all you want? By putting so much time and energy into this person the likelihood of you meeting other potential love interests decreases significantly.

2. You have stopped looking for other dating opportunities. 
Do you think more about when you’ll see your FWB next than how you’re going to meet other dating prospects? Having a physical relationship with someone who also puts you at ease can be a security blanket. It is easy to become lazy.
Julie weighed in, “Having a FWB sometimes makes people not try very hard to put their best foot forward in the dating game as they know they have something on the back burner that makes them comfortable.”

3. Your feelings are deepening but you know it’s not mutual.
Falling for someone who does not return your love can be difficult under any circumstances, yet when you share a physical closeness it is easier to believe that the situation might change. It is common to cling to the relationship, hoping that someday your feelings will be reciprocated. Don’t follow this route to a potential broken heart. It’s time to end the FWB relationship and make yourself fully available to people who desire the deep relationship you seek. 

Maintaining a physical relationship with someone you enjoy can be fun, but if you think you’re becoming stagnant in the kind of relationship you do not ultimately crave, it’s time to move on. 


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