The last few weeks I have been writing about friendships and relationships and unrequited love and the messiness that can occur when the lines between friendship and relationship are a bit blurry, either for one party or both, or just the ways in which relationships outside of the friendships all together can still impact those friendships. Then, as it happened, a new situation was brought to my attention along similar guidelines. Friends with benefits.
I know I have written about this a few times already, but it is worth a new post, I think. Friendships ARE Relationships, without monogamy or that commitment factor. However, if someone is engaging in these “with benefits” relationships it is usually because they are keeping their options firmly open, or because they are hoping for more, but settling for less, at the moment. Experience has taught me it is almost always a mixture of both these things; meaning one person is keeping their options open (not willing to settle for less) while the other person is settling for less while hoping for more.
It seems harmless enough at first glance. When a friend has been flirtatious with you, and you are available and attracted to them, you see everything through rose coloured glasses. (We all know that means you don’t see the red flags, right?!) They are giving you glimpses of everything you have wanted and so it seems important not to push for more in case you scare them away. If they want to still call you a friend, while treating you like a lover, what do you care? You are so giddy with excitement they could call your relationship train wreck and you’d probably laugh it off and think it was cute. They could even deny its existence, but because their actions are speaking loudly, you feel certain the relationship exists no matter what they say. Most of us don’t lose sleep over it. Yet. Not for any negative reasons anyway!
However, the reason your friend is not labelling the relationship as such, is not for any of the reasons they have given you, and I am sure they have given you many which you have chosen to believe no matter how far fetched they seem. The real reason is because they are waiting for someone better to come along, and when that happens, they will feel no remorse in ending the benefits portion of your friendship. They will hide behind the fact that they never promised you anything and offer no explanations as to why on the basis that you were only ever friends to begin with. They promised you nothing and that is precisely what they delivered, even though it was deceitfully presented as something! There may not even be a conversation about the ending.
All this begs the question – can you ever really go back to being platonic friends – WITHOUT the benefits? Part of that, to be honest, will depend on the type of “friendship” you had to start with. Were you actually friends, or was it just hooking up? If the sum of your friendship was the benefits, then effectively you can expect to kiss that friendship goodbye until the new relationship ends at least! If they weren’t interested in spending time and chatting to you when you were sleeping with them, the chances that they suddenly will be interested when you aren’t are slim to none. This sounds like bad news really, but it’s not. You’re better off.
After all, what is the alternative? They keep on hanging around – expecting you to listen to them talking about their new flame, how happy they are, or confused or frustrated etc…. and expecting you to be fine with it, because you were only ever friends anyway right? You should be happy for them? I can tell you it isn’t easy to hear, and it certainly does not feel like friendship. That is the situation you may well face if you did have an actual friendship to start with. The kind where you hang out and talk about real things. At this point you will be faced with the dilemma between being the friend you like to call yourself and being the jilted lover you feel like.
Therein lies the problem. Friends care about their friend’s feelings. It is going to be very difficult for the friend that is moving on to prove that they actually still care for the friend who wanted more. If they talk about the new romance, it can feel like torture for the listener, who may walk away, because suddenly, while they were ok for settling for less when there was hope of more, once that hope is removed, they promptly remember their worth and remove themselves. On the other hand, not mentioning the new flame, therefore not giving them an explanation for the withdrawal of the benefits is lying by omission, which will ultimately create distance between you anyway. (Post to follow) Plus not knowing is its own form of torture. Sigh.
Unless the ending of benefits and the timing of such happens to be seamlessly mutual, which is rare, the future is bleak. It can be a real shame, honestly, because two people who were once as close as you can be, suddenly find oceans of distance between them. However, if you are important to each other, all you can do is allow one other some space. One can focus on their new thing and the other can tend their wounds and emotionally realign. I’m going to be honest, it wont be easy. There is a chance you wont survive. Things will probably not be the same between you again for a very long time. Perhaps after a very long time though, it may be worth it.
Only time will tell. Have you ever successfully transitioned from FWB to FWOB?
Your Best Friend ForNever