As I sit on my balcony, I think to myself, “Have I ever hurt someone’s feelings in a friends-with-benefits partnership? Have I ever been insensitive to their needs?” I try to live my life free of regrets, but to feel guilty about hurting a friend is easier than to rue buying an ugly shirt. While I am an empathetic person, I am not an empath. I live my life based on my needs, wants, and comforts. “At the end of the day, all you have is yourself!” is a quote I oftentimes tell my friends when they are stuck in a conflict between pleasing themselves and pleasing others. However, as I get older, I have come to the realization that caring for myself doesn’t mean I have to be insensitive to others’ feelings.
Upon this realization, I couldn’t help but think about how inconsiderate I had been in my past FWB relationship. He was a nice, attractive guy and a longtime friend; however, he developed feelings and I moved on to someone else. While I was honest with my sexual partner, I was less than apologetic or empathetic. First of all, my reluctance to take things further was a smack in the face to him. I acted interested in him as a boyfriend, and let him stay the night until he went on a week-long vacation. During that week I met my now-boyfriend Nathan, and while I don’t regret choosing to date Nathan over Sam*, I do regret how I handled the ending of my casual relationship. I made up hurtful excuses as to why I couldn’t see him, avoided him at all costs, and showed little respect for his feelings. Instead of just saying I was no longer interested in our casual relationship, I straight up told him I’d found someone new. I don’t know about you, but most would agree it hurts to hear someone you like tell you there is someone else. I was careless with his heart because I was too enthralled with my new man. But that’s no excuse for my actions. With all of that being said, here is my little guide to scenarios involving giving someone else the short end of the stick in a FWB relationship, cultivated through my own personal reflections and experiences
Scenario 1: You’ve decided it’s the end of the line for you and your FWB, and you need to tell your FWB partner it’s over/you don’t feel the same without being inconsiderate.
Well, this part is never easy. Someone likes you, you don’t like them. Most people (myself included) prefer to make these awkward yet necessary exchanges over text. Call me a coward, but I feel as though taking the effort and energy to meet up in person just to say “Hey, I don’t wanna bang anymore, sorry!” is a little much. Your text doesn’t have to be long, drawn out, or rude. Keep it short and simple—maybe offer an explanation if you feel it's owed. If the other party reacts with understanding, it is still your choice to decide if you want to maintain the friendship. If they react with hostility, maybe it’s best to leave that relationship for the birds. If your ex-FWB partner is begging for reconciliation or for one last visit, leave them be. If they demand to know why you don’t want to take things further or why you don’t want to continue having sex, remember that you don’t owe anyone an explanation if you feel your reasons will cause more harm than good once revealed. Most importantly, remain calm. The other person may feel hurt and react with anger, but that doesn’t mean you have to. Stand your ground, but don’t resort to insulting appearance, their performance in the bedroom, or secrets they told you in a moment of vulnerability. However, if they begin to berate you with said insults, block their number and walk away. Remember that you wanted to end the relationship for a reason; no amount of begging, insulting, or persuading should make you feel guilty for making choices that are right for you.
Scenario 2: You and your ex-friends-with-benefits partner agree to remain friends. However, they continue to hint at sexual reconciliation or even dating.
This scenario, while upsetting, is more annoying than anything. You’ve tried to be nice and keep the friendship intact, but your ex-FWB partner just won’t give it a rest. How you deal with this scenario mainly depends on what YOU are willing to put up with. I personally can’t stand someone who doesn’t listen or accept the first time I say “no.” But sometimes your friend may not even realize they are being overbearing and insistent. While they may think their jokes or casual hints about you two becoming more than friends are all in good fun, you may be perceiving these remarks as a disregard for your choices. The one time I did experience this dilemma, I reacted by ghosting my friend. My decision was frowned upon by many, but if you tell someone you don’t want to move forward, and they keep pushing, it is not your job to hold their hand until they get over you.
If your friend refuses to hang out in groups and only wants to see you alone, you have every right to decline. If you’re constantly receiving drunk (or even sober) messages about how much they miss you, you also have every right to not respond. Subtle actions that may seem harmless to them have the potential to be totally disrespectful to you. If you really want to try and salvage the friendship, tell your friend that the comments or attempts to take things further make you uncomfortable. Ultimately, if you feel yourself constantly having to explain yourself to someone who doesn’t respect your choices at all, they don’t deserve to be your friend.
Scenario 3: Your ex-friends-with-benefits partners seeks revenge on you.
According to a study published by the Data & Society Research Institute, about one in 25 Americans is a victim of revenge porn. First and foremost, if ending things with a friends-with-benefits partner results in them posting your explicit, private photos without your consent, that is revenge porn. If you are a victim of revenge porn, Cyber Civil Rights offers resources for seeking legal counsel and advice, as well as a crisis helpline.
Ending a relationship is never easy, whether it be romantic, sexual, or platonic. When ending any of these three types relationships, assertiveness and understanding are key. Listen to the other person, but don’t settle for staying in a relationship you wish to leave. Since you are all my friends here, I’m going to say it: at the end of the day, all you have is yourself! Just be certain that at the end of the day you are happy with how you are affecting others. Live for yourself, of course—but if you can, try and be caring and considerate along the way.
*Name has been changed for privacy
Annie Walton Doyle