Friends with benefits: great, sexy, and convenient in theory, however, oftentimes difficult, confusing, and a little bit draining in reality. Whether you’re hooking up with a longtime friend, someone you met on an app like Tinder, or some random from a party, nine times out of ten, the state of the relationship can get very muddled very fast. Having just graduated high school, I’ve witnessed several beautiful relationships blossom from casual hookups, but I’ve also seen tons of friendships ruined after two friends decided to get physical. The latter situation tends to result from one person moving on with someone else, simply not wanting to continue, or being hurt by unreciprocated feelings. While all of these reasons for ending a FWB relationship are completely valid, there is no doubt that exiting this unique type of relationship unscathed is a rare occurrence. So what do you do if you’re left feeling truly burned after ending things with a FWB? Let’s discuss, shall we?
Dun Dun Dun: You catch unreciprocated feelings for your FWB partner
Ouch. To put it simply, this sucks. You thought you and your FWB partner really had a great thing going, the sex was great, you guys engaged in hours of pillow talk afterwards, and even occasionally hung out outside of the bedroom. You felt as though you were being given the green light to kick it up a notch and drive the relationship to the next level, only to be left crying in your cutest lingerie as your hopefully-soon-to-be-boyfriend leaves your bedroom awkwardly.
Now, some people enjoy living life on the edge and may take that giant leap of faith even if they haven’t been given any romantic hints. However, most of us tend to look for signs that indicate the other person might be interested in more than just sex before we strip down emotionally and admit our feelings. Maybe recently you guys have been getting coffee afterwards, the sex has been a little more intimate (i.e. more kissing and cuddling after), or they’ve invited you to hang out with their friends one day. Any of these “signs” could enable someone who wants to get out of the FWB zone to consider asking their bedroom friend to be something more. But sometimes the signals you thought were being waved right in front of your face were mere actions that had little to no meaning to your partner, and you’re left with feelings you wish you’d never spoken into existence or had in the first place.
This reality can leave one feeling disappointed, naive, unwanted, and most painfully, straight up embarrassed. If you’re like me, you don’t like showing vulnerability, especially towards someone you’re not even dating. In high school, I noticed that girls in friends-with-benefits situations were often expected to gush to their friends at sleepovers about how much they really like their sexual partner, how they long to be something more, or how they’ve never been with anyone like their current hookup. When you look up “friends with benefits rules” on Google, the first three links are from Cosmopolitan, Elite Daily, and Stylecaster—online journals with a predominantly female audience. Some articles even have titles like “13 Friends with Benefits Rules Every Girl Should Know” and “8 Friends with Benefits Rules You Must Obey.” These websites exemplify the harmful implication that women will inevitably catch feelings in sexual relationships because we are more emotional beings and therefore need the help of ridiculous “rules” to prevent ourselves from wanting more than sex.
This narrative made me feel like my friends who knew about my strictly sexual relationships expected me to be the only one emotionally attached. When you have tons and tons of articles written for women telling us how and why we shouldn’t catch feelings for our friends with benefits, there’s no way to not feel ashamed when you do. So when I did swallow my pride and admit my feelings only to have them be unreciprocated, I felt like an idiot. I couldn’t help but think “Oh god, why did I even do that? Wow Aydan, a girl who gets attached to their friends with benefits, how groundbreaking! He probably saw your creepy, loving stare from a mile away and practiced his rejection all morning. Now go sulk.” While sulking is okay for a few days, like most situations, you must dust yourself off and learn from it. I found that I can have casual flings, but that I must determine an expiration date for these types of relationships for my own sanity. If I’m hooking up with someone for a little more than a month, I like to either take things further or call it quits. Some may say I’m expecting too much, but in my opinion, life is too short to dwell on what could have been or who I could have met while I was being unfulfilled in a casual relationship.
Most importantly, you must understand that you can’t force your FWB to take your relationship any further if they aren’t interested. You can’t force them to date you, continue the sexual relationship, or even remain friends. However, if you feel your partner strung you along, you can ask for an explanation.
In the end, you decide what you are and aren’t willing to put up with. There are some loopholes, though. If you want to keep having sex despite the unreciprocated feelings, go for it. Maybe go on a few new dates or get on Tinder, too! If you don’t want to keep having sex, but miss your partner, miss them. And maybe take yourself on a date or have dinner with friends as well!
If you’re left feeling hurt by the end of the tricky situation that is a FWB relationship, remember that the sentiment is completely normal. So normal, in fact, that even the fiercest of them all, Lana Del Rey, sings about this hurt in “Cruel World”:
“Share my body and my mind with you
That's all over now
Did what I had to do
'Cause you're so far past me now
Share my body and my life with you
That's way over now
There's not anymore I can do”
Stay tuned for next week when I discuss what to do when your FWB catches feelings.