Navigating the terrain of modern relationships can be tricky. We will often encounter unexpected decisions that we have to make in our relationships.
Casual sex and polyamorous love mean a less possessive world with more freedom, but it isn’t always clear what the etiquette is, or the comfort level, for example, when a friends with benefits relationship becomes friends only.
Can You Go Back to Just Being Friends?
I had a really great friendship over a long period of time with Luke. Luke was a fuck buddy or friend with benefits—a casual sex partner. We enjoyed each other’s company for several years, and I could always rely on him to make me laugh when I was down. We loved having sex, but the “buddy” part of the phrase grew into something really important too.
When Luke found out he was going to be a daddy, the unexpected life change led to other changes. He made the decision to make a life with his other lover and have a more traditional family. I was totally happy for him and supportive, even though I knew I would miss having sex with him. Defining a friendship was a different task, however.
Our chemistry was a big part of it, and having to deal with his new wife’s (understandable?) jealousy over his many ex lovers was also challenging. Things changed.
We are still friends, without the sex, but I confess it was an adjustment.
Some of our casual sex partners are casual for real. Some of them we grow to love. In others still, the friendship part is the most essential part of the friends with benefits relationship. Each one is unique and different.
If you are facing the loss of a casual sex partner, or a real friend you also sleep with, should you stay friends? Can you? How can you make that transition happily, without jeopardizing anything or anyone?
5 Tips to Adjust to Friends without Benefits
1. Think honestly about whether to hold on to the relationship if it changes.
Not every lover is meant to be in our life forever. If the primary aspect of your connection is chemistry, and you don’t really have a lot to talk about, letting go may be the most sensible and stress-free arrangement. Wish each other the best and sayonara.
If you aren’t close, you don’t have to hang on to be polite. The nature of your friends with benefits relationship was sexual, and that has passed, and that’s okay.
2. Consider whether you can still be friends without messing up each other’s lives.
Another consideration to look at with painful honesty is whether temptation could cause injury to each other or to another partner.
I love Luke and don’t want to harm his life as a father just because I get horny, so I’m committed to making sure that doesn’t happen. I’ve changed the way I think about him.
You want to consider whether that will be a constant turmoil and painful torture, or just a pleasant memory. Here, as with any decision to make about love and sex, the best one is the one that causes the least problems.
3. Be honest with yourself about your feelings—is it just friendship?
An uncomfortable thing to confront when faced with losing a lover is whether you are friends, or lovers, or both—or if your feelings are even deeper than that.
Sometimes when someone is reliably there, and not going anywhere, you don’t have to ask yourself too many questions.
But sometimes, when you are deciding where to go from here, you realize you had more stakes in the game than you realized.
If you find that maybe you were in love with your lover, friendship might not be easy or desirable. Don’t torment yourself and keep something that might prolong the agony or keep you from moving on.
4. Focus on your other lovers during the transition.
Don’t spend a lot of time boohooing and fantasizing about your lover’s body and how much you miss it. If you have other lovers, build some new memories and take some of the pressure off that way.
Date new people, whether you have other partners already or not. Occupy yourself with fun and joy during the transition time and work on finding new ways to meet your sexual needs that don’t involve moping or tempting your former lover.
5. Build your friendship.
It can be tough to let go of a part of the FWB relationship that you enjoyed, but if the friendship is important, it’s time to build that aspect and focus on it. Create new routines in the relationship. Obviously, if your routine involved stopping in on your way to the construction site for a hot break-of-dawn quickie, that’s not going to be happening anymore!
If you are used to meeting for martinis and dressing up a little, switch gears entirely and make things casual—grabbing a burger with the kids, showing up at her community center play to be supportive. This is what friendship is, after all—supporting and affirming the people you love in their choices. Take interest in each other’s interests—you might express your friendship by taking attending a climate protest together, or dropping off some groceries if she doesn’t have a car.
Most importantly, have fun together. Friends go through hard times together, but friendship itself shouldn’t be a chore!
Have you ever made the transition to friends without benefits?