I’m going to go out on a limb and say that friends with benefits generally fail because the relationship is neither friendly nor beneficial.
Look, here are a few of the things I do with my friends: Go out to eat food! See movies! Watch television shows! Enjoy culture! Drink! Go… support them in things! Make Donna Tartt references! Kill local farmers!
Here are some things I do with my boyfriend: Go out to eat food! See movies! Watch television shows! Enjoy culture! Drink! Go… support him in things! Make Donna Tartt references! Kill local farmers! Have sex! Cuddle!
Here is what a friends with benefit relationship is supposed to consist of: all the things you do with your friends, but also, sex.
Please see “what I do with my boyfriend.” Do that partly so you can really have the time to just relish that The Secret History reference, but also so you can note that we do all the friendship stuff. You will see it is also accompanied by sex and cuddling.
Now. Here are some things people seem to do with their friends with benefits: Have sex! CRY FOR HOURS! Obsess over his or her text messages! Cry again!
That’s because friends with benefits rarely seems to include friendship.
Let’s be honest. The arrangement would more accurately be classified as “sex with people you don’t like very much, who don’t provide terribly good sex because you don’t like them terribly much and thus can’t communicate what you want.”
Now, of course, there’s a possibility that there are some people who have them and gain whatever you’re supposed to gain from such a relationship. But I don’t see what you are supposed to gain from such a relationship. A gnawing feeling of doubt about your ability to make someone fall in love with you? Feeling that you’re taking advantage of someone who probably has feelings for you? Oh, aso, an orgasm, which I guess sounds appealing if you’re absolutely dead on the inside.
But let’s say you’re not dead on the inside.
The appeal of “friends with benefits” seems to be that it’s about having “no drama.” No one complains about anything. No one is required to make plans. Really, the only emotion you’re supposed to register is unparalleled bliss and physical delight. Of course, it backfires and results in infinitely more drama, and crying, because the world is a dark and twisted place.
Unfortunately, none of what I’ve seen result is the good kind of drama. The kind of romantic drama that leads to stories, whether you tell them to your grandchildren or the entire world. Mostly it just seems to lead to female friends choking back their feelings approximately forever, and then, if they ever do tell the man they want something more, him acting shocked, and as though the rules have been violated. Of course, this could just as easily go the opposite way, with the man falling in love, it just conventionally seems to much less outside of Samanta’s POV on Sex and the City.
Which is unfortunate. Because people who think friends with benefits are a solution to the problem of relationships seem to have forgotten that part of the fun of being in relationships is that they result in heightened emotional states. Romeo and Juliet is not remembered as a great love story because those kids kind of shrugged their shoulders and said “whatever, lets keep things casual.”
Could we go back to having lovers?
The difference between lovers and friends with benefits isn’t that having a lover lasts longer. From what I can glean from all the books, the relationship with a lover was fundamentally doomed, and everyone knew that going in. The difference is that there was supposed to be emotion in the scenario. People were, in fact, supposed to revel in the emotions. Part of the fun of being lovers – whether it’s of The Bridges of Madison County variety or the Paolo and Francesca variety – is that, for the time the relationship was occurring, you were expected to care intensely about the other person.
Of course, that emotion can boil over in negative ways. But at least with a lover you’ll be permitted to share your emotions, even if you’ve both agreed early on that you’re not going to end up together and will continue seeing other people. And besides, in a friends with benefits relationship, where the default emotional setting seems to be “show no emotion for fear of seeming too intense” – well, it all boils over anyway. Eventually, someone is going to show up drunk at your doorstep screaming and crying “why don’t you love me?” You just don’t get to make passionate declarations about how this other person is your sun and moon and stars first. And those declarations seem exciting and cool and something worth reminiscing with your grandchildren about one day.
Saying “then he stood me up for two hours so he could play x-box with his friends and I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to seem ‘crazy'” doesn’t have the same ring to it.
To hell with friends with benefits. Let’s bring back all the emotions. All the emotions that accompany lust with an inappropriate person, anyway.
Or, you could just date.