A couple months ago I started seeing a guy and very quickly it was established that we wouldn’t be in a relationship. But, there was mutual attraction, and we both wanted some sort of physical relationship – so “friend with benefits” it was. It was all fine and good – for a month.
Who could complain about a physical, no strings attached, fun relationship?
Well, clearly I was disillusioned and naive. No, I didn’t develop feelings, and he didn’t develop feelings either.
But, emotions did get involved. We tend to try to separate all parts of our lives in neat corners and groups: we want to have separation of work life and personal life, we want to have work friends and college friends, we want to have a physical relationship without emotions.
But compartmentalizing our lives doesn’t work out too well.
So, what happened? Why was it so hard to keep a repeated physical relationship, just physical? We would hang out 1-3 times a week, have fun, text or talk throughout the week. Soon, this guy started to open up to me about a lot of emotional and personal issues, relying on my advice and the fact that I would listen. And that was the problem:
I hadn’t signed up for this. I didn’t want to be someone’s therapist or even talk to someone about my own issues and insecurities- because that was it, we were not in a relationship to have that level of emotional intimacy with each other.
I was confused:I felt like an asshole for not wanting to hear about his issues and not caring about them a lot of the times. I felt guilty, why was it that I didn’t mind being the supportive friend who listens and talks through issues with my friends, but when it came to him I didn’t have the hoseleh (patience) to deal with it. Why was he any different than a friend?
The problem wasn’t that either of us were developing feelings, it was the fact that he also needed emotional support. What he wanted a more wholesome “girlfriend experience,” someone to talk to, to have fun with, and to unload on, without any of the responsibility of a relationship. Its fine if someone wants that, but that’s not what he said he wanted, and it sure wasn’t what I had signed up for. Plus, I wasn’t too comfortable having a constant hookup with someone that I didn’t want to share a connection with on an emotional level. It wasn’t fun anymore. So why am I doing this if it isn’t fun anymore?
The cliched warning about “friends with benefits” is that someone (usually the girl) will develop feelings, and will end up heartbroken. It’s more complicated than that.
Guys have the need for emotional support too, and maybe what develops isn’t always feelings, but a supportive crutch or reliance.
I’m not against hooking up and I’m not against having fun, I’m just not sure how successful we can be at keeping the “emotional” and “physical” aspects of a relationship completely separate.