Friends with benefits

It was good at first but now I’m starting to feel used.

The friends with benefits arrangement is full of flaws, says our elder. This guy is not the one. Move on.

Dear EWC

I started seeing someone over the summer. We would text every day and the first few nights nothing happened but it soon progressed to us sleeping with each other. It was good for the first couple of months and we would continue texting every day but slowly it progressed to him taking longer to respond or me having to text him first. Now we continue seeing each other but now it’s less and less. When we text it’s fine. Lately he’s been posting about wanting to be in a relationship or having some sort of connection with someone and it makes me feel so dumb because here I am willing to give him all this love and attention but at this point I’m starting to feel used, like all I’m good for is just a good couple hours.

In my opinion we get along great and I do like him. I just don’t know if I should shoot my shot or just let him go. But it’s so hard for me to actually get close to anyone and I’ve been feeling like that’s all what I’m good for. Just a few couple hours. No one has even tried to get to know me. As soon as they realize I won’t have sex right away they all leave so it just makes me feel like oo one is even giving me a chance to show them I’m more than just another girl to sleep with. I feel so empty and I’m so scared of getting rejected again. I try to be their friend first and I’m honestly so tired of feeling so alone. I understand that I don’t need anyone to feel happy but I feel like something is missing. And I know I’m extremely depressed. Not because I can’t find anyone. It’s just that I feel so alone, and that includes being with friends (I don’t have many) and family. I just don’t even know what to do anymore. I see no future for myself with anyone or doing anything. All I see in my future is just a blank space and I’m so tired of feeling that way.

William replies

I’m glad that you are asking for advice. As I’m sure you understand, we’re a group of elders who call on life experience rather than professional training to offer opinions about problems in living. I don’t know you or anyone about whom you are writing. The only information I have to go on is your letter.

I think the title of your letter sums it up. “Friends with benefits.” That’s the way the guy you are seeing feels about it. You two entered into an agreement to be friends with whom you have sex without a romantic relationship or commitment. Sort of like going to a movie once a month, or going for lunch now and then. Just friends, except that you are expecting more than he is. That’s the flaw with friends with benefits arrangements. Two close friends think it would be fun to have sex with each other again and again. Until one falls in love and gets their heart broken when the other doesn’t want a relationship. That’s what seems to be going on here. Your guy just wants sex, and you want a romantic relationship. Based on his social media posts, he’s interested in a romantic relationship as well, only not with you.

I answer a lot of letters, and some have the friends with benefits dilemma. Society has changed, and I’m not criticizing you about your activity. Casual sex has become common. That’s not necessarily right or wrong, but it’s put sex in a different category than it was years ago when we were young and seeking romance. As someone who might have faced your situation fifty years ago, the issue of friends with benefits would have been anything but casual. It would have game-changing and life-changing, and possibly a big guilty secret. There were rules, and we broke them, but not casually. I won’t go on about the past. I simply want to emphasize that in present-day ethics almost every moral constraint is self-generated, varies from person to person, and is subject to accommodations for unusual circumstances — like finding the rule-breaker was “just having fun”, for example.

Your feeling of emptiness is likely the result of being in love (or close to it.) These emotions are not being reciprocated. Unlike a good meal, a movie, a day in the park, etc., sex is different. Sure, it’s physically pleasurable. However, it’s also about as intimate as two people can get. I find it hard to imagine engaging in sex with the same person regularly without developing an emotional attraction. Please, this is not a moral judgment or lecture. It’s just the way humans are. When they have sex, the primal purpose is the reproduction of the species. Successful procreation seems to work best if there are two parents. That, I think, is the problem. As smart as we are, we can’t stop our emotions from getting the best of us. Aeons of evolution and biology have ensured that it is the most likely outcome. The guy you are seeing is satisfied with sex now and then, and that all he wants, as far as you are concerned.

On the other hand, you are following nature’s course. You are becoming attracted to this guy. Unfortunately, I don’t see this working out. That fellow is going to continue to use you as a sex partner until he finds someone he fancies a bit more. It’s pretty obvious. I recommend you stop giving him his “couple of hours.” Sex isn’t like food or air. He (and you) can live without it for a few weeks, a few months, or in extreme cases, years.
Let’s talk about your loneliness and depression. First, if your depression is severe, constant, and debilitating, I urge you to speak to a doctor, a psychologist, or a counselor. They often have tools and techniques for dealing with this that you and I have not considered. From what you’ve written, I don’t think you need to go that route. I mention it because, as I said, I’m not a professional and can only go by the words you’ve written.

Assuming it’s not that bad, in my view, you are experiencing what many young people go through. We are starting out in life, getting a foothold, and dealing with adulthood. We want to be successful, popular, get a good job, and, hopefully, find the right person to spend the rest of our lives with. All of this seems to be thrust on us at once. You won’t be able to solve all of these hurdles at once, and neither should you want to. Finding friends is important. They will come. In my life, I only ever had one or two good friends that I could trust at any given time. Finding the right partner is not easy, either. Don’t waste your time with friends with benefits type guys unless you are sure they will progress to the emotional stage. Sex is generally meant to show someone you care for them, not just because it feels good. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting you refrain from sex. My point is to wait until you find the right guy. Maybe you’ll go through several before you find the right fellow. The current guy is not the one, so forget him, and move on.

You will do just fine. Like the rest of us 7.8 billion people on the planet, you are making your way through life the best way you can. Things will improve. Give it time! I’m happy to talk to you again if I can be of further help. Wishing you clarity, confidence, courage, and happiness as you move forward.

Letter #: 449508
Category: Dating/Relationship

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