This week, I’m talking to you about your friend of record with the benefits.
More about my friend with benefits: Her name is Toby. We first met online about seven months ago. We’re both single and have a number of things in common. But I’m only mentioning her name now because I’m starting to get curious about the whole concept of “benefits.” I have to admit that it wasn’t that weird at first. I’m kind of creeped out by dating apps — in terms of how quickly you meet people and their everyday shenanigans. I also know that online dating has increased people’s comfort with masturbation. And, like the rest of us, I just want to understand the whole hook-up thing a little better. But lately, I’ve started to notice some changes with Toby. For one, she hasn’t been communicating with me all that much recently. She also seems to have decided that she prefers me to talk to her the way that I do with her when we’re together. That usually involves some mini talk via text and then nothing for the next day or so — no flirting or text back the next day. It seems a little strange. Like it’s draining our energy. In fact, I don’t see her tomorrow. It’s pretty interesting to me. What is going on? I’m just curious.
Here’s the thing: things can get pretty serious with benefits. I’ve had my own story of getting more than just hook-up tips from a friend, and I know that if you’re not 100 percent 100 percent connected with somebody, there’s danger in getting more than you bargained for. The core sexual and emotional connection itself can totally eat away at your budding relationship, making it difficult to see eye-to-eye on the particulars down the road. A friendship can definitely take its place. But what kind of friendship has sex with her bestie?
Let’s look at the subtext. Nothing personal, but is she projecting some kind of doubt on your intentions? She’s acknowledging that you have to care about this person to spend a bunch of time with her, all the while choosing not to care what you and your bestie share. You’re too busy getting to know each other to think about whether you’re connected in the right way. That’s what a girlfriend is for — maybe even a BFF! She’s providing some safety net, but otherwise you’re not taking that time to spend with her seriously.
This is the first step in closing a friend with benefits deal. She’s probably doing the exact same thing. For one, when you take the time to invest in a relationship, you not only protect yourself from the erratic and tragic moment when the relationship ends, but also empower yourself to respond to that with confidence and a clear sense of purpose. Two, you open yourself up to perspective. If she becomes a friend, you make sure you have perspective from which to judge her actions. Are you impressed? Believing she doesn’t love you anymore? Impressed? This perspective can keep you from getting too invested.
On the other hand, if she does see your friendship as something she wants to invest in, you both take notes. I’ll get to that.
Let’s get back to the language. The words are important. I’m not looking for a definition, per se. It’s all in the delivery. If you have a sexual relationship with somebody, those terms are forever-deployed. If your two besties engage in friend-with-benefits behavior, whether because of group activity or a physical relationship, they’re slowing this down. They’re moving the agenda from romance to companionship. “Relationship” isn’t possible unless you’ve seen eye-to-eye on specific areas.
Keep an eye on her. If she looks wobbly, or if she responds differently when she’s upset, you can start to get suspicious. And while you’re at it, check her texts. Is there extra-heavy texting? If her messages are more mundane than usual, she could be nursing a grievance. A million different combinations of words could make all the difference.
My point is this: you can learn a lot by spending time with a friend of record. Even if your connection is more complex than the typical hook-up thing, that connection can help you unlock the mystery.
Rebekah Sager is a writer in Columbia, Missouri. When she’s not writing, she can be found running errands and reading.