Miss Information

If I get into a friends-with-benefits situation, am I asking for trouble?

By Cait Robinson

Dear Miss Info,

My boyfriend and I have been dating for a year and a half. We both do the typical two-crappy-part-time-jobs thing. We both work as servers on the weekends, so our weekends consist of sleep marathons and then work. He works at a well-known coffeeshop chain. (It rhymes with Marbucks.) 

His schedule is crazier than mine. A few days a week he has to work at both jobs, wake up at three-thirty a.m. for his coffeeshop job (they open at four-thirty on weekdays), and come home around ten or eleven to sleep until his other job. He always asks me to come over and sleep with him, and sometimes I go, but more often than not, I'm lying awake in his bed doing nothing, bored and hot because his air conditioner doesn't work right. I try to do the good girlfriend thing, play with his cat and fold his laundry, but I'm so bored.

Would it be bitchy of me to just stop coming around if he's just going to sleep? We both have one day a week off, and he wants to spend it sleeping. I never come over until late afternoon, and sometimes he doesn't want to go anywhere. It's boring. We never go out anymore — we just stay in and watch TV and sleep. We don't have sex much either. 

Also, I don't like the girls he works with at his coffeeshop job. I didn't realize this, but it's kind of a cult. They're like a "big happy family," and the girls just love him ohsomuch. I know this because they tell him all the time on Facebook. Sometimes I visit him at work and play nice with his coworkers, but I just can't keep doing it. It's annoying. They see him more than I do. And I don't think he wishes he saw me more, either. I feel like I'm the only one making an effort. Things used to be great, but now I'm just bored, horny, and completely disgruntled.

Is it worth saving or should I just dump him if he's being inconsiderate?

— Working Girl

Dear Working Girl,

If the most action you get is by folding your boyfriend's underwear, you are absolutely entitled to re-evaluate — and to stay home, where the air conditioning works. There is nothing bitchy about any of that. Your annoyance is totally understandable, but it mostly just sounds like a huge lapse in communication.

But I get the sense this parade of negatives is coming from a place of frustration, rather than a place of "screw this." If you were really over the relationship, you wouldn't bother getting external input. Even if you're on your way out, no relationship should end in a smoke bomb and disappearance, which means that you should schedule a time to sit your boyfriend down and tell him what is going on. He likely can't change his schedule or get less cultlike coworkers, and you obviously can't expect him to do either. But he can work to make you a priority. 

He may just not realize that you're quietly seething while melting into a pool of sweat next to him, and if you stay silent while the anger mounts, that's not fair to him. Let him in on your dissatisfaction. Stay open and non-accusatory, but tell him that you're not getting what you need. Then see what you can come up with. Maybe set aside a few date hours that are more romantic than "watch me while I sleep." (Incidentally, have you tried sketching his sleeping form and leaving it on the pillow? Or making him a paper plane? Those ideas worked never and in Top Gun, respectively.)

Give your boyfriend a chance to make changes, but, above all, listen to your gut. If you're really not getting anything other than discounted Mappuccinos out of this relationship, there's nothing wrong with recognizing that and moving on. But if that's the case, at least give him a chance to understand what's going on in your head, so that he doesn't come home to a "Dear John" letter on top of his pile of laundry.

Dear Miss Info,

So, I have this friend. We met at a party, seemed to have pretty decent chemistry, exchanged info, and then went out a few times, but nothing ever happened between us. Like, we didn't even kiss. We come from different cultural backgrounds, so I'm still not 100% sure if it was due to a lack of chemistry, or because he's pretty inexperienced (he's never had a girlfriend). But after our first meeting, all his signals were platonic.

Fast-forward almost a year, and we're still friends. We usually hang out one on one in date-type scenarios, but only a few times a month, and we pretty much only communicate via email unless it's to send an "I'll be five minutes late" text message. Friends, right? Friends. But I'm still attracted to him. I have no reason to believe he's not still attracted to me. And we're both still single, and enjoy each other's company.

He's going to be staying at my place for a few days at the end of the summer, between moving apartments.

How bad would it be for our friendship if I put some "benefits" on the table? The major reason I'm writing is that I don't know if it's stupid to add sex to a situation where there was a spark and then there wasn't. I am pretty sure I can keep from deluding myself into conflating sex with romance, but A, am I already deluding myself? And B, is it unfair of me to expect him to feel clear on that as well? Or is a year's friendship enough evidence that we're definitely not going anywhere romantically?

— FWB Or Not WB

Dear FWB Or Not WB,

I think you correctly divined one of the sticky points of this issue: that "friends with benefits" situations are complicated, difficult, and often ill-fated. Both friends need to be solidly on the same page. Expecting an inexperienced guy to be cool with strings-free hook-ups might be a tall order — and I'm not sure you're so into the idea, either. You use phrases like "deluding yourself into conflating sex with romance," which seems like a lot of defeatism to start a relationship with. Why are you trying to put so many strictures on this? Why go into a relationship with rules that you know will be hard for you (and will likely be hard for him, too)? If there is this much stress before anything starts, it's probably not going to be a fun time.

That being said, he may be fine with something happening. And so may you. Maybe it just happens organically and seems to click. As with any relationship, a "friends with benefits" situation doesn't start with a list of stipulations and a signature of both parties. Rather than getting yourself lost in a maze of what-ifs, flirt a little and see where that goes. Treat each other openly, honestly, and fairly, and you can't go wrong.

"Friends with benefits" agreements are often an attempt to impose predictability and control over relationships, which are, by definition, free of both. This is where most FWBs go wrong: they prioritize the rules ("this is allowed, this isn't") over actual interpersonal give-and-take. Rather than drawing up a contract, compartmentalizing your feelings, and bolstering your poker face, approach this from a place of, "Hey, I think you're cute. What should we do about that?" If you want to make out with the dude, make out with him — it doesn't need to be followed up by a game plan. Spare both of you the cynicism of imposing rules before the relationship can form.

Have a question? Email missinfo@nerve.com. Letters may be edited for length, content, and clarity.

Commentarium (24 Comments)

Jul 30 11 - 2:14am
eva

I love this advice. I'm the friend that gets asked for advice a lot, and I usually just say "Put one foot in front of the other". Now I'm tempted to ask you questions! Good job. Keep it up.

Jul 30 11 - 2:20am
yes

I think you are spot on in terms of describing why many people want to enter FWB situations.

Jul 30 11 - 3:27am
One more thing, Cait

If the letter-writer is going to start flirting with him, she should make sure she does not start while he is staying with her-- there's nothing more uncomfortable, in my opinion, than getting unwanted advances when you have no place of your own to flee to. They may not be unwanted, but you should at least admit that possibility.

Jul 30 11 - 9:04am
Buck Nasty

Hey stupid chick, you like the guy. He's not into you. So what do you? You let him fuck you and hope/pray he will start to like you. Do you think that's a good idea? Just make sure you don't reproduce.

Jul 30 11 - 11:27am
Seattle Blonde

@Working Girl, it sounds like both of you are stressed and tired, and I think Cait's advice is really excellent regarding the right-now need to express how you feel.

But I wonder if part of the issue is that you don't see any forward movement generally for the relationship: is some of your frustration coming up because you don't think this kind of stagnation will end? You don't mention this, so maybe I'm projecting, but I can imagine that if I never saw my partner except to take naps with him, and I wasn't happy with the situation, and there wasn't an end in sight, I'd be ready to throw in the towel too. All relationships require working through some shitty and boring situations, but they're worth it precisely because of whatever good waits on the other side. Might a lack of that be part of what you're bothered by?

Jul 30 11 - 1:08pm
Nane

I really like the image

Jul 30 11 - 2:24pm
Patty

For the working girl, I wonder if communication is really the core issue. It sounds like you two are both stuck in life situations (2 crappy part-time jobs) that are going to bleed over into your relationships whether your talking correctly/enough to each other or not. Maybe start planning for a different future?

Jul 30 11 - 2:49pm
Courtney

Ehhh, both these letters made me cringe. I have no sympathy whatsoever. Not that I haven't been in similar situations, but damn y'all. LW1- change it or end it! You're obviously young, it's not the end of the world if it doesn't work out with this guy, and really? You don't seem too invested. But if you really did want to "work it out"...it would require change from HIM woth the way you've written your letter...quit being so sleepy, get your AC fixed, find a different job because I'm irrationally jealous of your coworkers, try to want to do anything ever, and fold your own damn laundry. Perhaps all valid suggestions for his life path! But he's probably not going to start doing those thugs while he's still with you, sorry. LW2, invite him to come hang out at your place about a week before his scheduled stay, to have some drinks and watch a movie & get accustomed to the place. If you're both tipsy, and you move in closer, act a little touchy feely, and he takes the bait...score! Either it's good and you have a live in lay coming up, or it's bad and he finds somewhere else to stay. And if he doesn't take advantage of your moves?? Well he's either just not into you or he's just not worth the effort.

Jul 30 11 - 6:33pm
Dee

That drunk movie thing led into a sexy relationship that led into a marriage for me! It works. I think if someone agrees to do tequila shots with you while you're alone and watching a movie, you're in the clear for some makeouts at the very least.

Jul 30 11 - 6:48pm
Buck Nasty

Getting married is easy. Especially when alcohol is involved.

Jul 30 11 - 8:19pm
hey

I agree with "One more thing..." -- making a serious move when someone is staying with you has the potential for badness. If they reject you, you're both in an extremely awkward position.

Jul 31 11 - 1:31am
greg

I must say, FWB, I have never seen the words conflating and diluting in a short paragraph on here before, you my dear are a cunning linguist.

Jul 31 11 - 11:33am
sprezo

yes, you will get into trouble. The benifits only last so long. Soon you gotta pay up.

Jul 31 11 - 12:16pm
JCF

FWB/Not, either he just wants to be friends, or he also wants more and is not sure how to ask without ruining the friendship (pretty common for people with no experience). I like the Drunk Movie Night suggestion above, but that only works if you both drink. Otherwise, you just have to send out as many signals as you can and hope he doesn't ignore them all, or take a chance and ask him yourself (do you want to limit yourself to just FWB though?), or be happy just being friends. Don't leave him in a bad situation with no place to stay, though.

Aug 01 11 - 8:45pm
pf

Oy-cynics. FWB: You're adults. If he says "n0, hell no to benefits", then you won't ask again. Big deal. Far more likely, he'll say, "Thank you so much for asking...". Ultimately, at some point one of you will say "no" (maybe in 70 years, maybe in 7 hours). Having a bit of romance is worth it. Period.

Aug 02 11 - 2:08am
LT

I like you

Aug 02 11 - 12:30pm
stfu it's me

and I, u.

Aug 02 11 - 1:22pm
MrExcitement5000

I see so many articles by girls, like the first letter. I just understand - it must be me? What do you like about this guy? How is what you have even a friendship, let alone a relationship? I don't get it.

Aug 03 11 - 2:26am
se

fwb was wicked amazingly good advice! I would also like to add that you probably shouldn't have a discussion about friends with benefits until you are sure how he feels, and not while he's staying in your apt. (Good point!) This ain't the movies.

Ask him to rub sunscreen on your back, sit too close to him and "accidentally" have a wardrobe malfunction. If I was attracted to my friend and she did those I would be hers for sure. Do it now before he comes to stay with you. But if he's not into it, it could mess up your friendship. So make sure its worth the risk.

I hope it works! I wish my friends secretly wanted to sleep with me.

Aug 06 11 - 3:03am
Realpolitick

Regarding the FWB letter, I like Cait's ideas about saying "You're cute, what do we do about it?" and about just making out with him and seeing what happens. On the other hand, all these comments about "sending signals" and seeing if he takes the bait are bullshit. The "drunken movie night" idea is horrible *unless* you just outright put a move on him.

C'mon, women, we're well into the 21st century. Make a goddamn move for once. This idea of "sending signals" that guys are supposed to act on is horrible and it often backfires. You send signals. The guy thinks he's getting signals, but he's not sure it means what it seems to mean. Maybe he's taking it the wrong way. Maybe you're just being harmlessly flirty. Maybe you're just drunk. So he doesn't make the move. You get pissed and hurt. You stop sending signals. Maybe you start sending *opposite* signals (i.e., I'm mad at you, I don't like you at all.) Now the guy is hopelessly confused and the situation is doomed. "Gee, I was thinking that *maybe* she wanted something to happen, but now she's acting pissed at me. WTF? Fuck this silly little girl and her mixed signals."

And of course, if the guy tries to, God forbid, *talk* about the situation like an adult, the woman will deny that signals were ever being sent. It really was all in his head. What's he talking about?

So do everyone a favor and just have the ovaries to make a move, either verbally or sexually.

Nov 10 11 - 3:27pm
wyylie

Oh, nuts. You're over-thinking all of this. Tell him you'll be glad to have him stay with you and you're looking forward to sharing your bed. It will be fun to watch him react to that!

Nov 20 11 - 9:44am
Caden

With the bases lodead you struck us out with that answer!

Nov 20 11 - 12:20pm
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Nov 24 11 - 2:12pm
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