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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.
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