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Can ‘friends with benefits’ actually work? Add to ...

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Question:

Over the past five years, I’ve had a ‘bed buddy’ – what I call my friend with benefits. We have rules: 1. We will never date each other 2. We don't tell our friends 3. We don't kiss 4. Don't know about each other’s personal lives and 5. We always stop hanging out when one of us has started to date someone else.

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It’s been a great situation, when I wanted sex I got it. He was great in bed, and also a great friend outside the bedroom.

In the last six months, many things have changed: I have met his friends, we now kiss and hold hands during sex, he texts me all the time, and surprised me with a weekend trip for my birthday. It feels like it’s developing quickly – I'm really happy.

The sex is incredible, and I love having him in my life on a closer level now. Can we keep up this friends with benefits arrangement? Should I talk it out or just shut up and enjoy?

Answer:

With the full expectation of Internet outrage and reader bafflement, let me say this: I don’t believe that a successful friends with benefits arrangement is possible.

Great sex with someone you care about without commitment is an urban myth – like unicorns, the glass ceiling and a winning Toronto sports team.

Personally, I’ve never signed up for such an arrangement: If the trust is mutual, the laughs are great, and the sex is good – why wouldn’t I want to lock that down?

Sure, “friends with benefits” is a catchy name – but frankly, I think it’s more often “friend taking advantage of another friend.”

Even on the big screen, Friends with Benefits doesn’t last. Yes, that Oscar-slighted film starring Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis – where both had agreed to have sex, be friends, and never date – well, they fall in love, cue the credits.

Sure, that’s the rom-com ideal: Both parties say they don’t want anything serious, yet somehow they can’t help falling in love. But in reality, the ending isn’t happy: someone is guaranteed to get hurt. And just to be sure, I asked around.

I prodded friends, strangers, dog walkers and colleagues: “Sure, I’ve had friends with benefits! It was phenomenal,” they’d say, grinning.

When I asked how it ended, the results were never good (and almost every time, the person getting hurt was female).

In each case, the woman was initially content with the “friends with benefit” arrangement and said so. Yet, in almost every story I heard, the woman wasn’t truly honest about her feelings – or had secretly hoped the sex would lead to love.

Then I heard a story that nearly made me drop my eggnog. While at a Christmas party, I asked Jack, a long-time friend – and a self-declared “suit” in public relations – his take.

He had six girls in the course of his four years as a single man allegedly sign up for a “just friends having sex” deal. “I was honest about what I wanted – to hang out, see them often and have sex whenever we wanted.” I resisted the eye roll.

“But soon enough, they couldn’t have a physical relationship without a commitment – and got mad at me for not wanting that. Most cases, they never talked to me again. But I felt I should have been mad at them for not being honest.”

This is your fate, I fear. Don’t hate me – but I read your e-mail many times, and I can’t say you sound any different than Jack’s ladies.

Sometimes sex is just sex, but not when it’s with someone you love spending time with.

By all means, talk it out. Have an open conversation with your “friend” about your expectations – and be really, truly honest with your real friend here, yourself.

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