Home Dating & Relationships Dating How Do You Avoid Being ‘Friends With Benefits’

How Do You Avoid Being ‘Friends With Benefits’

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From the SBM mailbox:

I met someone last September at a wedding. We live on opposite sides of the country and are both relatively busy. I’m currently a full-time student and he’s a young entrepreneur. After we met we kept in touch and via phone and video chat. We never discussed relationships but twice he asked me if I was dating anyone. I told him that I was going on dates with someone but nothing exclusive or serious. I asked him the same question in return and he replied that he was not dating anyone because his business was his entire focus. It never really came up after that.  We continued to keep in touch and he came to visit in November, it was a great weekend and we did end up having sex. After he left we continued to talk about once or twice a week and did silly things like watch Scandal together over video chat every week.  At one point I’d asked him if I was just someone he was having sex with and he reassured me that wasn’t the case. He came to visit two more times afterwards and the third time he came I realized that I was really starting to fall for him. I decided to address it and we had a conversation about it. Long conversation short, he said that he really hadn’t planned on liking me as much as he did, but given the distance and getting his business up and started being his primary focus, he didn’t want to deal with anything serious at the moment. This was in April. Since then things got more distant between us. I got really busy studying for my board exams and he spent a good amount of time out of the country for business every couple weeks. We still kept in touch but there was definitely a huge difference in how often. Last week he asked to visit again saying he was coming back from out of the country and wanted to stop by to see me before heading back home.  I said of course and so we saw each other again for the first time since April.



 I realize I still really care for this guy and don’t want this to become a “friends with benefits” type situation. At the same time I don’t want to beat a dead horse by nagging about the same thing. I understand that the reservations he has about not wanting anything serious are still there. We’re still on opposite sides of the country and he’s still consumed by his focus on his business.

Help! What do I do?!?!?

First, I want to thank this reader for choosing to reach out to us for advice. We really appreciate all the mail that we get and put a lot of effort into responding to as much mail as we can. Second, there’s a lot to glean from this situation that both this reader and other readers can benefit from. Last, I can empathize with both sides of the situation because I’ve experienced it. Therefore, I’m going to tell you in advance that the delta between what you should do and will do on this one is vast. That’s perfectly normal because just because something is normal doesn’t mean it makes sense.

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Here are a few things that I took away from the email:

Weddings are a great place to meet people.

It’s not the same as dating within your circle only because these are the people who are sometimes two or three degrees removed. However, you must share somewhat similar qualities because you happen to be connected in your network.

You both agreed to continue communicating despite the distance and I presume without a real plan to close the gap.

That’s fine, but it should be noted that the beginnings of the relationship were birthed out of agreeing to a long distance “situation” without a plan to close it.

You both are in different places in your life with a lot of change on the horizon.

I’ll come back to this point but you both don’t sound like you’re in any place for a serious commitment, but the real issue seems that you want to know if that’s a possibility.

You both were honest about your dating situation and circumstances.

This is important because it establishes that you both were more than willing to tell each other truth.

You had sex before you were in a relationship.

I don’t think this is a bad thing but it’s just something that I always point out. Just because you sex before you’re in a relationship doesn’t mean that you’re “friends with benefits” it just means that before titles were involved, you decided that you trusted each other enough to have sex.

You realized that you were growing strong feelings for him and inquired about where things were going and he gave you his response. He said, no not at the moment.

As people start to become closer they start to want to know an answer even if they don’t desire the circumstance. And even despite being given an answer that may be appropriate and having no reason to believe the other is lying, we get upset.

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Life happened. Life happened, for both of you.

I’ve experienced this many times. It seems that when life gets busy we forget that our busy seasons are not always in line with another’s busy seasons. You were busy, he was busy, and when your time freed up… you began to wonder. He may have been just as busy as you. I always countered people I was dating with this, “What if I had started to press when you were tied up with things?” As I said before, it doesn’t seem like either of you was or is in a position for a full-fledged relationship.

You said you saw each other again and now you’re worried that since nothing is changing that you may become “friends with benefits.”

I know that people sometimes worry that if it’s not a relationship then it is “friends with benefits” but that’s not always the case. There’s a lot of gray area in the middle. I think that you have to ask yourself about the nature of the relationship. By definition “friends with benefits” is never really “friends” with benefits; it’s two people who just agree to have casual sex without any feelings being involved. The fact that you both have feelings for each other means that it’s not “friends with benefits” it’s more like “a situation.” Situations are monitored, sometimes there’s no action needed at all at this time.

You said you don’t want to keep harping on the same things over and over again.

Then don’t. You may not control that it’s on your mind, but you are able to control how much you continue to harp on it. I think there are more important questions that you want to ask. It’s not about wanting to be in a relationship as much as it’s about not falling into a “friends with benefits” relationship. Ask him if he’s still seeing other people, sleeping with anyone else, if this relationship is the most important to him and how he would feel if you met someone who better your needs. I think those are really important into figuring out whether he just wants something physical or if it’s truly a busy time in his life.

Just to even this out – This guy sounds typical, but he’s not all that typical at all.

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It’s really easy to declare that a guy who is focused on his career and unwilling to commit to being a “boyfriend” is just a typical man who wants all the benefits of a relationship without the responsibility. While that is a popular thought, it’s actually a very dangerous one. The thought that a man could be mature enough to admit that he may not be in a position to meet the demands of being a boyfriend is actually rather awesome. There are a lot of men who won’t do that and will string you along for years before you realize he has no intentions of ever settling down. There are tons of good single men today because they were in situations with impatient or demanding women. Often times, I’ve met good women who have lost good men because they didn’t have the patience to wait. And also going back to the previous point, are you even in a position to be in a relationship? Do you want to push for something only to find out that you just wanted to know if it was possible, not actually be in it?

Those are all things to consider. Of course, set deadlines and checkpoints for allowing you to understand if things are progressing or not progressing. (And then, don’t be mad when you move, shift, or adapt those checkpoints because we all do the same damn thing.) Always keep open the lines of communication. (Even though, something may be pressing in your mind and you’ll decide against bringing it up because you don’t want to push the other person away, because we all do the same thing.) It’s a lottery with these situations at times. You could be the one who he’s with until the “one” comes along, or you could be the “one” that he comes to as soon as he is in a position to be a boyfriend/husband. The decision of when to cut bait is solely up to you.

Above all else if there is one short sentence or word of advice to sum up my take; don’t allow yourself to distrust someone who hasn’t given you any reason to distrust them but only because of a personal inquiry that remains unanswered.

– Dr. J

Don’t forget to email your questions to [email protected] and check out our responses to all of our reader questions by clicking here.

Comment(44)

  1. I live this ish. I always seem to meet HQ women, but I either don’t have ample time or am geographically unable to explore more. It kind of sucks, but I’ve noticed a couple of things.
    Much like the original post, the women aren’t really in a position to do anymore about it than I am. It almost seems like the only quality women are busy women, (maybe that’s true for men too…idk) But, as man, when you’re not in the position to commit, you get labeled as something derogatory. Much like the women that I find myself involved with, the woman in the original post can talk that talk but she ain’t letting a man make her lose one second of time on her way to success…and why should she?

    1. I’ve heard the “don’t wanna be the FWB” lecture so many times, I can lip sync it along with them. I don’t see it that way but I wouldn’t dare tell them or you people how I see it, ‘cause it just gets reduced to spin. But when you really like somebody, s*x is secondary, tertiary and even quaternary. You can best believe that, that guy didn’t fly across the country just to “get some”. Sadly, most women that are afraid of being the FWB just don’t see it that way.

      1. Well the concern with being the FWB is (from seeing numerous times on previous post) some guys will not see you as something long term if you are a FWB. It is a hard line to tote. We like you and want more and don't want to be a prude, but we also don't want to only be a side piece. Then you get the famous if he doesn't swoop you up now he isn't into you because if a man want's you he would get you. It really confusing I think.
        My recent post Show me something:Why she isn’t taking you seriously as a suitor

        1. “if he doesn't swoop you up now he isn't into you because if a man want's you he would get you.” – GrandMa

          I get it. But what gets lost in the attempt to not be the FWB is who you are choosing to fill that role. Women and men have them, though women try to act as if they don’t. Women are fine with their FWBs as long as they feel like the FWB isn’t relationship material. (ex. Craig who can’t hold a job, but works the tongue well or married man Thomas(I said that))) But, when a HQ guy comes along, then suddenly it’s all GrandMa’s advice time.

          What’s so wrong with a FWB(if there must be a title) that has the potential to be more. Just be honest about it and go with the flow.
          Career first, romance second and in the meantime HQ FWBs only.

        2. I'm just a student of men. I learn about you guys from what ya'll taught me. So how do you know this is a FWB that could become more versus you just being a FWB whom he's going to drop once he gets to the place he needs to be?

          Oh yeah I completely agree about the female FWB. We are normally more emotional so yes, he can't be husband material.
          My recent post Show me something:Why she isn’t taking you seriously as a suitor

        3. “So how do you know this is a FWB that could become more versus you just being a FWB whom he's going to drop once he gets to the place he needs to be?”

          You don’t. (He says as he wipes the last Doritos residue form the inside of his mouth with his pinky finger)

          That’s the risk.
          I’d rather risk that on a HQ FWB than a side chick that I know I have no future with. If we continue to use the above story as an example, they are both really feeling each other. (not to be a male apologist) It seems as if he’s trying to do the “honorable thing” and not “lead her on”, which is unfortunate. Why couldn’t this long distance FWB thing work? That’s all it can be at the present time anyway. It’s not like anyone is beholden here. If a better HQ man came around, less busy and “all good in the hood” who could blame her?

      2. maybe he didn't fly across the country just to "get some." but he did fly across the country to spend time w/ his friend & enjoy the "benefits" lol. That's her main issue, she knows she's not just a booty call, but she's starting to realize that she's only one step above the BC which is a FWB. Most men love the blurred lines the friend w/ benefits situations bring because it allows them to dip in & dip out as they very well please, but this sitation is pretty cut & dry if you wipe away the bs.

        1. “That's her main issue, she knows she's not just a booty call, but she's starting to realize that she's only one step above the BC which is a FWB”

          This is what I call the “Pedestal P***y Premise.” Contrary to what you’ve been told, it’s not always about that. Sex is just something that people do. It’s hardwired in us. Better it be with someone that you deem worthy of it. What ISN’T hardwired in us is to watch Scandal via Skype w/ you, fall asleep on the phone together, think about you and how to make you smile.( aka abnormal male behavior). We do that stuff because we LIKE you.

          I’ll admit I love me some blurred lines. But not when I’m in the situation like the original story. They don’t have to be blurred. We can both just accept that NOW isn’t a good RELATIONSHIP time and let things run its course. Sex or no sex, BTW.

          “but this situation is pretty cut & dry if you wipe away the bs.”

          I didn’t catch the BS. I read a story about a guy who told the truth.

    2. "But, as man, when you’re not in the position to commit, you get labeled as something derogatory."

      I think, in part, it's because women have been told that if you as a man are interested in a relationship, then circumstances won't matter. So from that perspective, a man being busy is nothing more than an excuse for him not wanting a relationship with that particular woman.

      1. “I think, in part, it's because women have been told that if you as a man are interested in a relationship, then circumstances won't matter.”

        You’re statement may is right but your premise for saying it is wrong. The guy in the story did not want a relationship and he made it very clear that he wasn’t in a position to start one

        Different and completely separate is the idea that he was entirely interested in HER.

        Wanting a relationship and being completely interested in a person are not the same, synonymous, a-alikes, clones, 6&8 running mates or any of the sorts.

        I have been enamored with people and wanted to spend every non busy hour with them (when both our schedules permitted). But, those words in parenthesis are exactly why a relationship is a horrible idea at the time.

        1. "Different and completely separate is the idea that he was entirely interested in HER.

          Wanting a relationship and being completely interested in a person are not the same, synonymous, a-alikes, clones, 6&8 running mates or any of the sorts."

          Yes, I think mature men and women are able to be honest about their top priorities. Sometimes that priority is not a relationship. My premise really was that this particular woman (and a lot of others) does not differentiate between the two situations you've stated. In theory it makes sense, but can seem rather confusing in practice. Having been in a similar situation years back, it's hard to believe that a man could be completely interested in you but not pursue a relationship. It goes against everything we've been taught about you all. And quite frankly, many a woman has been given the whole "I'm focusing on my (fill in the blank)" speech before and found out that it was nothing more than hot air. I think her dilemma is figuring out which is the case. Although, if she's not interested in a FWB situation then she needs to just do her own thing on her own terms and be open to something happening later on down the road.

        2. "she needs to just do her own thing on her own terms and be open to something happening later on down the road"

          …like 80 "thumbs up" for everything you said.

          The "hot air" mofos do make it hard for the more real situations I'll even admit to pulling a couple of "hot air" speeches in my day. Your comment is the first of this thread to offer a tad of insight from her view. Dilemma.

          All dilemmas aren't bad though. I've been on both sides equally and it sucks; hurts even.

          But, dont it hurt so good?

  2. "The thought that a man could be mature enough to admit that he may not be in a position to meet the demands of being a boyfriend is actually rather awesome. There are a lot of men who won’t do that and will string you along for years before you realize he has no intentions of ever settling down."
    I agree with this wholeheartedly 200%.
    More women need to be mindful of this fact instead of selfishly thinking about themselves and making things all about them.
    I think in the end u have to do what u feel is best for you right now and what makes you happy. Don't let anyone tell you if your ready for a relationship or not based on your circumstances. All the time people make relationships work under the craziest and most stressful of circumstances. What matter most, actually all that really matters at the end of the day is, do both people want the relationship badly enough and do they love each other deeply enough to see it through any and everything.
    Bottom line, if this dude isn't ready due to circumstances then let it and him go and focus your energy on someone closer who wants to be in a serious relationship with you if thats what you want.

  3. One mistake was sleeping with him before you knew where you stood with him and what he wanted, and/or didn't want if you knew that you wanted a serious relationship and didn't want things to just be casually sexual. You should have established and made clear what u wanted and found out what he did and didn't want Prior To sex. Your a woman, and sex with a man tends to make women have feelings and get all emotional, unlike a man.
    This man told you his situation and what the deal is. His focus is on his business and career and at this time it is Not on serious relationships. That is just not his priority. As much as it may hurt because you really like him and care for him, resolve yourself to just being friends No Sex, if you can handle being friends with him and let go of any ideas of being anything more until he tells you otherwise.
    thats my 2 pennies 🙂
    Best of luck to the wriiter of the email.

  4. Wow Dr. J. The advice you gave her is completely different from advice I feel is the most healthy for her situation. Although I do appreciate a male perspective on this guys behavior.

    I feel the #1 issue is that they slept together prior to a commitment. From the letter it is clear that she wants a relationship. So for her, sleeping with this man already went against one of her own core values & beliefs. She needs to remain integrous to her core values & show her self the type of love & respect she deserves before she can expect a man to do the same.

    At this point she has 2 options:
    1) Continue to stay in a situation where she's not getting everything she needs from this man or…….
    2) Clearly let him know that this situation is not in her best interest, cut off all contact with him and begin pouring love into herself so she can attract a man who will move heaven & earth to be with her (which is what she truly deserves) & not just drop in when his schedule permits.

    I really hope all works out for her!

    1. I almost never think that sex is #1 issue. I think women tend to do that a lot of the time and that's what leads them into trouble. Sex shouldn't be a #1 issue. It is not what makes a relationship work or prosper, therefore I disagree when people say it's the main issue.

    2. “…pouring love into herself so she can attract a man who will move heaven & earth to be with her …& not just drop in when his schedule permits.
      = augment his life/business to be in a relationship at a time that isn’t fitting

      That is irrational.

      Women kill me with the idea that rational men will do irrational things to be with them. Women see this as romantic. (I blame the movies) It turns out that rational men don’t do irrational things. (not even for you) The man that does something irrational to get you, will do irrational things when you’re together.

      It might look like a movie love story; just not the one you’re thinking of. (ie “Anna Mae… if you die I'll ki!! you”)

      1. She may have stated it using dreamy language but there is nothing irrational about that statement. It irrational for this woman to stay on hold for a man that doesn’t want what she wants. Like Sincere said she should focus on loving herself which will eventually attract a man that WANTS and HAS TIME to love her.

        1. I can see that too. I guess how I would do it, is keep the lines of communication open with him, but I would date on the side. It's a catch 22. My dad told me that there was times that he came across good women and because he wasn't where needed to be in life he couldn't commit. And i'm sorry my dad's a good guy! lol So I would say that she shouldn't stop dating because of him, but i dont think she should cut him off so quickly. It may not mean that he isn't into her, but that he just can't do it right now. In the process of her dating she may come across the one for her, or in the process of kissing some frogs, he may evolve into that prince for her.
          My recent post Show me something:Why she isn’t taking you seriously as a suitor

        2. I can see that too. I guess how I would do it, is keep the lines of communication open with him, but I would date on the side. It's a catch 22. My dad told me that there was times that he came across good women and because he wasn't where needed to be in life he couldn't commit. And i'm sorry my dad's a good guy! lol So I would say that she shouldn't stop dating because of him, but i dont think she should cut him off so quickly. It may not mean that he isn't into her, but that he just can't do it right now. In the process of her dating she may come across the one for her, or in the process of kissing some frogs, he may evolve into that prince for her.
          My recent post Show me something:Why she isn’t taking you seriously as a suitor

        3. I can see that too. I guess how I would do it, is keep the lines of communication open with him, but I would date on the side. It's a catch 22. My dad told me that there was times that he came across good women and because he wasn't where needed to be in life he couldn't commit. And i'm sorry my dad's a good guy! lol So I would say that she shouldn't stop dating because of him, but i dont think she should cut him off so quickly. It may not mean that he isn't into her, but that he just can't do it right now. In the process of her dating she may come across the one for her, or in the process of kissing some frogs, he may evolve into that prince for her.
          My recent post Show me something:Why she isn’t taking you seriously as a suitor

      2. OH please. Men do all KINDS of irrational things to get women! Depends on how badly he wants a particular woman. He's only going to expend the amount of energy he needs to get you. That's it. But I don't think this writer wants anything too "irrational"—she just wants him to ask her to be his girlfriend. Unfortunately, if she keeps sleeping with him, that's not going to happen. Ever heard the saying—don't keep doing the same thing and expect different results? And the whole thing about him being too busy with his career. Please, I've seen men at all levels of their career pursue women. If he really wants a particular woman, all that stuff doesn't matter. Seems like he just wants something casual. Which is OK, but she wants more—so she needs to distance herself from him. Continuing to give him sex is not going to make him change his mind.

  5. Its too long to wait for a relationship when you even feel like you’re waiting. There’s taking things slow, there’s letting things play out and there’s simply being naive to the fact that if I sit around eventually he/she’ll come around. I can never bring myself to “wait” on a woman, more often than not, “not now” really is a sugarcoated version of “not me”, pre commital smashing or otherwise. Perhaps i’m cynical in that regard but i never think anyone is “ready” for a relationship, they enter one because they want to be with that person in particular

  6. "Its too long to wait for a relationship when you even feel like you're waiting." Serious cosign on this right here! Truth.com!

  7. " i never think anyone is "ready" for a relationship, they enter one because they want to be with that person in particular." Cosign on this as well.
    More often than not most women think they are ready and prepare more for serious committed relationship than men. U make a very valid point though Trist, as much as people want a serious relationship, rarely are they actually "ready" for one.

  8. Of course the guy (Dr. J) is going to tell her it's OK to be in this BLURRED LINES situation cause he's a guy. Men love situations like this. I suggest the writer stop having sex with him altogether. The first time was a mistake and now he knows he can get the sex without really having to make any type of commitment. MOVE ON and just see if he follows. Don't agree to see him unless it's a romantic date and NO SEX.

  9. And I suggest men who'd rather have these "no strings attached " sex situations visit their local brothel rather than toy with the hearts women who want real relationships. If you don't want a relationship, visit the whore house guys and stop preying on women who want a relationship

  10. As Dr. J said:
    "You had sex before you were in a relationship.
    I don’t think this is a bad thing but it’s just something that I always point out. Just because you sex before you’re in a relationship doesn’t mean that you’re “friends with benefits” it just means that before titles were involved, you decided that you trusted each other enough to have sex."

    But the part about "trusting one another enough" is a crock of ish. It was a mistake. Unless you're absolutely sure that you NEVER want ANYTHING serious with a guy, it's not a good idea to sleep with him before you have the TITLE because at this point it's highly unlikely you will EVER get the title. Maybe if you move on and stop sleeping with him. Then the only way he gets back in is if you have the title. That's the only way. But if you continue to sleep with him whenever it's convenient for him without the title, he has no incentive to give it to you, and you are doomed.

    1. The real interesting part is the reason why I was noting about the sex is because I wanted to remind her that she actually trusts this guy. She shouldn't be worried that he's trying to trick her into a FWB relationship.

      "Above all else if there is one short sentence or word of advice to sum up my take; don’t allow yourself to distrust someone who hasn’t given you any reason to distrust them but only because of a personal inquiry that remains unanswered."

      That's why I said that at the end of the post.

  11. If you don't want to be a FWB just say so. Period. I don't understand what the complication is. Waiting for a relationship depends on the people involved, if they're ready they're ready, if not then they're not. Their is no real time table but if you're ready and the other party isn't and you find yourself just being physical then you have to weigh your options and cut bait if need be.
    My recent post To Conceive Or Not To Conceive Out Of Wedlock, That Is The Question

  12. I wish more women would understand that being with the "right" man at the wrong time is just as bad as being with the wrong one. You two want different things, so one person is bound to be disappointed or hurt. Bottom line: Life is way too short and there are way too many options to stick around someone who doesn't want a commitment, hoping they would change.

    I learned this the hard way and had to change my approach dating in my late 20s. If a man tells me he's not looking for anything serious or doesn't have time to be in a committed relationship, I wish him the best and go on my merry way. Now, I'm with someone who is a great guy AND who's excited about taking the next steps in our relationship – marriage, having kids, etc. THAT'S the way it should be. There will be someone who appreciates you and who is genuinely excited to be committed to you; don't sell yourself short.

  13. Dr. J, I have to disgagree with you on this one, and yes it’s because of my feminine view. Before I tell you why I disagree, I want to thank you for sharing why you empathize with the man involved in this woman’s life; the view of a man who is so focused on preparing his career is not often looked at when discussing how relationships progress. However, as we all know, most women who become sexually involved with a man repeatedly , find it difficult to resist the pull of commitment. In my own opinion, it would be heartbreaking for this woman to continue this type of relationship with someone who will more than likely no longer see a need for her once his business is soaring. It seems that by her asking questions, her spirit and her gut maybe warning her of disappointment to come. It’s not that this guy is a bad man, but he is not the man she needs. I hope that she will be brave enough to realize that and let him go. One last thing: gentlemen and ladies, it is not wise share your body with anyone who is not committed to taking care of your whole being. If you do, not only do you put your body at risk, but you also hurt your mind and soul.

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