A BIG SWEETIE:
I reached out to awhile ago when I first left my ex of 5 and a half years but here I am now, 6 months later—single, thriving, and experiencing everything. Life’s been great—the only thing that’s tripping me up lately is my new casual fwb type situation.
So I met this guy on tinder, and when I was newly single I went on a lot of dates - I wanted to see who I liked, what I liked, personalities, etc. After a few months, I got over the excitement and attention and deleted the apps. However, about a month ago I decided to redownload tinder and that’s when I met James.
James and I went on a fun date to this arcade bar, had great chemistry, very compatible in our sense of humor, and he’s fun and spontaneous like myself. So for the following two weeks, we hang out a lot - just fun random dates, sex, sleepovers, the whole shebang. I’ve never really clicked with someone so fast - I started to get enamored with him. But then he started being slightly weird and texted me out of the blue that he wants to be just friends.
We ended up meeting up and talked about it and he told me that he doesn’t want to date but he wants to be friends with benefits. And he still wants to date other people but genuinely likes me and wants to continue to hang out with me. He said, you’re smart, funny, attractive, easy to get along with, have a great job—you’re everything I want on paper but I just don’t see a long term thing right now.
The thing is I really like him as a person, he’s fun to hang out with—we’re actually taking a trip this weekend to see a show out of state (and he ended up buying my plane ticket, hotel, show, etc) extremely generous—we text everyday too. It’s just so weird. It doesn’t feel like a just friends thing. And if it is strictly a fwb, I’ll try and deal but I feel like he doesn’t know what he wants and it’s starting to mess with my head. I’m wondering if I should ride it out or stop now before I get too attached and hurt.
He recently got out of a relationship in July that was long term—so I can see where he’s coming from in the sense he’s just exploring and having fun. I’m just not sure what to do, I’ve never had a fwb before so this is all new to me.
Sorry to propagate images of Justin Timberlake in sexual contexts.
Friends with benefits gets an unduly bad rap; I have myself and have had many of friends who have enjoyed friends with benefits situations that lasted for a bit, were mutually enjoyable, and weren’t life-ruining when over. Plenty of adults can and do handle themselves just fine. I particularly loathe the trope that fwb situations are all heterosexual and that women are constantly settling for them despite wanting “more,” while men chafe at the bindings of even the least structured relationship. Personally, I’m a massive fan of fwb relationships.
What you have is NOT that.
Bad news bears: that guy is either just a dick or very confused about where he’s at emotionally (or both, I suppose). You do not—DO NOT—go on a trip with someone where you pay for their hotel and plane ticket and then continue the charade of being fuck friends. Absolutely not on my watch! And texting you every day??? I don’t even text my own mother every day (sorry mom) and I she gave birth to me.
As I said, there are two distinct possibilities here: 1) he has no clue what he wants and is flying by the seat of his pants, making decisions that seem right, but which are confusing both of you. This is likely because he’s been taught by history that the best thing to do when relationships aren’t right is to make changes. Unfortunately, he’s making a hash of this. 2) He knows exactly what he wants and what he wants is you on the back burner, willing to jet off to San Diego when it’s fun for him, but never in line to become his work function date, let alone a future emergency contact. Both options, whether intentionally or not, are incredibly selfish.
He’s not in the wrong for not wanting something long term from you. That is not criminal. The way he’s going about all of this—namely, the mixed messages (I don’t want to date you but also we’re texting every day?? / We’re not long term, but I’m going to tell you that you’re everything I want in a person??)—is trash. So it’s time for YOU to make some decisions! Your entire letter is incredibly passive. I’m not saying that’s all bad. Sometimes in life, we’re just along for the ride; I don’t think you can let this be one of those times anymore because our messy disaster friend has no clue what he’s doing.
Like almost everyone who writes in, you (understandably) do not mention what you want other than clarity. I’m sure you do want clarity from this man, I do not doubt that. But what else do you want?!?!?!?! I refuse to believe that you have no feelings either way when it comes down to formalized relationship vs fwb. Do you actually not care AT ALL that he wants to be fwb? Are you ok if he never figures his shit out and keeps texting you daily for months and months and taking you on sex vacations, all while insisting that you two are fuck buddies? Be honest with yourself and then be honest with him.
I’m not saying that you need to end things if they aren’t leading to love and commitment and full emotional support. There is certainly a time and a place in life when you know someone isn’t Everything, but you still want Something with them, so you stay. That perfectly fine! You may genuinely be excited and pleased by a low commitment level relationship. But make sure you two both actually want that, and that you both understand what that means. The whole “with benefits” part means that it’s good for YOU too, not just you being chill about whatever this guy can give.
Figure out what you want and then sit his ass down and be like, “My dude, god bless you for it, but you’re confused as hell about what friends with benefits means, and that is confusing me.” And then lay out what YOU want, and be as bold and brave about it as this guy who wants TO GO ON VACATION TOGETHER BUT NOT BE DATING. Express what you want; you might just get the relationship you actually want. The worst thing that happens is you walk away from one that you don’t want.
Sophia Benoit writes this very newsletter, she also writes about sex & relationships for GQ, tries to write about Fleetwood Mac for GQ, avoids writing by tweeting at @1followernodad, works full-time as a researcher for Lights Out With David Spade, and has had bylines in The Guardian, Reductress, Refinery29, Allure, and The Cut. She’s also working on a book and at least five TV pilots at any given moment. (But for real, there will be a book soon). You can reach her or yell at her at firstname.lastname@example.org.