Here's the Thing: FWB or something less?

A MASSIVE ANGEL:

I met this woman a little over a year ago. We hit it off right away. In that year I’ve asked her out for dinner and/or drinks and she’s always down, but doesn’t have a whole lot of time to do anything. We’ve stayed in constant communication the whole time, at least a few times per week.

Recently, we met up with some friends at a bar, and we hitched a ride back to a friends place because we didn’t wanna drive home drunk, the place was close, etc. While in the backseat, she grabbed my face out of nowhere and made out with me. This came as a shock as I didn’t know she thought of me as more than a friend in any way. We also had sex that night, so I’m fairly confident at this point she views me as more than a friend. We had a conversation about it the next day and she said she wasn’t in a place to fully commit to dating, but she did like me more than a friend and that she wanted to spend more time with me. She has school, work, and internship, and a 7 year old kid who she has every other week. I’ve told her, and I mean it, that I have no problem taking a backseat to whatever her goals are and I don’t want to take her focus away form that. I obviously felt the same way, as far as her being more than a friend.

Since then it’s been about two weeks since we last saw each other, but we finally made plans to hang out. I met her and a couple of her friends at a bar and I feel completely out of place. It’s not that she’s spending the whole time talking with her friends, I think most people have dealt with that, it’s no big deal. What bothered me was the fact that she couldn’t have a conversation that lasted longer than 2 minutes with me, but flirted with every other guy that walked by.

She’s a grown woman who can make her own decisions, so I know I have no right to get mad at that, but what upsets me is the way we talk to one another since we had sex (I wish you were here, I miss you, heart kissy emojis lol) and that she invited me out, but then acts like I’m just some dude. I left the bar early and she texted me asking if I was mad at her. I explained that I wasn’t mad at her, but mad that I misread the situation and confused as to why she invited me out if she didn’t want to spend time with me. She hasn’t responded as of this email. She knows how I feel about her, am I wrong in feeling slighted and unappreciated in this? 

This photo is cracking me the fuck up, sorry. This is gonna be you, being casual about the situation, communicating clearly.

SOPHIA:

Let me just say, you seem like an incredibly level-headed, reasonable person. You’re not out here being demanding, creepy, or weird (at least as you have narrated the situation to me). You’ve got a person you’re into and you’re perfectly fine with what they laid out as their relationship expectation. You’re doing everything right!!! (Ok, none of us is doing everything right; you have probably fucked up minor things here and there, but you get it).

My point is: your expectations are perfectly in line. No, you’re not banana pancakes for feeling like, “uhhhh wtf” after that last interaction. It was weird, to say the least. I’m glad that you recognize that she doesn’t need to be all over you the whole night, and that we all feel left out from time to time; I’m also glad that you left the situation when you felt like you couldn’t handle it/weren’t having a good time. That’s perfectly reasonable and healthy to do!!!!!

HOWMEVER, I think you ~might~ have misread the reasoning behind her behavior things a tiny bit here. Now, again, I’m guessing all of this from a letter that you wrote to me. I do not have her perspective on any of this, nor was I there, so I’m just stabbing around Hamlet-style in the dark. But: I think there’s a possibility she was overcompensating because of her fears of you two getting too serious. I think there’s a chance she was trying to remind you (unsubtly, and in a not-great way) that you two are not A Thing just because y’all slept together.

She has a FULL ass life, and while you don’t want to be treated like “some dude” by someone you just had sex with… you are just some dude she had sex with. This is what she’s trying to signal to you with her behavior. She may be signaling it for your benefit or for hers. She may be overdoing it to make sure that you got the message. (“Please don’t let this guy be weird about what happened between us.”) She may simply be nervous about how much you two seem to like one another, even if you both agree that casual is all that it will ever be. I strongly strongly strongly suspect her reason for ignoring you was NOT “THIS GUY SUCKS ASS WHY IS HE AROUND ME???”

I think it’s very good that you expressed clearly what disappointed you about the night to her when she asked, but I think you need to take this lesson and apply it to the future: do not have expectations of this person, because she’s not reliable for you to pin even the smallest of emotions onto. She seems very concerned with anything having even the patina of a relationship, and having this discussion with her about that night, might spook her a bit (even if she did kind of bring it upon herself by ignoring you at a friendly hang out). Be as clear as possible about the fact that you’re not looking for more from her, but that you want to be treated as a friend. And that you’re hoping to not go backwards to weird, awkward non-friendly acquaintances simply because you guys slept together once.

When/if she does get back to you, I think you opened the door for a mini mature talk. Don’t make it some long drawn out thing. Don’t insist on doing it in person (she has a kid, she’s busy). Don’t even do a whole “we need to talk moment.” Just respond honestly to what she says.

If you can bring it up smoothly, I would check in and see if she’s having second thoughts about the whole “spending more time together” thing (NOTE: you two need to grow up and use adult phrases like “fuck & suck sans commitment ”); let her know where you stand as well. Unfortunately, the hard part of “casual” dating like this is that it requires a lot of conversations which almost inherently makes it feel not “casual,” so then people get freaked out by it, instead of just having mini, casual mature talks.

A mini mature talk from you might start like this, “Hey, sorry about the other night.* I know this is weird after we just hooked up, and I know we’re both trying to keep it casual. I just expected something different out of seeing you; you seemed to be avoiding me, which I just didn’t get. I’m not saying I need to be the center of your life when we go out, so I don’t want any of this to feel like pressure; I’m just explaining where I’m coming from. I think we didn’t talk about what it was going to look like going forward so we’re both trying to figure it out, and it got a bit bungled. I know talking about this might make it seem not-casual, but I’d much rather just lay stuff out there and be honest with each other, so that we can avoid this in the future. If you’d rather I not come somewhere, or if you’d rather us not hang out, I can take that. I’m just saying, feel free to be honest with me. ”

*(not that you did anything wrong, but you know, whatever).

You should probably put it in your own words that describe what you feel and not what I—a rando from the internet— thinks you feel. That’s just a framework.

If you’re ok with it and you want this quasi-relationship to continue, let her take the lead as much as you can and she’ll show you where she’s comfortable with going. You may have to play by her ear and her schedule with a life as busy as hers. Perhaps you don’t actually like the reality of that— that’s perfectly fair!!!! Even if you’re attracted to her and you two have good hot sex, this specific set-up might not work for you.

None of this is to say that you should hang around someone who treats you poorly or makes you feel like shit. Please do not do that. If it gets to that point, obviously walk. (Hopefully, you walk before then, but sometimes it’s hard to recognize when someone isn’t being great to you in casual situations). I’m just saying, go do other fun, sexy things when you can, meet up with her when she’s free and you feel like it, and try to approach this situation with as low of expectations as you can manage. She’s clearly attracted to you, but not ready for much at all.

If, however, this situation has illustrated to you that even with all of your extreme chill-ness and willingness to be casual, you still can’t get to her level of laissez faire, that’s fine, too. It doesn’t mean you’re wrong about yourself or that you aren’t open to more low key relationships; it doesn’t signal that you’re gunning for commitment; it just means you and this particular person are in different places at the moment (despite horniness). You can say that to her very nicely with, “Hey, I’m totally down for this to be casual, but I think you and I expected different things out of that, which is on both of us for not talking about more. That’s completely fine, and there are no hard feelings on my end, but I think we should go back to being friends if you’re cool with it, because I really liked that.”

Honestly, though, I think you’re both horny for each other and sweet little babies who are confused. I think if you ignore all of my advice, do nothing, and just wait it out, you two will probably smooch again (especially with the help of well liquor and late nights). Regardless, I hope it “works out” in the sense that whatever happens, it gives you some extra happiness. I’m rooting for you!!!!

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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. You can reach her or yell at her at 1followernodad@substack.com.