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MiddleAgedMan-ia
Divorce, Dating, and Discovery After Age Forty
Are Friends With Benefits Friends?
December 16, 2013
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We are Fotolia_43994529_XS.jpgfriends. That is what he calls us. We have sex, so I know we are not just friends. But are we really friends at all?

Even after more than a year and a half, three months of which fell under the guise of dating, pretty much every time we see each other our clothes hit the floor within minutes, whether we were together one week ago or months before. We definitely have chemistry. Whatever else we have, well, that remains elusive.

After three months of dating, I had “the talk.” You know, the one a man typically dreads, particularly the non-committal kind, about what direction a relationship will take?

Having had recently separated from my husband, a “cheater,” exclusivity was (and still is) a high priority for me and not something I had ever imagined compromising. I always valued commitment and security, and since my separation had felt utterly lost without it.

Still single in his mid-forties, the object of my affection was admittedly, and understandably, hesitant to commit to a single mother of three. But I was not asking for much–only the chance to explore any possibility of more blossoming between us.

Instead, he suggested taking a break. And I said goodbye.  

A week later I received his text, and a closed door was ambiguously reopened. Innocuously, he referenced an upcoming divorce proceeding of mine, and offered a friendly ear. Looking for prophetic meaning in a fortune cookie, I fantasized he reconsidered his haste in letting me go.

One memorable date later, it was apparent nothing had changed. I was no closer to auditioning for the role of wife and mother than before. From then on he overtly referred to me as a friend. Unspoken, and unwittingly, I was transitioned to a friend with benefits.

We tend to throw around the word friend arbitrarily. Today there are Facebook friends, best friends, and friends with benefits. But what is the distinction?

For years my husband was my best friend, so I know sex and friendship need not be mutually exclusive. True friendship is, or so I thought, based on trust and commitment between two people, and not conditional on any relationship we have with another.

As a friend with benefits, conditions abound. I worry every time I see my “friend” it will be my last. One day he will find someone to marry, and I will be summarily dismissed. After all, his future wife surely will not want him consorting with women he slept with before her. I know I would not.

The friend with benefits label thus becomes merely a misnomer for someone who has repeated casual sex. The ultimate irony is that a casual relationship implies ease and lightheartedness. Attaching the word friend to such an arrangement only misleads its title bearers by imputing depth and intimacy that does not exist. Out of this fallacy a stressful, not casual, situation is potentially born, one laden with jealousy, anxiety, resentment and pain. And so I am left to question, what exactly is so friendly about that?

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