Navigating a Friends with Benefits Situation

In the last few years sociologists and psychologists have asserted that humanity is not as black and white or as perfectly categorized as we once liked to believe. Everything is a spectrum, everything is a gradient.

While I fully embrace gender and sexuality as a spectrum, I did not anticipate that relationships would also be sitting on these spectrums. How I miss the days when there were just three simple categories. It used to be you were either friends with someone, you were sleeping with someone, or you were dating someone. Confusion seemed to only arise if you were attempting to transition from one of these categories to another. That was tolerable because transition is expected to be confusing but more importantly temporary. It appears that those categories have been thrown out the window, and as a Type-A “thinker” according to the Myers-Briggs personality test- I’m going a bit mad.

I was recently approached with the term intimate friend. A term popularized by singer Eddie Kendricks in the 70s. Now what did this entail exactly? According to my intimate friend, they wanted both the emotional and physical intimacy. As for boundaries, their response was to simply go with the flow. My mind had a million questions and an equal amount of concerns. The primary being that this was too fine of a line to walk. Especially that underneath this desire for intimacy, was their insistent lack of desire for a girlfriend.

Let me get this straight, you want to talk about our personal lives, do activities together in and outside the bedroom, spend time with each other’s friends, use the occasional pet name but you don’t want a girlfriend?

Oh, and you’re probably going to panic every time it feels like you’re in a relationship because you definitely don’t want one?  Cue every complicated relationship meme there is on the internet.

I thought we learned a long time ago from Hannah Montana that you cannot in fact have the best of both worlds. I understand not wanting to rush into anything. I get that. It’s totally reasonable to want to take your time because I think there definitely is a bit of pressure to couple up right away. Millennials particularly get criticized for having issues with commitment. Is that what this is? Commitment issues? Is it our desire to want to be independent? Is it our experiences watching our parents and our friend’s parents get divorced that has shaped how we view relationships? Or am I completely overthinking this and we’re just confused as to what we want so we hold on to everything with slightly twisted ideologies until we’re ready to make a final decision?

It’s difficult being in this position. You want so badly to gain control of this uncertainty but the only way you can do that is to walk away. Except you don’t want to walk away because you actually like spending time with your “intimate friend”. Yet, you’re faced with another dilemma because you can’t like it too much otherwise you might get attached to someone that can do whatever they please because you’re not actually in a relationship.  You’re then forced to establish some distance in order to protect yourself but then eventually you get that text, asking if you’re okay and noting the distance you’ve attempted to create.

Spectrums can be maddening. I suppose they’re like that because they go against an intrinsic need to want to define everything. The idea that if we can define everything, we can understand everything and therefore predict its outcomes. Ultimately attempting to avoid the pain we’ve come to anticipate.

Despite how complicated and confusing spectrums can be, they’re also beautiful.

Maybe instead of worrying about the contract law of our relationships, our fears of getting hurt, we should put that energy towards just enjoying the beautiful mess that are human relationships. Even when we thought we had them nicely divided into three neat categories, they were still beautiful and messy. That hasn’t changed.

Sometimes I think I’m done trying to navigate people’s feelings, that I’m too logical and too old for this shit. I’m done with people reflecting their own insecurities and concerns on to me. Just as I’m about to say fuck this, I’m forced to remember moments of happiness are supposed to be experienced, not defined.

Best of luck to all those navigating feelings, relationships, sex and everything in between.