The Benefits of Friends With Benefits

So, I don’t know if I’m the only one… but the longer I live, the more strange and confusing life seems to be getting. I'm a bit annoyed by that, actually. I was very ready to enjoy a life in which everything was predictable, and I could follow a careful set of rules laid out by television and teen magazines. But apparently the universe had different ideas.

The biggest shock has been that relationships do not work how they are supposed to at all. Turns out that just because someone likes your laugh and buys you flowers, they will not automatically marry you and make all your problems go away (???). But there is a bright side to this, friends. All the things we were told to never ever ever do because they are bad ideas...maybe they’re not so bad after all.

Friends with benefits, for example.

“Friends with benefits never works and it’s a terrible idea, and you will either end up in love or hating each other and - just don’t do it.” That was what I was taught by just about every film and TV series from the 90s to the 2000s. Except, they left out the bits where it works out perfectly fine and makes people happy.

The general premise behind “friends with benefits” is pretty simple: you get to enjoy the best parts of both a romantic and platonic relationship i.e. cuddling and kissing and all that other stuff, but without going through the terrifying maze that is a full-on partnership with another confused and panicked human. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it’s great to go through the maze and it ends up being the most fun thing ever. But sometimes it’s difficult - you get lost and you fight, and you decide that you’d be better off splitting up and finding your way through the maze alone. Sometimes you’re not really ready to go through a maze because you just got out of a different maze and you just want to enjoy a maze-free life for a bit.

Friends with benefits is more like a stroll through a park. You still get to head out into the sunshine and spend time with a great human of your choosing, but you can kind of wander off and do your own thing when you need to, and you don’t need to worry about whether or not you’ll be able to find your way out of the park.

The critique of friends with benefits is a valid one. How can people spend time together, enjoy each other’s company and be intimate, and not end up in a romantic relationship? Except that we live in a beautiful time when we are starting to realise that so many things are more fluid than we first believed. Friendships and romantic relationships are two ends of a spectrum, and there is so much more to be explored in between. The only thing you need to make sure of is that both (or however many) parties are on the same page about which part of the spectrum you’re on. When there’s confusion about that, that’s when people get hurt.

But if you’re open and honest with your beneficial friend, you are in for a beautiful time. A time to learn and share and grow. A time when you can appreciate someone for who they are as a human, without worrying about grabbing them up and keeping them all to yourself. And they will do the same for you. No time spent in happiness is wasted, and no relationship is invalid because it doesn’t have a label. Forget what you’ve been taught, learn from your own lived experience. Run through mazes and walk through parks and sit alone under trees. Enjoy the marvellous rainbow that is the spectrum of love and life.