How can I transition from fuck buddies to just friends?
March 2, 2010 10:00 PM   Subscribe

How can I change a relationship from fuck buddy to just friends?

I've recently delved into the world of casual sex. After a recent breakup, I slept with the first guy I was remotely attracted to. We've gotten together a few times on "fuck buddy" terms, but my initial slight attraction has dissipated into none. The thing is, he's a cool guy and I'd like to try to keep him as a friend if possible. How do tell him I don't want to fuck him anymore? Saying straight up that I don't find him sexually attractive seems too cruel, especially if I want to keep the possibility of being friends. He is not the most attractive guy in the world and he told me it's been years since he's been with someone so I don't want to damage his self-esteem any further. Help?

P.S. If anyone well-experienced in the trials and tribulations of casual sex, fuck buddies, friends with benefits, etc. would like to be someone I can email with questions as they come up (and they're coming up right and left as I meet more men!), please email me at
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (26 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
"Hey, this fuck buddy thing isn't really working for me, but I really like hanging out with you. Let's grab a cup of coffee or dinner sometime soon?"

Just be straight up, but not cruel. Don't tell him he's fugly, but merely that things aren't feeling right for you. And be prepared for him to be hurt. Because he might be.
posted by mollymayhem at 10:11 PM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Don't worry about his self-esteem, its not yours to protect. Simply be decent, honest, up front and trust that he will act like the adult that he is.

"Hey, [whomever], I have had a lot of fun with you over the last few [days / weeks] but I want to de-intensify our relationship. I don't want to have sex anymore because I am not in a place to get emotionally involved. I'd rather stop now than have this start to feel like an obligation - that's when feelings get hurt."

Or something along those lines. He doesn't need to know the real reason you don't want to hit the bone yard with him anymore...he just needs to know you don't want to. Expect that you may not keep him as a friend - such is the risk with casual sex, but you can't have your cake and eat it too.
posted by jnnla at 10:21 PM on March 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

Somewhere on here I recently read a great "break up" recounting that basically went like this:

1) I don't want to date you
2) I will never date you
3) If you can accept this, and if you like, I would like us to be friends

At least for me, that's the only way to do it. It's clear AND it's respectful of the other person's need for clarity.
posted by DavidandConquer at 10:26 PM on March 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Yeah, just tell him.

But if you think he's become too emotionally attached, you need to cut him loose. Being "just friends" is going to cause him suffering if he's carrying a torch for you.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 11:08 PM on March 2, 2010 [5 favorites]

Miko on breaking up
posted by mlis at 11:10 PM on March 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

it's hard to be "friends" after the intimate relationship. So difficult that it would probably be wise to pass on the friendship thing. Too complex. Just tell him you aren't finding the relationship to be what you want. He can't argue with that.
posted by naplesyellow at 1:49 AM on March 3, 2010 [4 favorites]

If all you have been doing is getting together to have sex, I would recommend a cooling off period where you don't see each other at all. Obviously, if you haven't established any serious connection outside of sex, this may make it impossible to reconnect later, but it will help "reset" the relationship so you can define it as something other than sex. Otherwise, habits will get in the way, most likely on his side, but perhaps on yours.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:03 AM on March 3, 2010

@Davidandconquer: you know how that reads from a guy's point of view?

I don't want to fuck anymore, but I still want all the benefits that come from being around you without having to give much/anything back.

OP, are you capable of being friends with this guy, or do you just want him for what he can do for you?

What are you prepared to give?

My opinion is that it would be easier on him if you just left him alone and moved on.
posted by flutable at 3:21 AM on March 3, 2010 [4 favorites]

I am not a guy, I don't know this guy. That said:

Tread lightly. Yeah, it's just sex, but it's sex with a not-so-confident man who confided in you about his insecurities. Also, you're the first person he's had sex with in years. That's kind of a big deal.

However, he's not your boyfriend. So I'd second all the posters suggesting you just tell him politely, but straight-up, that you've really enjoyed your time with him but aren't looking for things to get too emotional/involved. Be considerate and appreciative and complimentary, if you can be these things sincerely. Don't even imply that his attractiveness is an issue.

I'm not sure an offer of friendship would be wise. By my (possibly flawed) logic, ending things politely but firmly says you've had fun with him, but only wanted something casual, and are sticking to your guns. Rejecting the sex but trying to keep the friendship says what you're already trying not to say: you're a nice guy and all, and I like hanging out with you, but sexually I find you kind of blah. For someone coming off a long period of celibacy -- which sounds like it might not have been voluntary -- it seems like this could really sting.

If you do want to try friendship, I'd frame it more as an offer to get together for coffee again some time down the road, if he'd like that, once you've had some time apart. Let him have this experience as something good that ran its natural course (and hopefully a reason to feel more sexually confident), rather than downgrading him from lover to friend.

FYI, in my experience, nice guys who lack in confidence rarely lack the company of women who want to be just friends.
posted by nicoleincanada at 4:08 AM on March 3, 2010 [11 favorites]

If he hasn't gotten any in years, this is going to be very tough to do. If you do want to be friends with him, it's going to be best if it's not immediate. Here's my thinking:

If he had other options, it might very well work to just say "hey, I've decided that I'm not into casual sex for now. We're not going to hook up anymore." And he would probably say "oh, fine!" and be a bit disappointed but do a mental accounting of other hookups/potential hookups to reassure himself.

I'd be willing to bet that a guy for whom "it's been years since he's been with someone" is not going to let go so easily. He's still going to see you as his best option for quite a while and the best case scenario is that he'll always be trying it on with you. Worst-case is a lot of jealousy and drama.

I think you need to cut and run, at least for the short-term-- tell him it's been a lot of fun, but you're not looking for a relationship and that the casual sex is "wearing on you" or something ambiguous like that that isn't a lie but isn't specific. Tell him that you really want to be platonic friends with him at some point, but you need a break. Stop all contact for at least a couple of months.

When things have gone completely cold and it feels right, contact him again and make plans. You'll know right away whether he can handle this the next time you see him. If he's cool, keep being friends. If he's trying to get intimate, just walk away. This sounds cold, but I'm confident that someone who has had a couple years of involuntary celibacy is not going to just give up regular, casual sex without a struggle. But you must not feel bad about it, because I'm willing to bet that your time together has made his outlook better than its been in years and that's quite a gift. But nothing's permanent.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:05 AM on March 3, 2010 [4 favorites]

According to "a friend" who successfully did something similar recently, (a) acknowledge that you're having fun and enjoying the companionship, (b) acknowledge that it's "not serious" in whatever sense you two understand it (it's very important that you're both on the same page about this not becoming a relationship), and (c) let him know that the physical entanglement, while enjoyable, has complicated mental and emotional associations for you that you need to stop and clear your head. Do NOT use the word "rebound."

My "friend" couched it in that both of them knew the current situation wasn't going to become a LTR and that he wanted to be open to new possibilities, which was difficult with an ongoing loose fuckbuddery in the mix. The two parties are still pals.
posted by kittyprecious at 5:58 AM on March 3, 2010

Enh, it doesn't read that way to all guys flutable. I see what you are saying, and depending on the situation, I might read it that way, but also maybe not. I think DavidAndConquer has it right - it's direct, respectful, and avoids awkward words like "de-intensify" that are well-meaning, but seem like euphemisms, and come across a little disingenuous (even if they are sincerely meant). So if the OP's FB reads it as flutable expects, then his response will be "no I don't want to be friends", and that is a totally and acceptable outcome, with no one on either side being confused or too badly bruised.

Basically, OP, you can't make him your friend. You can only offer, and see if he accepts. And you have to be clear that you don't want, and will not want to date because otherwise you are just stringing him along, and he will think that something may/will happen again. And I also second jnnla - you are not the guardian of his self-esteem. Don't be a jerk, but don't be confusing, and trust that he will be an adult about it. Good luck!
posted by molecicco at 6:10 AM on March 3, 2010

I don't want to fuck anymore, but I still want all the benefits that come from being around you without having to give much/anything back.

You don't get anything out of a friendship? Really?

Be polite and nice, but be direct about what you want. I liked the phrasing in the first two answers above, where you say that it isn't working for you and you want to deescalate the physical stuff. But do be careful to be sufficiently clear that it doesn't appear that you are leading him on by suggesting that you want to go from fuckbuddies to friends as a prelude to really dating.
posted by Forktine at 6:16 AM on March 3, 2010

I think it's likely that he already had all the friends he needed and that after this bout of casual sex has ended he'll be content to go back to them. I may be from an older, more out of touch generation but I've found that the, "I'd still like you as a friend" line rings pretty hollow when you're being dumped.
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:57 AM on March 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

It wont work, just cut him loose and be clear about why so he doesnt get the wrong idea.
posted by BobbyDigital at 7:19 AM on March 3, 2010

@flutable: actually I *am* a guy and i would rather a woman be direct and to the point about what she wants from a relationship.

if she decides that she just wants friendship, and states the boundaries clearly, in no uncertain terms, then it's up to me to decide if i can live with that. if i can, then good for us. if not, then we part ways. i prefer to be given the choice.

to the OP: you don't need to justify your choice to him. attraction is an intangible quality that cannot be put fully into words. so don't try. just tell him what you want and see if he's ok with that. if not, end of story. there's really no finessing this--anything like that is just leading him on (and probably leading yourself on too)
posted by DavidandConquer at 7:38 AM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

DavidandConquer, the breakup comment you're thinking of is mine.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:46 AM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

(And, actually, it wasn't a breakup, it was a rejection. But it worked really well.)
posted by ocherdraco at 7:46 AM on March 3, 2010

Agreeing with all concerned that just telling him clearly but compassionately is best.

And also, do it sooner rather than later. I was in a similar state about a year ago, but...I didn't speak up about what I was feeling as soon as I figured that out, and instead kept chickening out again and again, taking the "I'm....busy that night, sorry" route while I mustered my courage. Finally he got fed up and there was a big messy argument.

Yeah, it was just a casual thing, but I'm really not proud of the way I handled things; I really should have spoken up as soon as I figured out what I wanted.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:57 AM on March 3, 2010

This is going to be difficult because his desire to continue the FB relationship will be very strong.

You could, however, be the best friend he ever had... if you kind of helped him find a new FB. If you assumed the "wingman" role, he would be able to continue his relationship with you (you want this) and still get laid (he wants this). Having a girl with a positive interest in getting him sexed up would be the best of both worlds. Of course, if you lose him (his friendship) to another girl, it wouldn't be the best, but it would let him down much gentler than the rocky transition from FB to friend.
posted by Drasher at 8:13 AM on March 3, 2010

wingman is a great idea!
posted by molecicco at 8:32 AM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

"Wingman" is a bad idea, unless he's actually *not* attracted to you, which doesn't sound like the case. In my experience, it's impossible to play wingman for someone who's totally focused on you at the time.
posted by MuChao at 9:16 AM on March 3, 2010

I was in a similar situation fairly recently, where I started dating someone that I met online, we slept together a few times, and then she informed me that I was being demoted (not the term she used) to friend-without-benefit status. I was OK with that, mostly because it was obvious to both of us that, even though we have a lot in common, we just weren't that sexually compatible. I was also aware that she'd found someone else that she was interested in (they've been together for a while now and are quite happy together).

This is a little different from your situation, but the important thing is that he has to know that he needs to work on his self-esteem issues and finding someone that he's really compatible with, just as I needed to do the same; you can be his friend and support him in this without throwing him pity fucks, which is your other alternative, and not a good one.
posted by Deja Stu at 9:21 AM on March 3, 2010

I can't believe I'm the first person to say:

Stop fucking. Then see if he still wants to hang out knowing there will be no chance of fucking.

Also, casual sex is casual. If you have new questions popping up all the time, you may not be the type of person for casual sex. You sound like you may actually just be looking for another relationship and want to find one where you get to the having sex stage sooner rather than later....
posted by WeekendJen at 10:42 AM on March 3, 2010

You should also realize that a relationship is not de-valued if you sleep with the person sooner and does not gain more value if you hold out longer. In your past relationships, were you the type of person that waited a while to have sex?
posted by WeekendJen at 10:43 AM on March 3, 2010

Stop fucking. Then see if he still wants to hang out knowing there will be no chance of fucking.

For real. Just tell him you'll never have sex with him again and see what happens. Chances are, nothing.

Having been in this situation I was mildly cranky and instead of putting a lot of effort into creating a new friendship in an awkward, sexually charged atmosphere, I wandered off to hang with better friends.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:55 AM on March 4, 2010

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