FWB Best Practices?
June 9, 2011 10:41 PM   Subscribe

Questions about FWB relationships. We dated a few years ago and had an amicable break-up. We got along in a lot of ways but there were important differences. A few months ago we ran into each other and had coffee and wound up in bed.

She made it clear that she was not interested in a relationship and I was not either. But, I thought that we would do more than just have sex. The sex is satisfying and feels good but I usually feel used after. I have suggested a couple of times we grab some dinner or do something social but she is always very busy and has told me to find a girlfriend if I want to do couple things.

I realize a lot of men would find this an ideal situation as I discovered when I tried discussing this with a few friends who are married men. Their responses were not very helpful, all of the, “I married too early and missed out on the FWB trend. You have no idea how lucky you are! Keep things going and find a girlfriend. The possibilities are endless!”

Part of my ambivalence is that I am overweight at the moment. It is not a permanent thing as I gained a lot of weight during the last year due to a few injuries and am working on losing it, but I guess my self-esteem is hurting. Also, my partner is more conventionally attractive than I am and thin. She could have her pick of partners but she wants to be having sex with me, so that is good thing, right?

Part of the problem is probably that though I have plenty of experience sexually this is my first FWB relationship.

Do people in FWB relationships not do social things together? I absolutely do not see us as a couple or with any long-term potential, but it would be nice to read the paper together and meet for coffee to talk about different things or even see a movie.

I have begun dating and am looking for a girlfriend.

Why am I persisting with this relationship when it makes me feel bad?

Has anyone dealt with something similar? How did you resolve it?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (22 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Yup, had a similar situation. I am silly in a way, when I have a good, close sexual relationship with someone I sort of figure it will generalize. My partner in that situation wanted nothing to do with me outside the sex+cuddling part, and I finally stopped seeing her and found a relationship that was a romance instead of a series of play dates. I am much happier now. This isn't to say that some other sex-only relationship might work better for me, or for you, it's just that that one definitely didn't.
posted by jet_silver at 10:54 PM on June 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

Do people in FWB relationships not do social things together?

Some do and some don't. In this situation she doesn't want to.

Why am I persisting with this relationship when it makes me feel bad?

Because you are getting laid.

And because you're looking for a girlfriend, haven't found one yet, and part of you sees it as easier to try to develop a partial SO relationship with this woman. She's not interested, she just wants sex. If you feel used you need to stop seeing her because it will only corrode your self esteem further over time. Concentrate all of your energies on finding a girlfriend.
posted by mleigh at 11:13 PM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

Indeed, why are you persisting?

Being a guy doesn't mean that you don't have the same desires for connection and intimacy as a gal; this much is clear in your question.

I wouldn't describe this as FWB because she is clearly cutting out the "F" part. "Booty call" is perhaps a more accurate term.

DT "FWB" A. Will do wonders for your self-esteem, setting the boundry. Save yourself for someone who wants you!
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 11:16 PM on June 9, 2011 [15 favorites]

I haven't done a *lot* of FWB relationships, but I've had a few. It was mostly pretty nice, in a limited way, and most of the time things ended as pleasantly as they'd gone on. I wouldn't have done it if I had felt used and bad.
I suspect the reason you're persisting in this relationship is threefold: first, that you think you *should* be enjoying it, because you're so "lucky"; second, well, the sex itself is good, even though it makes you feel gross after; third, because you think it should be possible to have a friendship where all you do is fuck, like poker buddies but with sex.
But you know what? It really isn't for everybody, this sort of thing, not even every red-blooded horny man. And it isn't for every time of the same person's life - sometimes you want a more involved relationship. Plus, not all casual sexual relationships are created equal. If it makes you feel bad, you really can stop doing it. (No strings attached, right? She's not your girlfriend, as she's been at pains to point out.) You might regret it later if you hit a dry spell, yes, but that's a potential negative and you are experiencing real negatives now.
posted by gingerest at 11:19 PM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

Your title refers to 'best practice'. Best practice in relationships is continuing with the ones that make you happy and fixing or ending the others.

Forget what you think is normal. For some people chastity before marriage is normal, for others poly relationships are normal.

So your choices are to figure out a way to reframe this in your head so that it makes you feel good or end it. The rest is noise.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 12:06 AM on June 10, 2011 [11 favorites]

It doesn't sound like you're enjoying this experience so I wonder why you are persevering. It may be that you are just not that into no-strings sex, but perhaps there are some unresolved issues or baggage left over from your past relationship with this woman that are getting in the way. What really worries me is that you mention your self-esteem. Why should casual sex with a beautiful woman hurt your self-esteem? Could it be that you are perceiving her refusal to engage outside the bedroom as a form of rejection? You deserve better. End this and focus on finding a woman who can appreciate the whole you.
posted by londonmark at 1:57 AM on June 10, 2011

I've had a number of FWB situations, and for the most part, when you started to do things together that a couple would do, it ended up down a road that ended the FWB relationship (either in an actual relationship, or a breakup). It sounds like your partner doesn't want a relationship, and you do (even if it's not with her, you want the good relationship parts). That's tough to sustain for too long.

The ones that lasted the longest were ones where we'd text one another when we wanted to come over, and our friend group intertwined, so we saw each other often and just went home together from time to time. That, for me, was "best practice", but it requires a certain fortitude towards being told "sorry, I have someone else over/I'm going home with someone else" and doesn't sound like something you're in a good place for, self-esteem wise.
posted by dflemingecon at 5:15 AM on June 10, 2011

I can't tell if this isn't working for you because you want a romantic relationship with her or because she doesn't want the friends part of friends with benefits.

Regardless, this is making you unhappy. End it and give yourself some closure.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:30 AM on June 10, 2011

I think this feels bad to you because you're calling it FWB but she's basically refusing to take part in the friends part.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:36 AM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

You've already identified the real root issue here: Your self esteem is bad. And when that happens, people tend to end up in half-ass FWB trysts or if they are in a relationship, cheating on their SO.

Take care of that before caring about how to go about a FWB sort of relationship.

By taking care of your self esteem, you set yourself up for something better down the road.
posted by PsuDab93 at 6:55 AM on June 10, 2011

You deserve a sexual relationship that works for both partners.

Right now you have a sexual partner who tells you she doesn't want some of what you want.

Drop this one and find something better.
posted by bilabial at 6:59 AM on June 10, 2011

Going to see a movie with someone you're sleeping with is called a date. Reading the paper together is pretty much a relationship. You want a relationship. If this is not making you happy, stop doing it.

Or, just learn to compartmentalize the way she does. Consider it a booty call, enjoy the sex, appreciate that a hot babe wants to sleep with you, and stop looking to her for anything more.
posted by musofire at 7:10 AM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

As I see it, you have two options:

1) End this and continue with your dating and looking for a girlfriend; or

(2) Continue with the "with benefits" situation (friends might be an overstatement), looking to her only for sex, and pour relatively more energy into looking for women interested in a relationship and less energy into spending time with her. In your shoes, I would try to look at this in the following way: "Currently, she's getting what she wants out of our situation and I'm not; if I call her as a backup option when I'm interested in sex and not occupied with dating someone else, is that going to work for me?" If so, it sounds like you might hit upon something mutually satisfying; if not, go to option 1. I would also resolve to drop the current situation as soon as it looked like I was likely to start sleeping with someone else on a relationship basis; juggling multiple partners can be headache (to say nothing of new partner's expectations, which may well run to exclusivity). YMMV.

Also, if you guys haven't established that you will be exclusive sexually until something better comes along, you need to (a) figure out the expectations on that front ASAP and (b) use condoms. Of course, if you're just going to end it entirely, that's two fewer issues.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:34 AM on June 10, 2011

You clearly hate the whole FWB situation. So stop.

Sex shouldn't be devoid of emotions. You're struggling because you believe that and she doesn't. Congratulations - that's an attractive quality to a woman worth having a relationship with.

posted by guster4lovers at 7:57 AM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

There is no textbook FWB relationship. How interesting is it that we as a culture have codified it into a state that should have rules and best practices and defined behaviors!

The core of a "friends-with-benefits" relationship is that it is inherently unstable for long periods of time because the urges of physical attraction and revulsion from emotional intimacy fundamentally pull at one another. People can keep this arrangement up for awhile - years even - but at the core of it are unstable currents that can switch from pleasurable to painful so easily.

Short answer is that there is no "right" way to do it - just a "for now where we are, I feel mostly good and I definitely don't feel bad." Clearly you have some terrible moments - so don't put yourself through it just because we have a notion that it can be "done."
posted by sestaaak at 7:59 AM on June 10, 2011

I don't think you're keeping it up for the "sex, duh", I think it's because you genuinely like this person and want to spend time with them/ You feel used because you're trying to exchange sex for affection and companionship, but you're not getting the affection and companionship. Married men aren't going to "get it" on a visceral level because they have someone to come home to and do the crossword with, you know? It's hard for them to empathize with someone who doesn't have that.

So, FWB RULES!: Once you start feeling used, it's over. You really don't want to associate that feeling with sex. If you keep it up, you'll get paranoid and/or bitter and it will affect your behavior in other, healthier relationships.

Really--being cynical is not something to strive for, but you're on that path right now. Ask this woman to be your girlfriend, for real, because that's what you want. If she says no, then look for companionship and affection (AND sex) elsewhere.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:25 AM on June 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Interesting...how every situation is different. But in general, I would say to get out of yours. I'm in something similiar and debating getting out of it as well.

FWB sounds like a great concept, but I don't think I can pull it off. I need to have an attachment and work on a relationship with one person. In our case, we actually go on "dates" but apparently it is never going to turn into "officially dating", as he put it. For a few different reasons. So while I enjoy sleeping with him, we totally geek out together, etc., and we have a great time, it's gonna get hurty soon and that's when it should end. Good luck! Hopefully you will find a relationship for your 'whole' self. And not just your penis.
posted by allpaws at 8:50 AM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

As men we are often conditioned to have sex with anyone who offers. We are told we are not a man if an attractive woman wants to have sex with us and we don't do it.

You don't have to do that. If something is not making you happy, don't do it.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:08 AM on June 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

If you feel used and don't like that, don't continue having sex with her. Don't do something that makes you feel like crap after.

Listen to people when they tell you who they are. You wanna do stuff with her, she doesn't, nothing you say or do will make her change her mind. She's just not that into... doing those things.

Stop talking to your married male friends about this issue because they're not listening to you properly. Do what YOU think is best for you, not what THEY think is best for guys in general. If you don't like this situation, don't force yourself to like it!

She could have her pick of partners but she wants to be having sex with me, so that is good thing, right?
It sounds like you're trying to derive self-esteem from having sex with her, and yet you feel used afterwards. Can you see this is not a healthy situation for you to be in?

it would be nice to read the paper together and meet for coffee to talk about different things or even see a movie.
These are the sorts of things that I started to want with a dude I was seeing a few years ago (I'm female). I was bored with just having sex, and I also felt a little used. Nothing was changing, so I broke it off, found my partner, and now we actually do stuff together besides have sex. That is how I resolved my situation, which I think is similar to yours.

Why am I persisting with this relationship when it makes me feel bad?
You said it yourself - your self-esteem is hurting right now, and you're trying to find it in external sources. Self-esteem comes from YOU, and it isn't about your weight either. Do something healthy and loving for yourself - break it off. You'll feel better. Also, if you're looking for a gf, I think it looks better to potential prospects if you don't have anyone in the background.
posted by foxjacket at 9:22 AM on June 10, 2011

There was a time when I accepted any offer of sex that came my way, not that there were many, because I figured I was too ugly/horrible/whatever to be picky. I still feel fairly ugly and horrible, but I don't do that anymore, and the reason is that being in control of your sexual appetite is incredibly empowering, and being capable of saying no is incredibly empowering. Once you come to terms with the idea that you don't have to sleep with anyone who offers because no one might ever be interested again, you will find that you are more able to evaluate each relationship you have on their merits and not out of the fear of loneliness. Being able to say no is a really important thing, and you should try it here.

So you're having a sexual relationship with an attractive woman who doesn't want anything more, and all your married friends are deeply envious. You ask, "That's a good thing, right?" Well, no, because you don't like it. If the envy thing feels good, just imagine how envious your married friends will be when they discover that you can break up with attractive women, because you're an empowered person and not the vehicle for their fantasies, and because you're enough of a catch to be able to pick and choose who gets the pleasure of your company. Being with an attractive woman feels good, but being with a woman who doesn't make you feel used feels better. You say "she could have her pick of partners but she chose me"; do you feel that you chose her, even if it was from a selection pool of one? Because you get to have your pick of partners too, and you get to pick them for any reason you want and not pick them for any reason you want.

As for the rules of FWB relationships: as mentioned above, there aren't any. Sometimes it's like dating but more infrequently, sometimes it's just drinks followed by sex every so often, sometimes it's something else. The only rule is, do it as long as it feels good for everyone and stop when it doesn't. I wouldn't say from this experience that these kinds of relationships aren't for you, necessarily -- you'll have to decide that for yourself and maybe based on more than one experience -- but it seems fairly clear that this one isn't for you.
posted by Errant at 1:05 PM on June 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Like others I think you need to drop the FWB appellation and call the situation what it is: you're using each other for sex.

It does sound like it's flattering to you that she's interested in having sex with you, but I would imagine that it doesn't feel very nice that she's not interested in anything else.

Pretty much your call, but definitely re-cast it as using each other for sex before you make any decisions.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:01 PM on June 10, 2011

For me, FWB with activities before was just too much - made me get attached to the person to easily. To me, the activities you've described are definitely "dating" or "relationship" activities, and NOT FWB activities, and it seems that your FWB feels the same. I would get way too attached if I was reading the newspaper with my FWB on a Sunday morning; to me, something like that is almost more intimate than sex.
posted by anotheraccount at 10:46 AM on June 13, 2011

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