How do I tell my friend with benefits that I have feelings for him?
November 8, 2012 1:07 PM   Subscribe

How do I (or do I?!) tell my friend-who-recently-turned-friend-with-benefits that I have developed romantic feelings for him?

We were strictly platonic friends for about 2.5 years, for the last 3 months or so things have turned sexual, affectionate, and flirty at times.

We hang out together as much as we can when possible (he lives out of town) We enjoy a lot of the same movies, music, social activities, etc, and laugh and enjoy it's other's company. I'd like for us to become more than this seemingly (but unspoken) friends with benefits situation.

Out in public at concerts or at bars we hold and dance with each other. Most of these flirtations, and kissing, having sex, etc though have occurred when we had or are drinking alcohol. We are both self-admittedly slightly shy and again used to be just friends until only recently... navigating this is predicament is difficult for both parties right? I don't want to scare him off by making him think I am about to become a "stage-5-clinger" because I simply have a crush.

Looking for any insight on how I should approach this situation, tell it to him straight, or try suggesting my feelings in other more subtle ways. Is it at all possible that he likes me and just isn't saying anything? Lend me your knowledgable words.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
"I'm falling for you, so if that's going to be an issue with regards to our current arrangement, we'll have to stop."

Give it to him straight up. Otherwise you'll be disappointed and regretful when he hooks up with someone else.
posted by futureisunwritten at 1:17 PM on November 8, 2012 [39 favorites]

How about this:

I'm trying to figure out if we are a couple now. Is that something you've always been wondering?
posted by Dansaman at 1:18 PM on November 8, 2012

Talk to him. You can tell him you have a crush on him in pretty much exactly those words without making it seem like you're clingy or are going to go defcon loveydovey. If you want to date him, ask him if he's interested in dating, even if it means you have to be long distance.

Before you talk to him, think about what you want out of this relationship. If he really just wants to be fwb while you want to date him, you'll probably need to dial it back to just friends for awhile, or you'll end up frustrated and hurt. It's ok to tell him that, too.

Mostly: ask for what you want. You might not get it, but it's a lot more likely than if you don't.
posted by ldthomps at 1:19 PM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

IME, a FWB relationship is no longer just FWB once one party develops feelings for one another. I'd argue that for a FWB relationship to even exist the parties involved typically have a crush on one another in some capacity anyway.

My question is therefore this: at what point did you two mutually define your relationship as FWB? If you never did so, you may actually be in a romantic relationship and all that needs to be done is to have an official "define the relationship" talk. That'd be pretty cool, right? If you did have a "we're FWB" chat, though, I think it's probably best to let the guy know that you've sort of moved beyond that point so you can see where he stands. He could..

A) return your affections and want to parlay your FWB into a bonafide exclusive relationship
B) let you know he's only interested in a FWB relationship
C) suggest he might get to the same place as you if you give him time
D) end the FWB

You gotta be fair to yourself here though. Don't settle for a FWB if you really want a relationship. I've done that and it leads to resentment. Don't be afraid to ask for what you want. The right people always know what to say in return. :)
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 1:20 PM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

First and foremost: The answer to "Should I try suggesting my feelings in subtle ways?" is always no.

Is it at all possible that he likes me and just isn't saying anything?

Yes. And more than that, it's possible than he's asking himself these same questions about you - wondering how to tell you he likes you without seeming clingy or making things weird.

It jumped out at me that you said the situation seems to be FWB but it's unspoken. For all you know, he thinks you're his girlfriend.

Now, it's also possible that even a hint of feelings will scare the dude off. These are the risks you take. But personally, I think I'd rather take the leap and find out now, rather than keep having growing feelings for the guy and then finding out later that this meant nothing to him, or whatever.

Tell him the next time you see him. Say something like, "Hey, check it out. I think you're awesome and I have a great time with you. I was kind of hoping you might want to, like, be officially dating me, or however you want to say it. What do you think?"

Change the phrasing to suit your needs, but that's really it. Say it before sex happens, not after.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:20 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]



I don't even know how you can be drunk and sexing it up and flirtying without confessing that you either like each other or that you really like that you don't have to be dating each other. I admire your restraint, I guess?

Except wait, this is silly. Tell him you like him. People that suffer any confusion trying to differentiate between cool compatible sexing it up chicks and Stage 5 Clingers are not worth spending time with anyway, so this is a good test.
posted by skrozidile at 1:20 PM on November 8, 2012

You have to be honest, and if he doesn't like you back romantically, you can't be FWB.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:24 PM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

People who JUST want a friends with benefits situation are usually really upfront about it - so the fact that it's an "unspoken" makes me think that he might think you're already dating!

The words I would use are - "Hey, what are we?"
posted by sawdustbear at 1:25 PM on November 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

Wow. I had one of these completely blow up on me.

After protracted negotiations, my single female friend and I (single at the time) agreed to have a "friends who fuck" agreement (the other term did not exist). We lived in the same town, but otherwise were similarly simpatico as you and your friend.

I never really changed my expectations or desires of the arrangement (I was the guy, after all) but she started shifting into a bf/gf mode, and even though I sensed that I did not bring it up, to my everlasting chagrin and regret.

Stuff would happen like I would spend the night at her house but then get back to my house by 7am, before work, in order to get an expected call from someone I was very interested in dating.

It got to the point where she was being very vulnerable to me and I was sort of stonewalling her on this front. It finally blew up during sex once, when she started screaming at me, and I ended up leaving (I had to get my clothes out of her dryer in the dark) in the middle of the night.

Took a lot of letters (pre-email) to work through this and after about 6 months we ended up friends again, but gosh that was hard.

TL;DR - address this sooner than later. You feel like you feel and do not expect him to come along because you feel a certain way. Better to stop this now than to have it hurt even more down the line.

And I hope that he returns your feelings and that stuff works out. But the sooner you process this with him, the less hard it will be.
posted by Danf at 1:26 PM on November 8, 2012

I dare you to find a couple of self-admitted shy people in a functional and welld-defined relationship who have "I subtly signaled my true feelings for my S.O., and they properly interpreted these signals" as part of their origin story. There is a time for coyness and subtlety in a relationship. The "okay, what the fuck is going on with us?" moment is absolutely not it.
posted by griphus at 1:28 PM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

for the last 3 months or so things have turned sexual, affectionate, and flirty at times.

Have you guys had an actual, in-person (no text, no email) conversation about what you're doing? Because from your description, it sounds like you're dating. Maybe he thinks you're dating and would be surprised to discover you think of it as a FWB thing.

So yes, nthing the use-your-words thing. Talk about it. In person. Tell him you like what's happening and might want more, and ask him what he thinks and feels.
posted by rtha at 1:43 PM on November 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

I agree with rtha. Unless you've had a discussion that you aren't making us privy too where you strictly defined that you were strictly friends with benefits, it sounds a lot more to me like you're DWD (dating without defining) than FWB.

If defining is what you need, please do it. But it doesn't sound like it will change anything.

(And if it does, I'm sorry - but if that exposes your FWB as some sort of commitment-phobe,. it's better to learn this sooner than better.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:51 PM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Should I tell someone how I'm (positively) feeling? Yes

Yeah, I'm 29 and I kind of got a "kids these days" chill reading your question.

We hang out together as much as we can when possible (he lives out of town) We enjoy a lot of the same movies, music, social activities, etc, and laugh and enjoy it's other's company... Out in public at concerts or at bars we hold and dance with each other.

Is this not called dating anymore?
posted by French Fry at 2:04 PM on November 8, 2012 [8 favorites]

the most successful FWB scenarios I have ever had were those in which we sort of actively disliked each other on some level, which meant it could be purely sex with absolutely no emotional complications.

If you are developing feelings, tell him so you can decide that you both have them or so that you can end it. Otherwise you will be much more hurt down the road, as others have said.
posted by modernnomad at 2:16 PM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Say something.

Not saying something earns you nothing. I have had the experience of having what I thought was a nice fuck buddy/friend thing (I was the girl, after all) blow up when it turned out the other party (he was the guy, after all) thought I was his girlfriend and that we were probably going to get married.

I can assure you that if I had never found that out, my feelings for him would never have gotten there, and if he had had the gonads to say "I'd like us to be boyfriend and girlfriend, what do you think?" the whole thing would have been easier for everyone than what happened.

Which was awk.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:18 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you have a boyfriend! Speak up, and say what futureisunwritten suggests (first answer in thread) - it's direct but not so "Level 5" that you mess up your friendship if for some reason he's not into you that way. If he's shy, he might be thinking exactly what you're thinking about being hesitant to speak up. But honestly either way, you do yourself a disservice by not being upfront about it, so just do it!
posted by mrs. taters at 2:31 PM on November 8, 2012

It honestly seems like your feelings will be reciprocated. If you have been "platonic" for a good 2.5 years, and turned sexual for 3 months it really might be that he feels entirely like you, but due to the shyness, you both maintain the status quo.

In fact, I have a similar thing going with a girl I have known for three years. Recently our silly jokes have been becoming much more flirtatious and I am equally scared to adress the topic.

At the same time, if it developed so naturally, go with the flow, and your realization of feelings for him being part of said flow, just bring it up, ask him what it is you're having.
posted by ahtlast93 at 2:32 PM on November 8, 2012

You have to update the mod and explain why you think you are in a FWB situation and not just a regular dating/romance situation!

Cause I'm pretty sure what you got there is one stage-5-boyfriend.

So, maybe your question is really "I want to have a committed relationship with this guy, how do I ask him?"

And, sadly, the answer is to talk to him straight up. I like the opener as suggested above: "So, I've been thinking about our relationship the other day and wondering -- what are we?" Then stop talking and let him talk. Go from there.

Good luck, we're all counting on you.
posted by amanda at 2:37 PM on November 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

Wait until you've had one drink (just one) and then be like "hey, I have a crush on you" and see where it goes.

The whole clingy thing is a misogynistic myth meant to make women feel bad about having basic expectations for communication and respect. Don't worry about being clingy unless you're repeatedly contacting him without any response from him, or if you're literally following him around.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:58 PM on November 8, 2012 [15 favorites]

Ask for what you want. Every version of not doing so will make you feel worse.
posted by ead at 10:31 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

From the OP:
Hi! Thank you for all your responses. They have made me feel slightly more confident regarding the situation and what his feelings may (or may not) be towards myself.

A few of you asked if this "friends with benefits" (as I refer to it) has been strictly defined. No. It has not. The phrase has never been uttered between the two of us. I came to this conclusion because well, we are "friends" since nothing else has been established, yet we are fooling around together.

New friends of ours we made (day old friends) were referring to us as a couple and me as his "girlfriend" and he did not correct them. I awkwardly felt the need to say ".. well he's not my boyfriend" fairly quietly, so no one ever heard - except maybe him? I was concerned he'd be weirded out by people referring to us as a couple, so I spoke up (kind of) to try and avoid awkwardness.. but maybe I did the reverse? We never discussed that people had been speaking about us that way.

I am not sure how I am going to go about telling him I like him, I might wait it out a bit. However, I am seeing him in a week for a trip to my cabin(with other friends too though) so perhaps something will come up then. I like the idea of having (1 at most) a drink and then telling him about my crush and see what he says and just go from there. I hope this goes in my favour, I really like him and I enjoy our time together... fingers crossed I don't screw this up!

Thank you again AskMefi for your kind words and advice.
posted by restless_nomad at 12:12 PM on November 9, 2012

Honestly, I doubt waiting is a good idea, it just drags out the discomfort and all signs point to him really liking you. Then again the distance makes it tough...either way, good luck with it and I hope it works out for you.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:16 PM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I awkwardly felt the need to say ".. well he's not my boyfriend" fairly quietly, so no one ever heard - except maybe him?

If he's not immediately going all "whoa whoa whoa hey wait a second we're not dating" and you want to date him don't correct that statement. Because a) it is not your responsibility to keep him from being weirded out via third party and b) he could easily misinterpret that as you not being interested and the end result is a giant pain in the ass for the both of you.

I mean, I am a dude on the internet reading text, but right now it sounds like you both dig each other but neither of you wants to do anything about it ("I might wait it out a bit") because of fear and anxiety. Nothing is going to "come up." If there hasn't been a natural emergence of "so we're dating right?" "right" by now, there's not going to be. So someone needs to step up to the plate here. And you should never, ever expect that to be the other person. That's practically asking for disappointment.

Oh, and if you're not going to bring up the issue sober, don't do it drunk either. Get one good, stiff drink in you and spill the damn beans.
posted by griphus at 12:26 PM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yeah, do it sooner. Do it today! Seriously. I know risking rejection is scary but what are you scared of -- you've already had sex! You're already intimate! By telling him that he's not your boyfriend you are seriously sending mixed signals about what you want.

Why are you being so selfish!? (This is my teasing tone, I'm totally on your side....) You're denying this guy his chance at total happiness and bliss with you! Quit being so mean to this guy and fess up already. You can do it. We're all just people, you know?
posted by amanda at 12:38 PM on November 9, 2012

Why wait to say something? Why hope it will just...come up? Don't do that! Both options just give you more time to stew and be uncertain and convince yourself that you are, I don't know, making things up or reading things into stuff he does and whatnot. If you are adult enough to have sex with the guy and recognize how much you like him, please do yourself and him a favor and pretend to also be grown-up enough to talk to him. I know it's scary. I know it's hard. The alternatives are worse for you!
posted by rtha at 1:07 PM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

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