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MissAnthrope's avatar

How do I communicate my friends-with-benefits rules in a kind way that won't upset the other person?

Asked by MissAnthrope (21491points) June 17th, 2012

I have a few rules for friends-with-benefits relationships to help maintain boundaries and to avoid any unnecessary confusion, expectations, or emotions. Honestly, I rarely have to mention or enforce them.

I have a new FWB and we have only gotten together once, a few months ago. FWB is young (I am officially robbing the cradle) and very sweet… and really wants a sleepover. The first time, I was able to avoid hurting feelings because of my living situation. This next time, my roommate will be gone and the topic of a sleepover has come up again.

I like to snuggle and all of that, but I very often don’t want a sleepover because I don’t want there to be any emotional confusion, but also because, frankly, I don’t want to have to deal with awkward mornings-after where I try to politely extricate myself/them from each other’s company. I know that might sound heartless and I assure you that I am not; it’s simply the truth.

So, how do I nicely communicate that I don’t want a sleepover without hurting an extremely nice and sweet person?

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26 Answers

bookish1's avatar

Wow, you sound like a nice and sweet person too! I’ve been in your situation. I don’t think it would hurt this person if you just told them that you don’t want any emotional confusion or opportunities to hurt them by accident… And that is why you don’t want to have a sleepover.

You are showing yourself to be a good person by thinking about it like this, and if this other party is the slightest bit mature and perceptive they should understand this. I really don’t see how that would hurt this person’s feelings… But I’ve been primarily polyamorous for the past two years and I can’t even be involved with someone who isn’t open to discussing boundaries.

ZEPHYRA's avatar

There is no other way. Just say what you have said above. If the other side can’t handle it,what fault of yours is it??

MissAnthrope's avatar

@bookish1 – Thank you.. I try to be a nice person. :)

@Both – My feeling is that honesty and communication is the best policy. It’s true that the truth hurts sometimes, but I figure it’s usually better to know. It’s just that I have a hard time when it comes to this sort of thing; I really, really hate to be the cause of hurting someone’s feelings and I am not naturally good at sugarcoating things. So, I get all tied up in my head and can’t manage to figure out what to say.

bookish1's avatar

@MissAnthrope : Maybe you need someone to tell you to JUST DOO EET then :) (I know that helps me sometimes!)

But seriously… the way this person responds to your sincere and heartfelt concern about not hurting them down the road… will be a good indication of whether they are mature enough to handle such an FWB arrangement, right?

AnonymousWoman's avatar

It might be helpful to know your ages. It does sound like you are worrying too much, though. Just be direct, upfront, and honest. If things don’t work out, things don’t work out. If things do, then cool.

MissAnthrope's avatar

@bookish1 – Yep, sometimes I need outside opinions to tell me that proceeding is ok. :)

@AnonymousGirl – 35 and… cough… 20. Ahem. Heh.

AnonymousWoman's avatar

^ Ah, 20. Okay. Well, that person is an adult who can make his/her own decisions. If what you’re doing is consensual, that’s what matters. If you don’t want a sleepover, it’s totally fine to say so.

wundayatta's avatar

Maybe you could help me out because I’m not sure I know exactly what you mean. I think I’ve figured it out. I couldn’t figure out what the problem with a sleepover was if you’d already had one once, but I’m guessing that you didn’t have a sleepover. You only had sex and then sent him or her home.

A sleepover actually means they spend the night, and then you have to kick them out of bed in the morning. Except, for some reason, for you, sleepovers seem to involve emotions and tenderness, where as plain old fucking doesn’t. It’s just recreation. Just sex. No feelings to it at all.

So, if I have this right, you are afraid that if new FWB spends the night, he or she will develop feelings, and you want to avoid that, because you don’t have any feelings for FWB. Just friendliness. Nothing more. Or maybe you don’t want to have feelings for FWB. Could you possibly be afraid of developing feelings should you have a sleepover and do some cuddling? It hardly seems likely. Seems like you have a tight control over your feelings and you would be the last person to let any emotion out that you hadn’t planned on years in advance.

Is that how it is?

If that’s how it is, then really, it doesn’t matter what you say to FWB. Maybe a little. But you want to keep them fucking you but not to place any further demands on you. You want them to be available when you want, and really not have to reciprocate if they want you but you don’t want them. Just keep it light. Very light.

So, you think that if you prohibit sleepovers, there will be less likelihood of attachment. You are fooling yourself. Most people in the world don’t have the control over their feelings that you do. Just warn them. Remind them that FWB means fucking only. Tell you you have seen people get feelings for you before, and then you have to break off with them, and it is not pretty, but you think she (or he) is grown up enough to understand this and there will be no problem, but just to be safe, you can go out, have a good time, come home, fuck each other’s brains out, and then go home to separate beds. Ok?

Then you will have warned FWB, and done your best to save yourself the problem of them getting feelings for you, but if they do, you can feel absolutely no guilt about cutting them off. It may hurt them, but they were warned, right? They knew the rules, right? You don’t do relationships. Just fucking.

You should give it to them straight, I think. This gives them a chance to cut it off before they develop feelings. Not that they will. They’re only 20. They don’t have the control you have. With any luck, they never will. So you’re safe. Safe from feelings. Yours or theirs. They’ve been warned. If they keep on doing this, it’s on them. You owe them nothing.

But I don’t think you’ll get off free. I think it is very likely you are going to hurt this person, and you know it. That’s why you highlighted the difference in ages. There aren’t a lot of people who can manage their emotions the way you can. Most people will get hurt in an FWB situation. One way or the other, there will be an emotional imbalance. You can’t protect yourself from it. All you can do is be as clear and honest as you can be about your intentions, and let them make their own choices.

bookish1's avatar

@MissAnthrope : That’s nothing… I’ve been in a relationship with an age gap of 30 years :-p

MissAnthrope's avatar

@wundayatta – Wow… Let me brush some of the judgment off, think I got a bit on me here. You sure make a lot of assumptions in your post, based on limited information. Also, I think you may be projecting a bit.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am ‘passionate’; I have loads of emotions and I feel things deeply. I do not fear intensity, nor intense, deep, soulful connections with other people—that is the only thing that makes life worth living. I do have difficulty in expressing my feelings due to alexithymia, sometimes (mis)labeled as ‘intimacy issues’. In fact, I can quite honestly say that I want nothing more in life than finding someone to have that kind of romantic relationship with. I had it twice, briefly, so I know it exists, but the universe has been so cruel, in that circumstances prevented our being together. Honestly, it doesn’t seem to be my destiny. I am always looking, but I can never seem to find anyone I like who is also interested in me back. Thanks for reminding me!

So, gaps between relationships measure in years and a girl has needs. Sometimes, for whatever reason, a person is great as a friend and sex partner, but a deeper emotional relationship wouldn’t work. Maybe that spark isn’t there, maybe your values differ, maybe you’re in different places in life, etc. By judging me as you are, you are imposing your own values and personal experiences on me. There are different ways of relating to people, different relationship styles. There is nothing wrong with having a casual sexual relationship with someone that is open, honest, and respectful. To each his own, as long as no one gets hurt. That’s where the honest and open communication comes in.

I am fine with the fact that what works for me doesn’t work for you. I don’t feel any need to make backhanded comments insinuating that you are some sort of emotionally-stunted robot.

AnonymousWoman's avatar

^ Very awesome explanation. Yes, a booty call and a friend with benefits aren’t the same thing. There is more to a friends with benefits relationship than just sex.

Judi's avatar

I am so glad that I am out of the dating scene. modern romance seems way to complicated. I hope you find the answers you are looking for. It is a whole different world and the rules of etiquette are yet to be written.

wundayatta's avatar

I cop to being judgmental. I do think that the way you describe your situation makes you seem like you are cut off from your emotions. If that is not the case, I am happy about that. I am relieved to hear you are passionate and into relationships. Like I said, the way you describe things, makes it seem like you put things in categories and there they remain, no matter what. Your response to my answer was not encouraging in that respect. It still seems like you categorize things and then close them off to possibility.

I’m not imposing my values on you. I’m expressing my prejudices fairly clearly. There’s a difference. You are the only one who could buy into or reject my values. But I do not seek to change you. But I think you will be happier if you are more open to possibility. If you stop categorizing relationships as FWB or casual or whatever. You sound to me like a person who has been severely burned, and is trying to protect herself.

I have no problem with a girl having needs. I have no problem with a girl fucking as many people as she wants. I just know that in virtually all cases, girls and guys do this because of fear of feelings. It sounds like that with you, too. You’ve been hurt badly and this is your solution. In my experience, it doesn’t work.

I’ve had my share of friends with benefits in life. If I judge you, I judge myself. It really doesn’t matter. Judgments are nonsense. What matters is learning how to cope with our problems, and that means seeing our problems. I think it is a problem to put relationships in boxes and close them and label them. That’s what I was trying to say in my sarcastic way. I probably could have said it in a nicer way, but I didn’t. I can apologize about that.

Sex, in my opinion, is the deepest thing humans do. Some will think I hype it too much. I think it is the expression of the deepest connection you can have with someone else, and that no matter how casual you think it is, this is what your inner self craves. This is what your deepest self craves. What we all crave. I truly believe that.

When we’ve been hurt, we still crave it, but are snakebit and reluctant to risk intimacy again. We don’t trust ourselves. We don’t think we can choose wisely. We don’t know if we can manage a relationship, and yet, we still need that deep deep connection.

Sex both is and simulates that connection. It is real and fake at the same time. If we can feel the feelings as if we are deeply connected yet not actually be connected that way, wouldn’t that be safest?

I think if you do that, you don’t help yourself. Yes, you feel the feelings. You think of it as good sex, but it is moving you deeply in a simulated emotional way, and that’s why people accept sex in the place of relationship. But you don’t have it really, and doing that more and more teaches you how to cut your body off from your emotions. When you do meet someone, it can get very confusing and it can be hard to reintegrate.

I think it’s better to feel the feelings, not try to cut them off. To enjoy loving the FWB. To sleep over night and cuddle and deal with the feelings. You have to do this in a real relationship. Why not practice? And who knows. maybe the fake relationship will turn into a real relationship. And if you don’t put a relationship in a box, by labeling it FWB, then it could turn into something you really want. But as long as you put relationships in boxes, you keep yourself from getting what you really want.

And that’s what I really think. I think people who believe they can have an FWB with no strings attached are fooling themselves. Sure, it’s possible—that’s not how you fool yourself. What you are fooling yourself about is much deeper—it is about the nature of relationships themselves.

MissAnthrope's avatar

I am open to feelings. You still don’t understand. I am very open and I want it more than anything. I love to explore and am open to possibility. It’s that you can’t explore feelings that aren’t there.

Also, I don’t know why no one believes me when I say it, but I just do not have the right people cross my path. If I like them, they don’t like me and vice versa. Or the person would be great, but they’re taken. Or straight.

I have been hurt a lot, but I have no room in my life anymore for abusive people. I surround myself with awesomeness!

wundayatta's avatar

If you want to have sex with a person, doesn’t that mean you are attracted to them?

augustlan's avatar

I like the idea of telling her you don’t want sleepovers in order to avoid hurting her in the future. That seems fair to me.

@wundayatta Being physically attracted to a person/wanting to have sex with them isn’t the same thing as being attracted to a romantic relationship with that person. Sex does not have to equal love. As long as everyone’s on the same page, what’s the harm?

wundayatta's avatar

@augustlan I could be wrong, but I think that you can’t separate physical attraction from emotional attraction. I think you can try to do that in your conscious mind, but in the rest of your mind that ain’t happening because I don’t think that’s how our brains are wired.

Now that’s not the same as saying sex equals love, but I do think sex equals feelings and that those feelings are powerful. Otherwise you wouldn’t want the sex. It wouldn’t really matter. But people will twist themselves up into all kinds of mental pretzels in order to have sex and the powerful feelings associated with sex and yet deny that there are any feelings.

As to people being on the same page—I don’t see harm, except that I think there is some harm coming from fooling yourself (assuming you are doing so, which I know many people will disagree with).

I actually don’t want to judge anyone who wants nsa sex. Although perhaps nsa sex is different from fwb sex. I think that people want these kinds of sex because they have been hurt in the past and they are trying to find a connection with someone else without risking the hurt. They argue with themselves that if they can separate the two, they can have a powerful “sexual” experience (denying the feelings) without having to worry about getting attached to the person and then the risk of loss if the relationship doesn’t work out.

In other words, they are killing the relationship before it ever starts. They label it as “knowing” it won’t go anywhere.

There are many other dysfunctional myths involved in this. One is the idea of the “soulmate.” People believe there is only one person for them, and that they can’t have any partial connections with anyone else because they have to wait for their soulmate. Another is the idea that you can have only one soulmate or one spouse.

I don’t think these things are true for everybody. Maybe they are true for half the population, but for the rest, I think it usually doesn’t turn out that way. People get involved with people with whom they can not maintain a forever relationship. I don’t think that is bad. But I think the rules of society make it hard for us to acknowledge that, and that people do things like fwb in order to find a way to cope with the dysfunctionality of the marriage model.

But it’s an overreaction. I think you can have feelings and at the same time not have a long term relationship. I think it is more satisfying to admit to feelings rather than to rule them out because you know the relationship won’t be lasting very long. Ruling out the feelings, or the partial feelings, leads to troubles like this question is all about.

I don’t know. Is there anyone out there that what I’m saying makes sense to?

bookish1's avatar

@wundayatta: I certainly agree with you about the marriage and the “one twue soulmate” models being terribly dysfunctional, and that they get in the way of our creating connections with the people around us. My romantic life and my emotional health improved greatly once I ditched the one twue soulmate quest. (I was never on the marriage quest, lulz). I am too sick to go into a detailed response here (hooray autoimmune disease + fever) but I wanted to tell you that that part makes sense to me.

However, I don’t think it is fair to assume for other people how their minds must be “wired”. Some people are asexual for instance, and incapable of feeling sexually attracted to anyone (or only to very limited degrees, and they might never act on it), although they can love people; for them, sex does not equal feelings.

Supacase's avatar

If this relatively minor issue could hurt her, it sounds like things could get very uncomfortable and unpleasantly emotional in the future. I might think twice about a FWB relationship with this particular person.

augustlan's avatar

@wundayatta I don’t know… I just never had an issue with separating the physical from the emotional. I mean, I didn’t even have to. They just are separate, to me.

Don’t get me wrong, sex plus love is awesome. But sex minus love is still pretty damn good, you know?

wundayatta's avatar

Honestly, @augustlan, I’ve never been able to separate the two. My body and my emotions are pretty much one and the same. I think that’s why this is so difficult for me to understand. I can’t imagine how other people can separate things that are unseparable. For me, that is what it means to be human, pretty much. To be able to separate these things feels so different that it’s like how can we begin to communicate about it? Perhaps we belong to different versions of the human race? Of course, it’s not the first time I’ve felt that different from everyone else.

bookish1's avatar

@wundayatta : Well, lots of people are like you in that regard, and plenty aren’t, apparently.

I can’t understand the mindset of people who don’t care for food and just eat for fuel (I dated a girl like this once), but I accept that they exist.

Judi's avatar

@wundayatta , when I was a teenager I THOUGHT I could separate it, but it all crashed in on me at once, and I realized that for me, sex was not only a physical union, but a spiritual one and spreading it around tore my spirit in all those different directions. I am a monogamous creature.
You’re not the only one who is puzzled by the ability of some to compartmentalize their emotions in this act.

MissAnthrope's avatar

As an update, the conversation happened and all is well. No hurt feelings whatsoever, just the topic settled in a reasonable, adult manner. Yay!

@wundayatta – I know you well enough to know that that is the way that you are wired. Not how I am wired, or how ‘everyone’ is wired. That is what I meant about you pushing your values on me. Your opinion on the matter is evidently black-and-white, based on your experiences and your reality, and that is perfectly okay; I imagine lots of people feel the same. However, your reality regarding this issue differs very much from mine and from loads of other people I know.

I have been in therapy and not once has anyone suggested the things you are, so I feel pretty comfortable in the fact that what I’m doing works for me, is not harming anyone, and thus is not that big of a deal. I am simply one of those people that can separate romantic feelings and sexual feelings. I hate to even say “can separate”, because that implies that it’s an action that I’m doing to get a result. The truth is, these things just ARE separate, no work involved.

* I have friends that I think are attractive, but don’t want to bone them.
* I have friends I have small crushes on and would date and/or bone them. (but they are not available to me to date, as I said.. either no mutual interest, or they are straight or taken)

As I said before, it’s possible for someone to be attractive and for me to like them as a person, but to not want to have sex with them. It’s also possible for me to like someone and want to have sex with them, but a romantic relationship wouldn’t work. Surely you have been friends with someone and taken it to a romantic level and not had it work out. It’s just like that.. some people are good as friends and not great as partners. I certainly have different needs for both categories, and sometimes a person fills one much better than the other.

Now, if I had legitimate romantic interest in someone, I would be the first to admit that a FWB situation would probably not be a good idea, unless, of course, a great and thorough discussion was had beforehand. I completely agree that it would be unwise of me to try to suppress feelings while being sexually involved, and that would probably generate a huge, complicated mess.

What I am trying to get across to you is the following: there are no romantic feelings WHATSOEVER in this situation. None. Zero, zip, zilch, nada, niente. NONE. None on my part, none on theirs. We are friendly, we like each other as people, and we also happened to have a good time doing dirty things to each other. I know you probably won’t understand because you are firmly rooted in your own personal paradigm, but trust me, it works out just great for both parties.

Brian1946's avatar

It’s cool to read confirmations of my understanding that meaningless having sex for its own inherent enjoyment isn’t just a guy thing. ;-)

wundayatta's avatar

@MissAnthrope I believe you. I thank you for your explanation. It’s obviously hard for me to wrap my head around because my experience is so different. It makes me really curious as to how we got to be so different.

I simply cannot separate the feelings. Sex is an emotional thing for me. The physical sensations come with powerful emotions, even if I’m masturbating. It’s very intense for me.

Other than once, I have felt a powerful emotional drive for everyone I have made love to. This did not mean a lasting relationship ensued, although I would have been happy if something like that had happened. The one time that was different, I had liked the girl at one point, and she rejected me. Later on, when we were friends, she invited me into her bed, but because I didn’t have feelings for her, I couldn’t get an erection. It was weird.

I need to feel something for someone, or I can’t have sex with them. My body seems to work like that.

What you do is not wrong in my mind. But it feels so weird to me—like I don’t know who you are (duh), but worse, I couldn’t know who you were, even if we were to be friends or hang out a lot. There would be a part of you that was always a mystery to me. It would just be strange. I wish I could understand. I hate not being able to understand things.

What can be done, eh?

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