17 April, 2007

On Friends With Benefits...

Ah, the "Friend with Benefits" relationship...

This expression seems fairly clear and is easily defined. That said, why is it that men only read/hear the "benefits" part of the expression? You laugh, but I am serious.

When I first heard this term I had a very clear understanding of what it meant. We are talking about a "friend" first and foremost. (The word friend appears first in the expression... you see.) Then, we have "with benefits" which says that there is a tad more than friendship involved. Now, I read benefits to be of a more physical nature, but I can see that one might define benefits a bit differently depending on the people involved.

However, there isn't a circumstance in which I can imagine reading the "friend" portion of the expression differently. A friend is a friend. The degree of friendship may vary, but a friend is still a friend. Friendship is a give and take relationship with mutual respect and acceptance.

The idea of "Friend with benefits" does not mean that you can go weeks/months/years without being in communication. The idea is that the friendship is maintained with or without the benefits.

It is important to note here that the benefits without the "friend" part are called... "one Night Stand," "NSA," or "booty Call" to name just a few. In each of these situations, the rules are limited and friendship is not required or often even desired.

Can women and men be friends (in general), and can the friendship endure with benefits?

In my experience, the answer is yes. I have lots of guy friends without benefits. Most of them are from graduate school. My program included a higher number of men than women, but I don't know that it would have mattered. I found the men more interesting for various reasons (emotionless debates, sense of humor, were serious without being overly competitive...) These guys are still friends. One of them became a friend with benefits - we agreed, from the get go, that the friendship was of higher importance to us than anything else. Hey, it worked for us.

The "Friend with Benefit" relationship is a bit more challenging simply because it requires both people to be honest about their expectations. Yes, honesty and communication belong in all relationships. Again, it is that "benefit" part that men focus upon over the friend. Perhaps they believe (as well as some women?) that benefits do not require honesty. Respect and appreciation are also key to this relationship. The relationship is for mutual benefit, not centered around the wants and desires of one.

My FWB is currently living abroad. Thus, I went looking for another to enjoy some time with me... but mostly to have that banter, perspective,...that indescribable something that a good guy friend brings to your life. Needless to say, men were not truly interested in being friends. (No, I was not surprised but expected more from men entering middle age.) However, they were very interested in the benefits.

One guy thoughtfully explained to me that men don't need girl friends. It is not something that they seek. If they have female friends, they are from other aspects of their life... the office, school, etc. (After hearing this, I am so glad that I had guy friends in grad school as I work with lots of young women and men over the age of 50... the chance to find guy friends is limited) Men are seeking the benefits. It is part of the biological drive to procreate... and they seek variety. These arguments are so old and overused... honestly, guys, get a new writer!

When it comes down to it, a FWB relationship is one that can be fabulous for many reasons; but, it has its own issues and is not easy to find. For it to be the best FWB, it needs to be one in which both parties make the decision to take the friendship in that direction. I am sure that men jump the gun and alter a friendship into an awkward relationship or a situation which ends the relationship completely. I have no doubt that women do this as well. For those of us who aren't really into the notion of marriage... the FWB is a great solution.

1 comment:

Bre said...

I have plenty of successful friendships with guys and plenty of successful relationships, but I've never had a "FWB" situation turn out for the best.

Of course, that doesn't seem to stop me from starting them....