I’m not fond of the term “friends with benefits.” I prefer, “Someone I’m sleeping with,” or “a lover.” My terminology suggests what people have been doing since God created penises and vaginas: Enjoying each other sexually and romantically without any social commitments. When all parties are evolved adults, it can be a very satisfying arrangement. But it is rarely without its complications. To keep weirdness and heartbreak at bay, play by these rules:
1. Understand what a lover is. A lover is not your boyfriend or a possible husband. He is a lover. Your arrangement is between the two of you, for mutual enjoyment — whether physical, intellectual, emotional or all of the above. It is not a public relationship.
2. Your kids, friends and family do not meet your lover. He is not a social media connection or mention. See above.
3. No sneaking him into the house when your kids are asleep. I will write a separate post on this, but suffice it to say here that is a very bad idea and I will judge you for it.
4. Don’t call him when your refrigerator breaks or you have a bad day at work. He is not your support system. That is a boyfriend. That is not this guy.
5. Relationship rules do not apply. Texting the next day and remembering birthdays are not the domain of an affair. Nor is monogamy. You are not entitled to get pissy if these things do not transpire.
6. Have fun. This is supposed to be a delightful arrangement. When it becomes abusive or tormented, get out.
7. Accept it for what it is. A lover is not someone you are trying to manipulate into a serious relationship. You mutually chose this arrangement because of any number of reasons: you have sexual chemistry but do not fit into one another’s lives, or you need one another’s companionship but are both otherwise not interested in a serious commitment.
8. Leave the door open to more. This is something that you do within yourself (i.e. do not discuss it with him). But reasons to have a friend with benefits is that you do not have the emotional bandwidth to devote to another person, you are terrified of commitment, or one of you is otherwise entangled in another romantic situation. But people change. Life changes. Time and place have a way of doing a number on us. Be open to the possibility that you and this man could be more.
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post’s ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.
A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.