Thursday, December 29, 2011

Medical, Dental, and a Good 401(k)

Originally published August, 2006.

Q: Dr G, I need help with something. I have a guy friend who I really like. I got the nerve to tell him this a few months ago, and he said he wasn't interested in dating me. We've been hanging out a lot lately and we have really interesting conversations and have a good time together. We are both still single because we have high standards for the people we would date. The other day, we were having a really long conversation, and I asked him if I could just lean on his shoulder, and he said OK. It was so great, just that little contact. What can I say, I'm a little deprived, leading me to the point: I want to ask him to be "friends with benefits". He's never done that before, but I have. Is there any way to somehow "hint" or ask him about being FWB without ruining our friendship?

A: First, a little rhetorical bitching: Although I’ve used the phrase “friends with benefits” on occasion, I’ve never really liked it. Don’t all friends come with benefits? Like my friend Neal, who once helped fix my hard drive, or my buddy Jason, who is always down for grabbing a beer, or my friend Elise who gives great head. Okay, maybe I should rethink that.

Then again, I guess it’s better than “fuck buddies,” but yeah, whatever you label the relationship, the benefits you mention clearly have nothing to do with dental plans or stock options and probably go beyond the occasional shoulder leaning. Casual sex relationships get started in many different ways, depending a lot on the situations and people involved, so what I have to say may not help you to go about upgrading this particular friendship. However, even if I could offer guaranteed friend banging in 10 easy steps, I don’t think I’d want to.

After all, let’s not forget that sex without love is a sin and besides that, you should wait until you get married. Otherwise, we're talking free milk and to hell with buying the damn cow.

Wow, I couldn’t even type that with a straight face. Seriously though, I definitely recognize the joys of having FWBs and think no strings casual sex can be a healthy alternative to serious long-term relationship oriented dating, but not with this guy. Not now.

First reason: You like him, a lot, and have secretly crushed on him for a while. FWB is an arrangement that works because neither person wants anything more than a (mind-blowing, boot-knocking, world-rocking) friendship from the other. Oh, and maybe someone to hang out with once in a while that’s not likely to be shopping for cows anytime soon. Usually when things go sour, it’s because one friend gets more attached and starts wanting to talk about where the relationship is headed or what color wallpaper to buy for the nursery. If you’ve got a hidden agenda or any ulterior motives, don’t even think about stepping it up. Nice uniforms and store discounts don’t mean squat if you’re really looking for a good retirement plan. Remember, for a lot of people friends are the ones they hang out with when they’re not on a date. How comfortable will you be when your FWB starts meeting girls that do live up to his high standards?

Which brings me to reason two: Although you both have high standards for potential dates, he’s already told you that you don’t meet his. Dizamn! That had to hurt a little. Imagine how it would feel if you two started playing amateur gynecologist. Even if it’s true, I doubt you would want to think of yourself as someone that isn’t good enough to date, but good enough to fuck. Your self-esteem is going to skyrocket, or nose dive. I forget my metaphors.

Don’t think for a second that I’m telling you not to have sex. Have it, and have lots of it. Definitely start dating more, but if that’s not an option, consider offering a few benefits to another friend on your list; maybe that guy you have lousy conversations with (I know he’s out there) so there will be no chance of you wanting more later on. It may surprise you to learn that guys are ridiculously easy. Of course, you could ignore all of this and start getting your freak on with Mr. High Standards, and he might come around. Hell, maybe after a while he’ll even be down for some of that dating the kids are into these days. But more than likely, you’ll end up ruining your friendship and giving him some good stories for his other benefit-free friends.

Hypothetically speaking, suppose you decide that you are not into this guy anymore and still need some of that sweet, sweet loving. If you really want to get your hands on this guy’s benefit package (so what if it’s a pun, it’s a damn good one) you’ve got to do two things: First, convince him that you are truly no longer interested in dating him. I suspect that part of his reservations to being FWBs has to do with reason number one, and you’ve got to make sure that he knows if he samples the milk he isn’t going to be asked to buy a damn cow. Do this subtly: step back from the friendship a notch and try to create some real emotional distance. Be more like his other friends (you know, the ones that don’t want to bang him) so that he sees you as such. Also, try to avoid any mention of how you are over him so it’s okay to screw around. Second, get him to sex you up. Friends that fuck usually start doing so naturally, like after a platonic weeknight dinner or a movie; in other words, a date-like situation without any obvious romantic undertones. Invite him over afterward just to hang, watch a DVD, or any other lame non-sexual activity you can think of and let it go from there. If you do end up hitting it, remember that you don’t want him thinking he’s just made a bovine down payment, so be cool for a few days. Make sure you act as if nothing has changed in your relationship, like, you know, you’re still just friends. If this works, then awesome: good benefits are hard to come by. If it doesn’t work, well you should have stopped reading a paragraph ago.