Welcome to “Ask Ada,” a weekly series in which we answer all those burning questions you’d rather not share aloud. Buckle up for some brutally honest advice! Today, we talk about everyone’s favorite: Friends With Benefits (FWB)!
One of my best friends is in a FWB situation with their ex, and it’s gone on for a while. Is being FWB with their ex OK for them emotionally?
This really depends on your friend, the ex in question, and how they manage their own relationship.
I’m sure that you want a more clear-cut answer. Unfortunately, though, we’re all stuck indoors and the world is burning, so nothing makes sense anymore. Your friend’s love life probably doesn’t, either.
Western society pushes this idea that your partner must fulfill all of your emotional, sexual, and spiritual needs. However, not everyone’s partner can fulfill every need. You can have off-the-charts chemistry with someone you care for deeply but never want them as your partner. Inversely, someone can meet your emotional and intellectual needs, but you can’t imagine sleeping with them.
It’s possible that your friend and their ex tried the full-on relationship thing and then decided that it wasn’t for them. They could have developed an understanding that they can take care of each other’s sexual needs and nothing else. They might have had a romantic reckoning where they realize that they aren’t compatible emotionally or intellectually, but they still want to be in each other’s lives.
It’s also possible that this FWB arrangement is a misunderstanding of expectations and that they’ll both end up with broken hearts when it ends. Maybe one of them sees the relationship as a booty call while the other thinks that it’ll eventually turn into something more.
And then there’s the fact that we’re living through a pandemic, and everyone feels uncertain.
In times of uncertainty (like right now), we’re more likely to turn to people we know because they make us feel safe and take care of us without judgment.
I don’t know your friend or their ex. So at the end of the day, my assumptions about their FWB relationship are just as good, if not worse, than yours.
So, I’m going to direct you to this column by Captain Awkward. Specifically, I’d like to refer you to the passage where the good Captain explains how everyone who’s in a bad relationship is probably there because they get something out of that relationship.
Your friend may be indulging in something unhealthy, or they may be in the first relationship where they finally feel free from the suffocating pressure to be someone’s emotional babysitter. Maybe they’re just looking for comfort at a time where comfort and certainty are in short supply.
The real question here is what you’re doing about it.
Are you supporting your friend or openly berating them for their choice? Are you looking for excuses or giving your friend space to be happy? If your friend is in an emotionally vulnerable state, is it safe for them to confide in you?
You can’t influence your friend’s relationship, even if it is unhealthy. What you can influence is how you react.
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