Never Fear: Friends with benefits

BY RACHEL RICHARDS '17

How do I deal with falling in love with my friend with benefits? 

I think this is going to depend on your knowledge of your relationship with this person. You are going to have a better understanding of what they want and of what you want, but I have a few ideas. 

You need to chose what is healthy for you — not easy — but healthy. Part of that is acknowledging what your relationship looks like and what you both agreed on. Did you talk about this? Have they expressed their desire to remain in a certain relation to you — maybe not move past friends? Are they really not looking for a relationship in general? Did you talk about the chance of this happening before this relationship started?  

I believe your options are to either tell them, and see if you both are interested in moving forward and maybe going on a few dates, or I think you need to remove yourself from the situation. Either way, it probably would not be healthy for you to keep hooking up with them if you are developing feelings for them that you have not expressed or dealt with. I think that would end up only being explosive down the road. 

If you decide to tell them, you need to be ready for them to not feel the same way. This is probably going to change your situation. They may not be interested in continuing the pursue these things with you, and that is an okay choice for them to make. What is important is that everyone is communicating openly and honestly. If you are interested in stopping there, that is okay. It frees you to process this experience and move on to the next one. If they are interested, perfect! Go get a meal together! Talk about how your are going to move from your previous friends with benefits situation to dating.   

If you feel like it would not be appropriate to tell them how you are feeling, I think you need to stop the FWB relationship here. It would probably not be healthy for you to continue to engage in such an intimate manner with someone when your understanding of intimacy with them has shifted and they do not know. I do not think you need to stop being friends or to stop spending time together if you think you can keep your developing crush or love under control in a healthy way.

 Don’t have sex first. That is going to mess with your rational choices, and is going to make things more complicated and difficult. This is an okay conversation to have through text. Because this is a casual arrangement, casual communication for large changes is acceptable. Because you are the one developing feelings, I do not suggest using a common “I’m interested in someone else” or “my ex is back in the picture” excuse to get out of this. Lying to someone you are interested in about who you are interested in is just not a good move. You can tell them you don’t think this is healthy for you anymore or that you aren’t interested in this type of set up any longer. Remember though, no one can know something you have not told them. Do not expect them to be anything but your friend if you have not expressed that interest in them. 

If I knew you, I would probably encourage you to tell them. However, I have the privilege of feeling safe living my life openly, emotionally and vulnerably. I think that it’s worth the risk of seeing if they want to fall in love with you, too.

Rachel Richards is a peer health educator at Mount Holyoke College.

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