The Boyfriend Experience
Navigating a casual sex relationship can be tricky. For me, the parameters used to be cut and dry. I knew what to expect: late night texts, surface level conversation, and minimal compassion from my friend with benefits when it came to my personal trials and triumphs in life. I knew what not to expect as well: reliability, overt affection and attention, love. These boundaries kept my lovers at arms’ length, reminding me to never become too emotionally invested in any guy I was simply having a good time with.
Now the lines of my friends with benefits relationships are blurred. Throughout my ten or so years of dating it’s been uncommon for a guy I’m only sleeping with (ie: no emotional commitment or exclusivity) to wine and dine me, share deep discussions, or treat our arrangement with the same enthusiasm he would give to a serious relationship. When this first started happening I was thrown off. Then I realized we don’t have to be in an intense, committed relationship to treat each other like we’re in one. I consider this “the boyfriend/girlfriend experience.” The expression is typically used when referring to a sugar daddy/sugar baby transactional relationship but it seems just as applicable in this case.
“Let these bitches know what you expect.”
A couple months ago I was making plans with a new fuck buddy. We’d been seeing each other for a few weeks so I thought we’d skip the formality of a date and just meet up to get each other off. I was pleasantly surprised when he asked, “Can we get food and drinks and look at each other for a bit?” It was a nice precursor to sex but something I’m not used to. We had a fun time getting tipsy at a local bar, going back to his place for sex, and ordering UberEATS in between rounds of humping each other. The whole thing felt familiar and foreign at once. I was used to doing that with my boyfriends but never with someone I’d established a no-strings-attached relationship with.
I left the next morning while he was still asleep. He sent me a text some hours later and apologized for not being awake to walk me out. I couldn’t help feeling amused so I called him cute. “I don’t expect you to walk me out all the time,” I told him. Then a weird feeling washed over me. Was I pushing him away, or worse, were my standards too low? I consulted a friend and what she said gave me some clarity.
“I think it’s hard not to have low standards ‘cause dudes really ain’t shit,” she reflected. “But let these bitches know what you want and expect. It doesn’t mean they'll do it, but they might try harder and you might be more likely to get what you want. Make that ho walk you out!” She had a point. I’ve been so used to letting lazy, unappreciative guys take the lead and set the tone of our dynamic that I forgot I don’t have to settle for mediocre, one-sided relationships, even if they’re not serious or long-term. It’s crucial to be vocal about what I need from any relationship in my life, romantic or not.
I think the way to make the most of casual sex is to set expectations from the beginning so there aren’t any surprises (good or bad) down the line. Mutual respect and consideration go a long way. I’m learning to be more present in my friends-with-benefits relationships too. It’s kind of fun to pretend to be someone’s girlfriend for a few hours, without the weight that comes with actually being someone’s significant other.