My Ex Girlfriend Wants To Be Friends With Benefits But I Still Have Feelings For Her

Dear Evan,

I broke up with my girlfriend of 11 months three months ago. I pulled the trigger but I think that if I hadn’t she would have within a month, we were fighting so much. We are both young (20-21) and in college, and were both each others’ first real relationship.

My problem is that, after cutting all contact with her for two months, I have recently started having sex with her again. Her idea. I initially rejected her offer out of spite (and to keep myself from developing feelings again), but she was persistent and so my “other” head won out over my rational head, as often happens.

Predictably, I think I have developed feelings for her again. These are not rational feelings. Logically, I know I do not want to be with her because 1) it’s over and I want to meet someone new, and I am actively pursuing other women (I have a date tomorrow in fact), and 2) she said and did some things that really hurt me while we were dating and I don’t want to go through that again.

But it’s not just the sex I like… she’s wonderful to hang out with, we have great interpersonal chemistry, she lends me CDs, always offers to help me with stuff, etc. I am also pretty introverted, so my social life takes a big hit if I cut her out of it.

In a moment of weakness where I brought up the possibility of a relationship again, she made it quite clear she does not want to be with me, beyond friends with benefits. Her rationale is, “I’m attracted to you, we’re compatible in bed and I love hanging out with you, but I can’t see me spending the rest of my life with you. Our values are too different.”

Simply, the alternative of reinventing your life is a lot less appealing than keeping up your unpleasant status quo.

My concern is that she will find someone before I do, and thus I will be alone and devastated, feeling used as a filler. We have discussed this and she says she wouldn’t feel that way if I found someone first… a bit jealous maybe, but not devastated. I know the best decision is to just STOP seeing her. I have made repeated attempts to do this, but they all ultimately fail. I don’t call her and she doesn’t call me, but we run into each other, and end up in bed every time. This is all my own failing, because she has made clear to me EXACTLY what she wants, with no pretense. Nobody is leading anybody on. I can tell her no any time I want… yet I never do.

Should I just suck it up and enjoy what I have while it lasts, or actively avoid her if I run into her? I’m confused as hell and I don’t know what I want.

R

Thanks for the email reminder, R, that relationship questions know no gender boundaries. You’re the traditional woman in this scenario, and I’m pretty sure that any woman here could tell you EXACTLY what to do.

But since you asked me, and I’m a guy, I’m going to lay it out for you in guy terms.

You had a good thing going that went bad. And what you’ve now discovered, at 21, is that, often having something flawed is better than having nothing.

This would explain why we stay in dead-end jobs and dysfunctional relationships way past their expiration dates. Simply, the alternative of reinventing your life is a lot less appealing than keeping up your unpleasant status quo.

And who could blame you? Losing a girlfriend means losing your best friend. It means giving up your source of constant sex. It means scrapping the relationship you’ve been building for 11 months. It means you suddenly have a lot of time to fill that was previously occupied. In short, a break-up leaves a tremendous void that doesn’t just get magically filled. It takes work. And a lot of the work is going to be of the trial-and-error variety – going out to bars and not having the guts to ask for a number, emailing a few women online who relegate you to the friend zone, taking out a few first dates where there’s no chemistry, hooking up with a couple of women for whom you have no feelings.

So you say to yourself – “Was it really that bad? I mean, my life kind of sucks now. Maybe I should give her more of a shot. She knows me a lot better than anyone else out there, we do have great sex, and I don’t have to take her on expensive dates.” And that’s how you find yourself right back where you started.

I’ve been in your shoes, and I’m very sympathetic. A woman I loved dumped me primarily because she couldn’t handle who I was – a dating coach, a flirt, and unapologetic about both. A few weeks after she broke up with me, she came back to figure out how to make things work. After all, we had so much worth preserving; it would be a shame to let our chemistry just fizzle out like that. But as much as I was dazzled by her and wanted her back, I knew one thing for sure: she was the exact same person who dumped me three weeks before. Nothing had changed – except we were both a little scared and lonely on our own. That fear and loneliness was bringing us back together, and would have been the easiest thing to give into.

She doesn’t want you back. She wants to use you like a sex toy and not deal with you as a boyfriend.

Don’t do it.

For two reasons: 1) After 11 months, you know this girl well enough to know exactly what you’d be getting if you took her back. 2) She doesn’t want you back. She wants to use you like a sex toy and not deal with you as a boyfriend. I can’t think of a stronger endorsement as to why you should cut this woman out of your life.

“Friends with benefits” is great conceptually; but once someone develops feelings, it all falls apart. Don’t ignore your feelings, R. Use them to your advantage. Think about all the reasons you resent your ex and use them as a justification to cut her off cold-turkey.

Not only will she survive just fine without you, but you’ll have a chance to thrive on your own. More importantly, your freedom will help you find a girlfriend who may be a keeper. This one’s certainly not it.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    mic

    “Introverted,” slow “social life,” and “My concern is that she will find someone before I do, and thus I will be alone and devastated, feeling used as a filler.” Part of the issue is confidence? Then work on yourself, your skills. If appearance is part of that – though her attraction suggests it can’t be that bad – work on it. Exercise is a great way to improve the mental state and the physical state at the same time. And, of course, the “no contact rule.”

  2. 3
    vino

    R,

    You are 20-21. My belief is that people your age are do not know who they are, are usually a bit immature, and therefore shouldn’t have girlfriends/boyfriends.

    More to the point, relationships breaking apart are kind of like breaking a bone. A crisp, clean break usually heals faster (and some may argue stronger). A jagged, break with shards is usually more complicated to fix, and takes longer to heal and rehabilitate.

    Go with the crisp, clean break.

  3. 4
    dadshouse

    Very interesting post and response. I had a similar experience where a girlfriend and I broke up, then three months later she wanted to get back together for sex: http://dadshouseblog.com/2008/03/05/putting-the-ex-in-sex/

    My situation is very different from R. R is 21, and is learning how to act in relationships. Breakups are part of the territory. Think about it – how many people are in one romantic relationship for their entire lives? Almost none. So Evan’s advice to R is spot on – don’t do it. Learn how to deal with rejection. Close this door and know that another will open. Move on. You deserve better.

    For me: I’m a single dad in my 40s. Dating is complicated. I’ve had tons of girlfriends, a wife, kids, career, you name it. Finding a woman who is at my same life stage is tough. In that respect, a friends with benefits situation is sort of okay to me.

    My ex-girlfriend and I hooked up post-breakup, and stayed together as lovers for almost a year. She’s now ready to move on and find a man who she can have children with (I’m done having kids). I’m ready to move on and find a partner to be with when my children head off to college (in the next few years). But for this one year, at my age and in my circumstance, having a lover was perfect.

    Nice column, Evan. Always great advice.

    dadshouse´s last blog post…Spring Fever Contest With Prizes!

  4. 5
    Steve

    I asked a friend about FWB recently. She is a psychotherapist nearing the end of more than 3 decade long career counseling people. She is well *salted*. According to my friend, a FWB relationship will likely not work unless both people are actively dating.

  5. 7
    Selena

    Friends with benefits is great conceptually; but once someone develops feelings, it all falls apart. ” – Evan Marc Katz

    Yep. Truer words were never spoken.

    Many of us have tried this with former lovers and unfortunately it seldom, if ever, works for very long. Most people can’t turn off their feelings like a faucet. Better to deal with the void. It takes time, but it does close.

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  8. 8
    Sayanta

    OK- this sounds harsh, but R sounds like he’s got no life/interests of his own. Therein lies the problem. If I were him, I’d try to fix that first before I even THINK about relationships. And if you feel that your happiness is dependent on having a girlfriend and nothing else, I’d do some serious soul-searching and possible therapy to find a life purpose (please don’t tell me yours is finding a girlfriend).

  9. 10
    hunter

    Just stay with the FWB, it is a well known fact, women think they can handle it, but, it won’t last.

  10. 11
    David Gideon

    Whatever you do.. don’t be needy. Keep dating other girls, recognize there’s plenty of “fish in the sea”, and keep hanging out with your ex if you want to as well.

    Once you start getting more serious with another girl your ex will most likely start saying she wants to be with you again… this is just her competitive juices flowing. You can do what you want with that info.. but recognize that’s all it is.

    I recommend you keep dating and find a girl who really appreciates you and wants to be with you on your terms.

    David Gideon´s last blog post…Neil Strauss Dating Course Part 9

  11. 12
    Steve

    Selena, post #7

    Well put:


    Better to deal with the void. It takes time, but it does close.

  12. 13
    searchingwithin

    The way I see it, you both are using each other. She is using you for shag now and then, and you are using her for your social status, and a shag.

    Although there are always those few exceptions to the rule, but FWB do not work for both people. There is always one who is going to get hurt before it is through, and you are not only delaying the pain, but also building it.

    Best Wishes

    searchingwithin´s last blog post…TGIF – The Five Best Love and Relationships Articles From Around the Web – #2

  13. 14
    Michael

    Just stay with the FWB, it is a well known fact, women think they can handle it, but, it won’t last.
    Why can’t women handle FWB?

  14. 15
    JB

    “she lends me CDs” WOW ! I don’t think any other woman will do that…lol She’s a “keeper” !

  15. 16
    Maria

    R,
    Try RADIO SILENCE…that is what I have done in your exact situation. Tell her you need your space and you’ll call in a few days. Then don’t call. Hopefully you will be over her by the time you bump into her. Then you can give a sincere hug and a “hey you!”

  16. 17
    Jennifer

    @Steve # 6- I agree with you that both people should be actively dating for it to work. Sometimes men and woman have used their FWB relationships to keep things from going too fast too soon with people that they were dating that they really wanted a relationship with. The ‘danger’ of course is always one person going on to a real relationship first and the other one feeling a bit annoyed (not always hurt, but sometimes).

    So in R’s case it won’t work because he still has feelings for his ex. And going into a FWB situation with feelings means that it’s not truly FWB at all…just a long, drawn out, messy break-up.

  17. 18
    Michael

    The danger of course is always one person going on to a real relationship first and the other one feeling a bit annoyed (not always hurt, but sometimes).
    Of course, that danger can also happen in FWOB relationships.

  18. 20
    Selena

    @Casualencounters:
    I’ve found it’s much better to find the courage to let the ex go.

    Then go on to be open to a new relationship, instead of dragging the previous one out in a wussy FWB thing with someone you KNOW you need to let go of.

    It can be done!

  19. 21
    Maria

    Right on Selena!! and…High Five

  20. 22
    Kristyn

    I love reading the comments almost as much as the blog!! Sometimes its really hard to let go of the hope that it might be something more if you just hang around.

  21. 23
    casualencounters.com/blog

    Well, if you’re dead inside there’s nothing stopping you from FWBing and pursuing a relationship with someone else at the same time. Without awkward human emotion screwing up the picture, all kinds of things become possible.

    I mean we’re assuming the FWB is on the same page here, and one can avoid the kind of emotional entanglement that Evan mentions.

    casualencounters.com/blog´s last blog post…Grainy penis photos for casual encounters

  22. 24
    Selena

    If I were dead inside why would I want a relationship of any kind with someone?

    Moreover, why would I want a relationship of any kind with someone who was dead inside? Lacking human emotion?

    The picture you paint is quite dismal and depressing. Why bother?

  23. 25
    hunter

    Kristyn on #23, that is what is called, he or she is “bonded”.

  24. 26
    hunter

    CasualE…on #24, a post-menopausal female can avoid the emotional entanglement.

  25. 27
    Jonsi

    Her wanting to be FWB with you, knowing that you are still attached, have feelings, and desire a relationship, is equivalent to saying “I don’t love you. I don’t think you are worth pursuing a future. But even though you love me, can we still fuck while I go on dates with other men until I meet someone who I think is better than you?” A little harsh? Not really, not in application.

    Like Honey said, at your age is when most people realize — after trying to be friends immediately after a breakup and then witnessing the person you still pine for dating and sleeping with other people — that it is best to make a cold turkey, clean break. This does not mean ignore her if you run into her or completely avoiding her. But it does mean that it is ok to invite yourself along for drinks with your physics study group instead of going to a party with your ex gf. You can even say “I’m sick of hanging out around my ex gf every weekend and I want to meet new people.” No one is going to care as long as you don’t spend all night whining about your ex.

    I’d recommend waiting until next fall to attempt a friendship with her. Hopefully at that time you can be JUST friends. Maybe you can even be FWB. But basically, unless you can witness her making out with another guy in front of you and are capable of saying — “I am happy she found someone she clicks with. Her and I aren’t right for each other, but I want her to be happy” — then it’s best to not see her at all.

    Learning how to recover from a breakup and re-entering the dating pool is a valuable skill. It will lead to healthier relationship, better work productivity following future breakups, etc. You are at the perfect age to learn these things.

  26. 28
    Michael

    Moreover, why would I want a relationship of any kind with someone who was dead inside? Lacking human emotion?
    FWB does not equal relationship.

    Think of FWB as just that- friendship that includes a common activity. After all, friends do a lot of common activities together. There is no reason sex can not be one of those activities.

  27. 29
    Selena

    I wonder how many true FWB relationships exist. That is, you were great friends to begin with and decide “What the hell, let’s just have sex sometimes, it’s just another activity after all we can share.”

    How many people can do this for a year, (years?) without developing stronger romantic, territorial, feelings toward their friend? Without jealousy issues? Disregard for a certain level of promiscuity? What happens when your FWB prefers sex with someone else over you? Ends it when you want to keep it going? What happens to the friendship if they fall in love with someone else? Does it still exist in it’s pre-benefits form? Or is it discontinued altogether because the friend has now rather taken on the status of an ex?

    I know many people who have tried FWB at one time (myself included), but I know of very few who were able to sustain such a relationship for longer than a few months. Or without some kind of complications – on either side. Are FWB relationships by nature destined to be short-lived?

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