Can A Non-Relationship Relationship Ever Work?

Can A Non-Relationship Relationship Ever Work

Do you recommend the non-relationship relationship?

I’ve read nothing but bad things about this in regards to women, but I’m finding it works for me…especially if one is busy with their own life and not the jealous type. I think we are often fed what we *should* be doing instead of what works and I’m wondering if I’m crazy or just thinking outside the box.  

I am a realist. One person is not going provide all of another person’s needs. Nor am I, his. Additionally, if I’m busy, I can’t be there as much. I have found that being open about this works.  But my friends think I’m batshit crazy — at least my female friends.   

I don’t know if I’m a by-product of having grown up being raised by my father and then becoming one of the only female pro wrestlers in a male dominated business, so I became “one of the guys”, or if I’m just more mature now. I wasn’t always like this.  

And yes, I am aware that the men I see (and actually care about) see women on the side. I know what is going on and with my main guy, know of the girl…she has helped me with some things before. She is a good person and very different than I am. I can see how he, too, would appreciate the differing personalities.  

I just can’t do lying and deceit.  

In my situation, guy 1 is amazing.   Smart as anything, treats me well. I LIKE him, respect him. We have very interesting conversations. He is funny.   It’s a mental connection more than physical. But that fiery sex, affection and romance is missing that I want it.  I am tired of settling and want what I want.

I’m also selective because of what I do and am not attracted to stupid, no matter how pretty a package it’s wrapped in. This presents a challenge in regards to dating.  Since you tend to have a different take on things at times, I’d welcome your opinion.  


Your email reminds me of this reader from years ago who was convinced she was an amazing partner because she understood men so well; what she didn’t recognize was that she wasn’t giving men what they needed out of a relationship.

Similarly, despite the fact that you’re clearly bright, I think you have a blind spot about your predicament.

Here’s my take:

It’s not that you’re batshit crazy.

Different strokes for different folks, you know? Just because your girlfriends would not make these choices with their lives doesn’t make you wrong for staying non-committal with men.

Also, it doesn’t matter to me how you got this way — your father, your career, your exes — all of your experience is valid and makes you who you are today. No matter what I say in the next few paragraphs doesn’t change your history and imprint.

A good marriage is a well-oiled machine that requires maintenance but not constant rebuilding.

What I find REALLY interesting about your email is this, April:

You mention how selective you are. You want a smart, interesting, funny guy who treats you well and ALSO turns you on.

Okay. Then find it.

What you’ve created here is a false binary choice — as if there are only two kinds of men: nice guys who you’re not attracted to and hot guys who are stupid.

MANY of my clients do the exact same thing, so I’m not singling you out. I am illustrating, quite logically, that the odds are in your favor for finding ONE man who actually gives you everything!

How do I know this when it’s been so hard for you to find? How can I be so blindly confident despite the fact you’ve come to the conclusion that you need multiple men to fulfill your different needs?

Here’s how: millions of other people fall in love, get married, and find one person who fulfills the vast majority of their basic needs. I don’t see why you’re any different.

If anything, you’ve got yourself a self-fulfilling prophesy here.

    a. Your beliefs are such that no one man can fulfill you, thus no one man can fulfill you.

    b. You feel like you’re a unicorn because you’re a wrestler, but I would suggest that you’re probably just a woman with a lot of masculine energy.

    c. You wrote that this “non-relationship relationship” works for you, but if it were working for you, you wouldn’t have written the question at all. In general, happy people don’t engage the services of advice columnists.

    d. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again. I don’t think you’re insane; that’s why you’re writing me this question. You want me to challenge your way of thinking in a manner you can listen to, consider and respect. So here goes:

Fact: Happily married people know things that struggling singles don’t.

The best marriages consist of complementary partnerships where people fall easily into their roles and day-to-day friction is at a minimum. A good marriage is a well-oiled machine that requires maintenance but not constant rebuilding.

Instead of settling on looks or intelligence, how about you keep looking until you find someone who gives you enough of both.

Sounds to me like you have both an avoidant attachment style (dissecting what’s wrong with each man to avoid real intimacy) and masculine energy (detaching from sex, being blunt, direct, busy and career driven).

Your solution, therefore, is relatively simple:

Find a man just like the smart, funny, nice guy you’re dating, but make sure the attraction is a 7 out of 10. Voila! You’ve now got one of those old-fashioned, one-man/one-woman, monogamous marriages that I’ve always told you was possible.

In other words, instead of settling on looks or intelligence, how about you keep looking until you find someone who gives you enough of both.

Further reading — an oldie but a goodie: Don’t Judge a Book By It’s Cover — In Defense of “Marry Him: The Case of Mr. Good Enough” by Lori Gottlieb.

Join our conversation (15 Comments).
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  1. 1

    Yes to this!     A woman doesn’t get far in those “non-relationship relationship”s.

    Also, to a previous commenter on a previous post, You can respond to people that you don’t initially agree with.   It isn’t the end of the world.   And, commenters don’t deserve to be shut out.

    1. 1.1

      I’ve seen it happen many times where someone decides they are fine with a casual, non-committed relationship because (enter reason here) and then the partner they are involved with dumps them to be exclusive with someone else.   Their sense of betrayal is huge because not only did they lose the “relationship” but they also bought into the whole keep it casual  and noncommittal thing, and the noncommittal partner chooses committed ideal with someone else.

      1. 1.1.1

        Yep! A ‘commitmentphobe’ who is not seeking anything serious, will find the dream man/woman and suddenly they are all over their ‘fear’. This is the reason why I exit immediately if after a few months my date starts acting all lukewarm and wishy washy.

  2. 2
    Michelle H.

    Amen!   Nicely written, Evan.

  3. 3

    Yes!   I have been in non relationship relationships and they are only satisfying when you are emotionally unavailable.   Once you become available, they lose their luster because hey are lonely and you don’t have a real connection.   You either have emotional intimacy without any physical intimacy or chemistry.   Or you have physical intimacy without emotional intimacy.   In my unavailable period the combination terrified me – I was afraid to have both emotional and physical intimacy, so if I got on well with someone and he was available to me, I dissected his flaws as nauseum to kill the attraction.   If I had the physical intimacy, i was drawn to non-commital men who were but willing to open up or be in a serious relationship.

    Non relationships are a way to detach and avoid getting hurt.   Once I realized I wanted more, I found it (so far… knock on wood).   And, in finding it, I found that I was able to connect on both levels by (1) truly listening to and getting to know a man and connecting with him on an emotional level without    dissecting his flaws in my head and (2) postponing physical intimacy until we were exclusive.   I realized I was pushing men away by preferring (on a sub conscious level) shallow non-relationships.

    1. 3.1

      Perfect answer and spot on.

  4. 4



    You know what I find interesting.   You aren’t supposed to dump all guys into a one size fits all….   But, usually this is something that men at some point in their lives go after, even if they don’t, you think they understand the whole one-night-stand or non relationship relationship thing, right?   Well, what if you had a one night stand with someone or were getting to know them during a rough point in your life, and then years later you reach out to them and they insist more than one occasion that you “vanished or disappeared.”   After you explain the situation to them, tell the guy that hurts your feelings that the guy is saying disappeared or vanished, the guy says that you disappeared again, would you keep talking with that guy?   (You are a lone and somewhat desperate.)

  5. 5
    Tron Swanson

    Outside of a few (very brief) experiments with monogamy, I’ve primarily done non-relationships. I never really cared about what it was called…hooking up, FWBs, etc. This method has worked very well for me, far better than monogamy did. Here are some reasons why:

    1. Sex isn’t really an emotional thing, for me.

    2. I’m not very good at being committed to other people, whether it’s in terms of time, interest, or ability.

    3. I’m not interested in all the trappings that go along with relationships.

    4. For various reasons that I won’t get into, I’m simply not a good candidate for a relationship, and I actually have a better chance at getting casual sex.

  6. 6

    That is a confusing question to me. What does the OP mean by “work”? What is the definition of a relationship that “works”? Until everybody agrees on that the whole discussion is moot.

    1. 6.1

      I’ve always considered a relationship to be one that works if it’s one where both people are happy enough that neither want to get out of it.


      I suppose there might be other definitions.

  7. 7

    What I found from my experience is that non-relationship relationships were great fun when you and that person were together, but the discomfort and the pain came in the time apart. You phone and they don’t answer or return your call. They don’t respond to a text. You’ve no idea where they are or what they’re doing at any point in time. They can go days, weeks, without contacting you. They live completely in the now and don’t make any plans, promises or assurances of any kind. And you have no recourse on any of these things, because there’s no commitment. These are the kinds of things which added up cumulatively to produce a lot of anxiety for me when I was in non-relationship relationships, however fun they were and however much they suited me in other ways at the time.


    I still have times when I will pine for those more carefree days because I’m a very independent person who likes a lot of time alone, but then all I have to do is think about the fact that the good feelings never last with those kinds of relationships, before they give way to anxiety and a frustrating feeling that you are just treading water. It’s ultimately painful to be with someone who has no goals when it comes to relationships, and who is willing to put their own needs first at all times.


    That said, I do think non-relationship relationships can “work” for particular people and for particular times in one’s life. Many of us go through times when we either can’t or don’t want to commit to another person, and when friendship, with some side benefits, is the most appropriate option for us. Some women go through their entire lives being “kept” women, mistresses on the side who are otherwise free to do as they wish. It seems to work for them. But you have to really examine every aspect of the arrangement in the cold light of day and be objective about whether it will work for you – otherwise don’t do it. For the vast majority of women, we are not able to sustain any kind of relationship without safety and security. I’ve seen too many of my friends rationalize men who were lukewarm, hoping they would come round, only to be hurt later.

    1. 7.1

      You are spot on Claire thanks for sharing


  8. 8

    I think the OP has a point, up to a point. One person does not have to fulfil your every need. Its not a deal breaker if you like tennis and you meet a guy who is great in every way – but doesn’t like tennis…you can join a tennis club. What I WOULD say is make sure that the one you choose for your longterm partner is the one you like having sex with – whilst most people don’t have a problem with their spouse joining a tennis club/book club/ philosphy group to fulifil some of the needs they can’t meet, there are a lot less people who are happy for their spouse to find sex outside the relationship, if that’s the bit that doesn’t work so well.

  9. 9

    Non-relationship relationships? That term makes no sense, cancels itself out. What you’re talking about is alternative relationship arrangements. Alternative only in that they diverge from established societal norms. I’ve been enjoying reading this site, but I find your response to this person a bit narrow minded. It boils down to “it’s okay honey. You TOO can be blissful in committed monogamy, because I know so many people who are!” Really? Monogamy is not synonymous with   commitment. Nothing in her message indicated she wasn’t committed or the men in her lives weren’t committed. They just see other people. It’s called polyamory. It’s not a cop-out by commitment-phobes any more than monogamists are “less enlightened” It’s a way of being in the world that feels more right depending on the person. I commend her for finding what’s right for her.

  10. 10

    Personally I don’t mind having relationships like these, though  I keep actively dating and seeking a long-term partner as I know they are not what I want in the long run. Many of these relationships are actually at least as committed as my closest female friendships, which is very beneficial to me. I have found that polyamorous guys can make great friends and cuddle buddies, because they aren’t so horny and desperate – they don’t pressure me for sex or expect anything from me. We might kiss or make out sometimes but there’s no pressure either way. I think they are great companions to have while I’m dating and looking for the right person to spend my life with. These guys have helped me to build my confidence with men, learn about dating and figure out what I want.

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