What It's Like To Accidentally Fall In Love With Your Friend With Benefits
Against my better judgment, I have fallen in love with my friend with benefits. I think I may have fallen in love with him month ago, but being stubborn AF, I fought against those feelings, tooth and nail, and, when it was suggested by a couple close friends that I was in love with him, I denied it up and down, forward and backward, and all over the place. Me? In love with him? Were they out of their mind? I would never be in love with him; he's just an hookup buddy; someone I kill time with and definitely nothing more. Oh, Amanda.
But the problem with sleeping with someone on a regular basis, having an intimate relationship, traveling with them, confiding in them, and doing all the relationship things without the relationship title, is that it's hard not to have emotions. You can only be emotionally unavailable — or even pretend to be — for so long before something changes and there’s a shift. I have felt that shift.
“Your FWB started as a shared bond that was responding to support you needed in your life,” Behavioral Scientist, Clarissa Silva, tells Bustle. “Can those lines get blurred? Absolutely, but don’t persecute yourself over it responding to your desires for an emotional connection. All you did was cross a line both of you weren’t prepared for. However, remember that it can be complicated to revert back between both roles when thinking about the future and function of the relationship.”
This isn't the first time I have gone down this road. Before I got married, I was in love with my friend with benefits of four years. But the problem there, and it was definitely a problem, was that we were so much like a relationship; so inseparable, so always together, so everything you'd expect in a couple, but, like this situation, he did his own thing, sexually speaking, while I held out waiting for him to have the realization that he loved me too. That realization never came and I eventually had to end it. You can't hang on hoping forever. It's not only time consuming, but unfair. Sadly, I lost the friendship in the process, which made realize that the whole friends with benefits thing is extremely difficult to pull off, because feelings.
Similar to this situation, back then I was about a year out of a serious relationship and it didn't start as a friendship; it started with sleeping with each other (we were co=workers), then the friendship part evolved around that — if it was a friendship at all. As my therapist once told me, "You're not supposed to know what your friends look like when they orgasm," meaning I was deluding myself by thinking that it was a friendship. Apparently, I'm deluding myself again now.
It's painful to accidentally fall in love, especially when you promised yourself otherwise.
But while there are so many parallels to the friends with benefits disaster I had then and the one I have now, that has yet to reach its impending disastrous status, is that I'm 10 years older now. I've been married, I've lived abroad, I've been a step-mother, I've been cheated on, I've been betrayed by love in ways I never thought imaginable, and then I lost that husband, although we were separated, this past July to heart attack. I'm not the same person I was in 2008. I'm wiser, I have more empathy, I have a deeper understanding of people and life, and the complications of relationships and love, and yet I've found myself here again. I'm in the exact same place to which I swore I'd never return and, honestly, I'm disappointed in myself because of it. Whenever a relationship ends, no matter what sort of relationship it is, you're supposed to learn from your mistakes. I was supposed to realize that what Christoffer and I had from 2008 to 2012 was not something I should have again, because I couldn't handle it; I was too invested, I was too jealous, I was too a lot of things.
It's painful to accidentally fall in love, especially when you promised yourself otherwise. It's confusing when he tells me he loves me, because I know, in many ways, he doesn't really understand what love is — not that I have a PhD in the topic either — as he throws around the word like he's absent-mindedly playing catch with a kid he just met at the park. And because English isn't his first language, he doesn't feel an attachment to the word or what it could possibly mean. It's just like whenever I told my French husband, "Je t'aime," it felt distant compared to saying, "I love you." I said it in French for his benefit, but for me it didn't have the same effect.
Also, there's the jealousy factor. Because this particular person lives in another country, I only spend half my year there, and we're not in a relationship, I have to endure the play-by-play of what's going on with him — the one-night stands, the girl he met on OkCupid, the date that stood him up, the girl who kissed him then decided to leave suddenly and from whom he hasn't heard from since. In some ways, I want to hear these things, because I want to know. But in other ways, the part of me that's jealous, despite the fact that I'll tell anyone I meet that I don't have a jealous bone in my body, is going nuts. Then, just when I think I can't take it anymore and I'd rather pull out all my hair, strand by strand, he follows up these details (and he really does share details I don't need to hear) with how I'm a better fit for him than this person or that person; I make him laugh more and he loves my laugh. So, again, I get sucked in and wait until I get off the phone with him to scream into my pillow at myself for being such a fool. Being in love with your friend with benefits does, in my mind, make you rather foolish.
Statistically, more women than men have been in an FWB, but only a fraction of these types of relationships end up in real relationships. These are facts I've written about; these are facts I know, just as much as I know that a relationship with him would be impossible for me. For starters, he doesn't believe in monogamy, whereas I do, and secondly, although we have a lot in common, he lacks the drive and ambition that I find to be a paramount trait — a mandatory trait, actually — in a partner. While I may not have learned much from my past FWB, at least not enough to avoid it happening again, what I did learn from my marriage is that I can't be with someone who sits on the couch waiting for their life to happen to them without taking a single step toward their goals, no matter how flighty and painfully unrealistic those goals might be.
At the end of April, I will fly to Paris where I'll be meeting up with this FWB of mine. From there, I'll fly to Barcelona with him, where I'll stay through the end of July, before returning to New York again. I know that we'll pick up where we left off in December and I will either have to shelf my emotions to continue our relationship as is, or break up with this friend with benefits. The latter seems like an impossible choice at the moment and choice I'd rather avoid, but we have no future for a "real" relationship, so really, what am I doing? In June, it will be two years of doing this FWB thing — do I really want to go for two more years, making it four years like I did last time, before I come to my senses? Especially since I already know that I deserve more? I deserve a partner who wants to invest in me as much as I'm invested in him.
When I hit a wall with him this past weekend, I Googled "breaking up with a friend with benefits". One of the results? An article I wrote about what happened when I broke up with my FWB. As I re-read it, it wasn't just a walk down memory lane, but the positive changes that came afterward, the most important being that I accepted the situation, having finally seen it for what it is. But I'm not sure I'm ready to accept anything at the moment. I'm not sure I'm ready to let him go. While I may not have learned much from the last time around, I did learn that you can't be friends after the fact. At least, I can't.
I realize you can't help with whom you fall in love. I even keep reading the Molière quote, "But reason is not what directs love," over and over, as a reminder, but I really wish it did. If reason played any role in feelings and love and emotions, I could talk myself out of it. Until that day comes, a day when reason either kicks in or I've run out of energy to endure anymore, I'll just have to take it as it is and accept it, no matter how much it hurts to be entangled in unrequited love. Again.