We live in a culture with a high tolerance for unknowns. From our fear of calling things right and wrong, to our inability to see things as black and white–we’ve become a society that’s comfortable living in the grey. While that may be good and acceptable in some aspects of life–this lack of certainty has seeped into the way we do relationships–and it’s causing some major damage.
One specific way I see this ambiguity played out is within the context of our “friendships” with the opposite sex. I hear from so many people who are broken, confused, and paralyzed in their ability to trust–simply due to the ambiguity and confusion they’ve experienced as a result of the friends with benefits epidemic.
Friends by day, and lovers by night. No clear direction of where the relationship is headed, or if there’s even a relationship at all. Free to call themselves “single”–yet all the while completely attached to a relationship that sometimes feels like an addiction. Lust, sex, and physical passion- masked behind the normalcy of a friendship.
If you ever find yourself caught in the ambiguity of a friends with benefits relationship–maybe it’s time to ask yourself who this relationship is actually benefiting? Here are some things to consider:
1. When you start a relationship with no boundaries–you usually stay there. One thing that defines a friends with benefits relationship is the fact that it’s lacking boundaries. The ambiguity and unknowns guarantee that there’s no title, no rules, and no commitment–so everything goes. You can make out today, “sext” tomorrow, and be out on a date with someone else the next day. The problem in relationships like this is that they don’t magically turn into healthy relationships along the way. When you start a game with no rules–it’s really hard to go back and play by the rules.
2. If you give it for free–they’ll never pay for it. A huge problem in the friends with benefits culture is that you learn to give, and give, and give–with no expectation or understanding of what you’ll get in return. You give of yourself, your body, your time, and your emotions without requiring a commitment. When it comes to relationships, commitment is the price to pay–the more you give, the more you should receive. We all come with a price tag–and that price tag should be set high. But friends with benefits encourages you to give for free–and creates an atmosphere that fuels selfishness, disrespect, and zero responsibility. Healthy relationships require you to take ownership of your choices–and that always starts with clear commitment.
3. The physical has the power to affect the emotional–and skew the rational. We’re made to bond during physical intimacy. Whether it be a hug, a kiss, or sex–our bodies are wired to release chemicals during physical intimacy that make us feel connected to the person we’re with. That’s a really amazing thing–but it can be a really confusing thing when your mind is telling you you’re friends–and your emotions are telling you something far different. When you create a relationship that’s built on the physical–your emotions will always follow suit. But the thing is–emotions can’t always be trusted.
If you’ve decided to be just “friends” with someone–there’s probably a good reason. Bringing in the physical will only cause major confusion, and cause you to second-guess your rational thinking. That physical and emotional connection will cause you to keep coming back for more–until you find yourself in an extremely unhealthy and dangerous cycle that can leave you feeling paralyzed, stuck, and unable to move forward.
4. Ambiguity sets you up for heart-break. No matter how you do it–when it comes to friends with benefits- someone will ALWAYS leave hurt. The very nature of giving without knowing what you will receive sets you up for some major disappointment. By our very nature as humans we are wired for the experience of “give-and-take”. Go to any store, purchase any item, or interact with any human being and you’ll notice a pattern–I give something– and I get something else in return. There’s a healthy balance in that kind of interaction that leaves us feeling satisfied. But when you engage in a relationship where you give with nothing in return–you’re setting yourself up for some major hurt and frustration, because you’re setting yourself up to lose in the end.
No matter who you are or what you’ve been through–you’re worth far more than the pain of a one-way relationship. You owe it to yourself to up your value, to ask for more, and to expect great things in your life and relationships.
Take ownership of your life and the choices you make–and don’t ever blur the lines in a relationship–because the shades of grey will always disappoint.
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Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, speaker, and author of the book True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life as well as the 21-Days To JumpStart Your Love-Life Program, where she writes candidly about dating, relationships, and how to find true love. You may also recognize her voice from her 100+ articles at Relevant Magazine or Crosswalk.com! She’s also the creator of the True Love Dates Blog! Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter!