Can you help explain why “friends with benefits” relationship might have changed?
Q: A man (34) that I knew through work for almost a year, was very interested in me (29) after I had gotten out of another relationship (only 8 months). We started spending time together, have a lot in common, and got along very well. Both of us agreed we didn’t want to get into a relationship though. (He is divorced 5 years ago, and says he never wants a girlfriend or wife EVER again. He says he wants to be alone…) But he would try to spend time with me almost every day. We had a lot of fun together. I waited about a month before having sex with him. The sex was GREAT! And it was fun. We’d see each other about 5 times a week and have sex every night for almost a month, then it tapered off. We would still spend time together, but he was less interested in sex than I was. He still wanted to do things with me, but not as much sex. We both were busy at different times, and it became harder to spend time together, so even less sex. But he still genuinely wanted to spend time with me. All this time, I never showed interest in a “relationship” or commitment of any kind. I was really enjoying the friends with benefits setup. We didn’t have to check in or tell each other everything, although we usually spoke every day. Which was fine. We never argued or got upset at anything with each other. I went away one weekend to visit a friend, and didn’t talk to him for several days. When I returned, he seemed a little put off. I asked him if it had bothered him and he said no. We continued to see each other maybe 2 or 3 times a week now (it’s been 3+ months since the beginning). We were now having sex once a week or less. I told him I was going to start being open to finding someone else for a relationship/boyfriend, but I didn’t expect that from him, as he was adamant about not being in a “relationship”. Shortly thereafter, a week or so when we hadn’t seen each other as much because we were both busy and tired, he said he wanted to talk to me. We finally got together to talk, and he said he didn’t want to have sex anymore because he was afraid it was hurting our friendship. He said he didn’t want it to get in the way of me finding someone else. I told him I wouldn’t let it, and that I still wanted to sleep with him. Just because I was open to finding someone doesn’t mean I’d found anyone else or was even interested in anyone else. After that conversation, we only went to dinner once in the next two weeks, as friends, and it was ok. We ended up having sex again, several more times in the next month. I didn’t initiate because I wanted to respect what he’d said about not wanting sex, wanting to be just friends. He initiated. But he started acting very uncomfortable around me. For about a month, he acted very distant at times, but then he’d call me like to check in. It felt like he would push me away, pull me back in, on a daily basis. The last two weeks or so he’s been very nice, no pushing away anymore, wanting to do things with me, calling me, helping me with certain tasks. He spends more time with me than anyone else and would say I’m one of only a handful of close friends. (He’s quite introverted). He’s made the effort in the last two weeks to stay friends, and even had me spend the night at his place. He held me and cuddled all night while we slept. No sex or intimacy other than holding each other. I of course like the companionship, but miss the sex. I’ve asked him about it, and he said he’s still attracted to me, isn’t involved with anyone else, isn’t gay, likes sex, but doesn’t want to hurt our friendship. I really am ok with the no relationship part, I just miss the sex! Why would someone who’s been a great sexual partner for several months, want to be really good friends and spend a lot of time with me, but not want sex anymore? He still spends more time with me than anyone else, confides in me, etc. I’m 99% certain he’s not interested in anyone else. I don’t pressure him at all, he’s always the one calling me to get together and do stuff. Where did the attraction/chemistry go? It really was good chemistry and great sex. If he’s not that into me, why does he want to be such good friends and spend time with me over anyone else? If he does trust me as a friend, and we had great sex before, why not keep the benefits part? Who else better to have benefits with? Don’t men WANT sex? (FYI, he’s an ACOA) I’m trying not to take it personally, he obviously likes me as a person, just not the sex anymore. I feel rejected though, physically. I have a great body and haven’t changed since we’ve met. I’m just trying to find a reasonable explanation for his behavior, because it confuses me. Thanks for the help.
A: Unfortunately I can’t explain someone else’s behavior. I can make some educated guesses but if you want to know why he is doing what he is doing you need to ask him. He is telling you that he does not want to have sex because it might affect the friendship. I think that is a plausible explanation. You two started out with the no strings attached agreement but in reality that is very hard to uphold. If you are being intimate with someone it is hard to prevent deeper feelings from developing. Maybe he is developing feelings for you but still doesn’t want to be in a relationship so he is trying to distance himself. Maybe he can’t bear the thought of you dating someone else though he still doesn’t want a deeper commitment. You have described a nice relationship but if it can’t be what you want it to be and you can’t come to a mutual agreement, you will need to either let it go altogether or just accept it as it is and put your energy into finding someone else. You must also think about the vibe you are putting out. If you are spending most of your free time and being intimate with someone, why would anyone else see you as available? If you truly want relationship, I would suggest that you cool it with your friend anyway because you won’t be sending the right messages to future possibilities. Good luck.
Counts, H. (2007). Can you help explain why “friends with benefits” relationship might have changed?. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 22, 2017, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/04/01/can-you-help-explain-why-friends-with-benefits-relationship-might-have-changed/