Friend with Benefits is ILY’s newly launched bi-weekly advice column, spearheaded by Rae Witte. If you’d like to submit a question, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet your question to @raewitte with the hashtag #askily.
Entry 09 | June 1, 2018
For background, me and my ex-gf were in a year long long-distance relationship. Things were well but over time the distance would be the end to our relationship. We still cared for each other but couldn’t bear the complications that come along with long-distance. When we decided to go our separate ways, we agreed that if and when we were ever in the same city that we would try to work things out. So fast-forward a few months and I end up back moving to our hometown, unexpectedly, and our relationship had no bearing or influence on my move. It was a matter of being unhappy in the city that I was previously living in (DC and Donald Trump was my unfortunate neighbor). Now that I’ve been home, we’ve only met up twice and the distance has stayed even though our proximity is closer – which is unfortunate but maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be. I still care for her and would love nothing more to get together again. After many failed attempts and her flakiness, I think it’s time for me to move forward – but it’s tough when I still care for her. Am I not respecting my own worth and value?
Have you flat out asked her to consider getting back together? (I know this may leave you at peak vulnerable because you may get an answer that you’d rather not hear.) That said, considering her actions and the nature of break-ups, when asking something so direct (especially from someone that’s been flighty), you have to come to terms that she may not give you an honest answer if she offers an answer at all, but you will know that you tried and you were honest about where you stand.
Also, homecomings can be weird. While you were gone living life in a bigger city, the dynamics between old friends and your own relationships may have changed. Obviously, you had your heart set on a fresh start with ol’ girl, but this is a time to focus on you. You made the move to a bigger city once, do you even really want to live at home? Or was it just D.C. that wasn’t for you? Reflecting on what you want for you and your life outside of the relationship (or any other relationship for that matter) will shift your focus to your worth, your value, and the direction you want to take your life in.
I’m not sure you are at the point of not respecting your worth and value–not to diminish your feelings or her lack of ability to keep it one hundred. Her silence or the assumed lack of value she has in you or the relationship does not bear any weight on your actual worth or value and you need to never forget that.
I do think it’s time for you to consider moving forward. I’d recommend against jumping into anything serious with anyone else right now, as it could easily end up picking up where you left off with her but with a new body in her place. But don’t shut yourself off completely from dating. Just because you’re moving on now doesn’t mean your future selves can’t get together again. It just seems like now you need to focus on you and your life without her and see what good things you create for yourself back in your hometown after some time away.
Entry 08 | May 18, 2018
What is the difference between compromising and changing for someone? I think it’s a fine line and that people are adamant about, “This is me and my rules, take it or leave it.” That seems to only work if you really don’t care about each other, but on the other hand people have lost their whole identity in a relationship.
There is a very fine line, because the reality of any relationship–romantic or not–is that there will be give and take and a level of sacrifice. That said, it is also very true that there is something taboo about maintaining independence once you become half of a couple. This is a social norm that I personally can not get on board with, specifically because it’s not rare for some relationships to look a lot more like a dictatorship than love (or lust, even). And you’re right, specifically in those circumstances, if you are so adamant on having your way or the highway, it’s likely you don’t care that much about the other person or anything outside of yourself. Selfishness and independence are not the same.
The word compromise even has kind of a negative connotation to it, but compromising is normal, necessary, and not the same as changing for someone. By Merriam-Webster’s definition, a compromise is “a settlement of differences by arbitration or by consent reached by mutual concessions,” “something intermediate between or blending qualities of two different things,” and “a concession to something derogatory or prejudicial,” but to say compromising in a relationship is negative is unrealistic and likely from a place of selfishness.
Being independent and being in a relationship are not two mutually exclusive states of being and can coexist.
While the crux of compromise is altering what you want, the reality of a being in a monogamous, romantic relationship is you will need to think outside of yourself when it comes to wants and desires, in addition to how your actions affect your person. However, being independent and being in a relationship are not two mutually exclusive states of being and can coexist. If you never want to compromise or be open to compromise, you should consider being single for life, because it is that mindset that will cause a partner who may have a weaker identity to lose themself in you or the relationship or change for you.
Losing yourself in the relationship happens when only one party compromises. If you do what you like, watch what you like, hang with whoever you like, eat what you like, communicate when and how you like, and feel what you like with total disregard of someone you’re in a relationship, you’ll either end up single or with a shell of who you initially decided to date, and vice versa.
Losing yourself results when compromising becomes significantly disproportionate.
The difference between effectively compromising and changing who you are for someone is compromising takes two participating parties, while losing yourself results when compromising becomes significantly disproportionate.
I truly believe the key to maintaining a healthy degree of compromise within a relationship–without one party being buried by the other–is to find security within yourself, create an environment to communicate around insecurities and criticism, while going into the relationship accepting who your partner is at their core. There is absolutely nothing wrong with growing with a person, but letting someone have the space to grow is just as important as asking them to compromise.
The key to maintaining a healthy degree of compromise within a relationship is to find security within yourself, create an environment to communicate, while going into the relationship accepting who your partner is at their core.
Call me idyllic, I suppose, but this is what I believe is the foundation of a healthy, stable, loving relationship. Nothing is perfect, but it’s about finding someone who you’re willing to live through the imperfections with.
Entry 07 | May 4, 2018
After a few dates me and this guy have decided to carry on with a strictly sexual relationship. With this, we want to set boundaries and have some rules. Are there some less obvious or important boundaries/rules you recommend we instate before beginning?
First and foremost, I commend you for communicating at a level that you’ve come to an agreement on what works best for both of you and that you recognize boundaries are only going to make this a better, more respectful, more fun, fulfilling experience for both of you.
The key is to be open and respectful, but not treat this person like you’re in a romantic, monogamous relationship.
In my eyes, friends with benefits means you are definitely sleeping with or dating other people or are allowed to. If that’s not the case, you might want to reconsider what you’re really doing. That said, you need to determine if you’re going to be the friends with benefits that discusses the other situations in your lives or treat them more as a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ thing. While I wouldn’t recommend asking advice on your other joints or trying to create jealousy, transparency works for some people, particularly if those they’re seeing live in different cities. Others though, prefer the out of sight, out of mind/don’t ask, don’t tell approach. Neither are wrong, but both of you need to understand what you’re comfortable with. In my experience, the more infrequently you see each other, the more transparent you can be.
The key is to be open and respectful, but not treat this person like you’re in a romantic, monogamous relationship. Treat them how you treat your friends. You probably shouldn’t hang out every single day, and they shouldn’t be your automatic plus one to any events or parties. Weddings and family functions should be off limits, as should other significant-type of milestones, like meeting the parents.
PDA always leaves things fuzzy; I’d strongly advise against it. Holding hands or kissing in public settings allows others to assume you aren’t available, and you are.
Maintaining your separate lives outside of the time you spend together makes it easier to keep things casual.
Similarly, bringing him or her around your friends can quickly lead to a “what are we doing” situation. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be out in public together, but you don’t need to let your friends be friends with them. Maintaining your separate lives outside of the time you spend together makes it easier to keep things casual.
What you do need to do is make sure to have great communication; always answer their texts, do not treat plans with them like they can always be broken, and don’t hesitate to bring up issues that make you uncomfortable or insecure. Do not treat this person like a last resort. That’s a dickhead with benefits, not a friend with benefits. A common misconception is that you don’t “owe” anyone anything that you aren’t in a relationship with. But, it isn’t even about “owing” anyone anything; it’s about respect and communication. You can be honest with friends with benefits like you would with friends without benefits, your mom, or your significant other.
The best way to seamlessly move forward is to maintain your independence, while respecting the other person’s.
Ultimately, if the communication is clear and honest, these don’t need to be hard fast rules. Whatever feels right to you guys is your business, as long as you are both on the same page. The best way to seamlessly move forward is to maintain your independence, while respecting the other person’s.
Entry 06 | April 20, 2018
This dude I work with and I are kinda feeling each other. We don’t work in a traditional environment like at the same company, but we do work together on projects. We had a moment over the weekend, but we were both intoxicated and in front of our co-workers so nothing happened. He lives in L.A. and I live in New York. I think he knows I’m feeling him, but I didn’t personally tell him. I also don’t even know when the next time I’ll be in L.A. We didn’t grab each other’s number but we did follow each other on IG. Should I slide in the DMs? Should I leave it alone?
Before you jump in the DMs, I think it’s important that you figure out what it is you would like to happen with him. Do you want to date long distance or be in a long distance relationship? Do you want to sleep with him and establish something more casual for when you’re both in the same city? Do you just want to text each other and then be weird IRL? Do you want to just see what happens? (I’d recommend to not “just seeing what happens” considering it could affect your money.) Granted, there are other factors, like what he would want, but figuring out what you desire should be your first priority.
Figuring out what you desire should be your first priority.
Working with someone you’re seeing isn’t always easy, particularly outside of an office where you may find yourselves drinking while working and with very little structure. It makes sense to start to slowly get to know each other.
Truthfully, if I were in your shoes, I’d jump in the DMs extremely casually, in a non-sexual way. You cannot get physical literally right now, so why put in that energy? It’s probably better to get to know each other this way rather than trying to play it cool, flirt, get to know him, and keep it on the low in front of people you both work with like last weekend. Don’t fully friend-zone each other and talk about other people you’re dating, but talking about common interests–particularly things outside of your work–can allow you to get to know each other better while figuring out if this human is worth putting your work at risk.
He might suck. He might be great. You won’t really know until you talk to him more in depth.
However, I do still recommend to tread lightly. It’s probably better you don’t have each other’s phone numbers yet. There’s absolutely no reason to expedite anything as you don’t even know when you’ll be able to see each other in real life. Don’t put all your eggs in his basket, but don’t hesitate to get to know a little more about him.
Lurk deep before you slide in.
Patience won’t kill you, and casual DMs won’t kill your work. Find some chill. I think once you figure out the reality of what you want and/or what can happen, you won’t feel like it needs to be definitive as to whether or not to jump in the DMs. You can’t get pregnant off a DM and a DM ain’t a ring on your finger.
Besides, you got the ‘gram. Lurk deep before you slide in. Good luck!
Entry 05 | April 6, 2018
Is it unattractive for a guy to admit that he is intimidated by a woman who (based on her own admissions) is more experienced than he is?
Bottom line: being intimidated by a woman who is more experienced than you is not unattractive. How you communicate it and handle it over a period of time has potential to hit anywhere on a spectrum of being a dealbreaker (for her) to becoming a valuable pleasurable, sexual experience and honest relationship (for you).
Now, ask yourself: is it her confidence that’s intimidating or her experience? Or both? If it’s her confidence, you definitely do not want to approach it like a little bitch…for lack of a better word. However, you definitely don’t want to fake your feelings with an inflated sense of confidence either. And, most of all, you do not want to make her feel like she’s “too much.” (Triggered.) If she’s smart, she’ll realize the reality is you feel like you’re not enough.
You do want to embrace her confidence, and let her know you admire it and appreciate it. Don’t make backhanded statements or try to knock her down a peg. Men that feel threatened by confident women frequently try to make them feel small or belittle them by mocking or dismissing their self-worth to make themselves feel better. Shit is lame.
If it’s her experience, I think it’s probably best to figure out what about it is intimidating. Are you comparing yourself to her past partners? Luckily, if you’re aiming to please her, this should be looked at as a gift, not a curse. When you discuss your likes and dislikes, she’ll actually know and probably be more apt to share than others who are less experienced than you.
If it’s both, let go of every idea about masculinity in the bedroom. Realistically, you need to adjust the way you’re looking at it. Absolutely do not go into this sounding like you feel bad for yourself. Let go of that insecurity, and take advantage of what a great thing this could turn into between you and your partner. It’s OK to let her know you’re intimidated, but with communicating it, you should also take action to figure out how to not be. You don’t need to say it more than once, and it might be better received if you made it less about her being intimidating and more about you having never done certain things before. You’re in a great position.
Ultimately, if you can’t handle it and it’s going be something you bring up constantly, it’s negative. Do yourself a favor: know your limits and stop seeing her. Let someone else value her experience if you see it burying you.
Entry 04 | March 26, 2018
Do you consider sexting (outside of your partner, while in an already “committed relationship”) cheating? Would you bring it up to your partner if you suspected them of doing it?
Yes, I do consider it cheating, and I would not be able to avoid bringing it up if I suspected my significant other was sexting with someone else. Sexting frequently happens between people that haven’t had sex, but can also be a precursor to foreplay or something to maintain in between seeing each other.
It’s hard to know specifically how you should bring it up without having an understanding why you suspect your partner is doing it. Let’s just say you know for a fact they are sexting someone else–whether you saw it or someone showed you screenshots. I think it’s important to figure out what you want to come out of the situation. Do you want to just break up with them? Do you want to know why they were doing it? Is there a chance that it might not be true? You’ll need to be prepared to ask if anything beyond sexting happened. Have they been physically intimate with this person that they have already been textually intimate with?
You need to decide what your deal breakers are and what needs to happen for you to stay.
Ultimately, you need to decide what your deal breakers are and what needs to happen for you to stay. Does the sexting need to stop? (It should need to stop if you’re in a monogamous committed relationship.) You have to figure out what you’re comfortable with in order to move forward in the relationship and then bring it up.
This is definitely a conversation that needs to be handled face to face with little distraction as possible, because, let’s be honest, you might be breaking up. Sexting is an intimate exchange of words and/or photos implying sexual-oriented actions are desired to be made towards or with the sext recipient. Whether they meant what they said or not, your person has allowed someone else to think they want to have sexual contact with them. Realistically, even if you don’t consider sexting as cheating (it is), it’s a violation of trust. Broken trust can very often be the downfall of relationships, particularly if it starts with infidelity. Imagine what every single smile at a phone screen could trigger from staying in a relationship with someone that’s been sexting someone else behind your back.
Even if you don’t consider sexting as cheating, it’s a violation of trust.
Once confronted, if they offer that they didn’t mean what they said, then they were lying to whoever they were sexting thus making them a liar. If they sent provocative photos or nudes, cut them out of your life. Finally, if they don’t consider it cheating or try to sell you that it’s no big deal, then their content of those sexts are amateur-level and you should move on off the strength.
The bottomline is, you don’t need to be committed to someone who is sexting someone else. If they can’t be with you and not sext other people, they should be single and sext as many people as they want.
Entry 03 | March 9, 2018
So, before I get to the question. [Here’s a little] about me:
Aside from some on and off FWBs in college, I didn’t date. I proclaimed how I didn’t have time to put up with foolishness. I had (have) little patience or understanding for my friends’ relationship woes; my only advice [would] be to “break up with him” because I simply didn’t (and don’t) understand putting up with shit from temporary men.
But, now I’m 22, starting my adult life in the Big Apple and well, it can get a tad cold and a tad quiet all by myself. I have plenty of friends. But, ya know, I want to experience some semblance of romantic love, to get started dating now before I wake up single at 32 with no experience and a ticking biological clock.
I’m a “vibes” type. I need that personal interaction to spark some interest. I hate the apps because I feel zero desire to interact with these flat faces on my screen. (Plus, I’m Black and, statistically, those apps are not meant for women like me.)
Any tips on how to date in the city or make myself attractive/approachable to men? My friends love me too much and their only advice is to “be myself.” (And if I hear another “love happens when you’re not looking for it,” I will lose it.)
—Single and Ready to Mingle
Well, Single and Ready to Mingle, I am not a “love happens when you’re not looking for it” head ass, and I very much identify with not putting up with shit from temporary men, however, there is a lot to learn about yourself and dating from temporary men. I definitely do not recommend putting up with shit from them, but I think approaching dating more as getting to know new men that you have an attraction to rather than being on the hunt for a relationship will put less pressure on situations to materialize into something.
Particularly in New York, it’s easy to want to just make time for your friends and your schedule. A girlfriend of mine and I were sitting at our favorite bar and she was feeling so fed up with the app and swipe life she expressed she’d cancel any Tinder date to sit at the bar together in a heartbeat. So, if you are not the app type, don’t bother trying to turn into that, no matter how many times people tell you everyone is doing it.
That said, finding people you’re interested in online does not need to be on dating apps. Following someone (and getting the mutual follow back) on Twitter or Instagram that you may be interested in allows you to slowly see what they are into and how they portray themselves. It also offers easy entry points for conversation. Instagram stories or tweets you identify with can simply be responded to without feeling creepy or like you’re making a major move. An ongoing conversation can easily evolve from there.
Actively invest in knowing yourself, what you like and don’t like, and don’t feel like you have to sit back and wait on a man to show interest in you.
Also, I’d recommend considering approaching men yourself. It concerned me that you want to know how to be more attractive and approachable to men, because, like your friends said, I’d also say to just worry about being your truest self and you’ll attract someone that digs that. Actively invest in knowing yourself, what you like and don’t like, and don’t feel like you have to sit back and wait on a man to show interest in you. There’s nothing wrong with asking someone to grab lunch or a drink if you want to try to get to know them better.
Miraculously, looking back, I’ve met a few guys I’ve been involved with in New York at some random places offline and not out partying. If you are really not into anything online, I met one guy at this panel discussion he was moderating, another worked out of a co-working space I would work out of sometimes, and I met another guy at this screening for a short film he was a part of, but later asked for his number when he was out for drinks with mutual friends. I know New York-based friends that have met men they’ve dated at both going away parties or birthday parties, which usually ends up being a collection of someone’s friends that don’t all necessarily know each other.
Dating in the New York is not easy. The longer you’re here, the smaller the city gets.
I’m going to keep it one hundred with you, dating in the New York is not easy. The longer you’re here, the smaller the city gets, and the lifestyle allows for people to grow in their career without really normalizing any semblance of growing up like you would outside the city (i.e. buying property, having a big wedding, having kids). I think your stance of not taking bullshit from temporary men will benefit you, but I’d encourage you to have a little fun, be proactive about meeting new men, and even be open to long-distance relationships.
Entry 02 | February 23, 2018
Q: My boyfriend isn’t the romantic, affectionate type. He doesn’t say that he’s opposed to it or doesn’t like it. He says he’s just not used to it. Me, on the other hand, I am very affectionate. I love romance. I love to give and receive it. How do you think I should go about talking to him about it? We briefly mentioned it, but I didn’t know how to go about it so I just dropped it. What are some of your tips to have an effective conversation about this? I’d like us to reach a common ground. I definitely don’t want him to think I’m nagging or trying to change him, but it is something that means a lot to me. I know he loves me so it’s not really like I need it to validate our relationship, BUT it would be very nice.
I think the most valuable thing you have going for you here is that he isn’t opposed to it and hasn’t said he dislikes romantic affection. However, as it is something you want, I think it’s important to go into this with patience and expecting to compromise.
If it’s spontaneous romantic acts you’re looking to receive, you should probably not hold your breath for I think physical affection is not something you should live without, particularly if it’s important to you. It it will come off as nagging if you are looking for flowers for no reason and surprise weekend trips from someone that doesn’t inherently operate so thoughtfully and giving, but I think people (men, specifically) can learn to give and receive physical affection even if they’ve never been the type.
That said, I also think this is much less of a formal “let’s sit down and have a talk” type of thing at first, rather than something you’ll want address over time as situations and opportunities arise. Most importantly, your actions and your words in reaction to his actions will guide the conversation. I think verbal affirmation of the things you’re looking for on the rare occasion he does them is a great place to start. By pointing out and praising the desired actions, it will hopefully turn into something he will want to replicate with you. Using statements like, “I like when you…,” “It makes me feel good when you…,” or “I appreciate it so much when you…” will affirm the natural (albeit rare) romantic or affectionate actions.
If they are so rare that these opportunities to give affirming feedback are few and far between, try offering the affection you’re looking for and pointing out how good it feels to be able to give that to him. If you’re a naturally very affectionate person, as you mentioned, you won’t need to do it all the time, but try to remember to say things to point out how happy you are to be able to do it with him. Although it may seem obvious, it will be verbalizing what you’re already feeling. “I like to be able to do this for you,” or “I’m glad that you’re the one I get to give this to” can show your appreciation for him and how much you like to be engaged in these things with him without coming off condescending or pushing him outside of his comfort zone with statements like, “See how I do this” or “I wish you did this for me like I do for you.”
I think after you try this, it could be very worthwhile to have a conversation about it by acknowledging what it is your looking for using examples of things you appreciated that he’s done and how it has made you feel.
Entry 01 | February 9, 2018
Q: A couple months before I moved to a different state in December, I met a great guy after breaking up with the man I thought I’d marry. Obviously, I took things very slow as it was my first time “dating” in my adult life after a long term relationship. We saw each other at home over the holidays (our parents are from neighboring hometowns), and I just got back from my first weekend visit.
The weekend went well until the day I was leaving when we started talking about the future. Long story short, he says since it would have to be him who moves in the next year or so to make this work, he’s not sure he could commit to that.
Either way, I don’t know when I’m going to see him again. I bought tickets in December to this festival where he lives that takes place in March because he always talked about going. I didn’t tell him about it, because I wasn’t sure what was going to happen when I moved. So either way, I have these tickets. We haven’t officially broke it off, but I’m not totally optimistic, so I was just going to give them to him. How should I say that?
Although you haven’t officially ended it, it seems you’ve made your decision on what’s going to happen which is half the battle. Leaving your fate in someone else’s hands is where a lot of us get it wrong. If you are dead set on giving the tickets to him, I recommend utilizing a “less is more” approach.
Leaving your fate in someone else’s hands is where a lot of us get it wrong.
Where offering them with a multiple choice of options for your not-boyfriend to choose from may seem the simplest and most efficient way to get his answer, we all know that titleless other halves look at this type of thorough communication as an ultimatum. Whether it’s via text or over the phone (because let’s be honest, if you know it isn’t going anywhere and you had this talk IRL, a text will suffice), I think you should go with direct, to the point, and nice rather than the multiple choice question.
Craigslist is less the hassle than trying to communicate with a man about where and when the demise of the relationship will come.
Instead of saying, “I bought these for you want me to join you or not?,” I’d go with, “I bought these for you because I knew you’d like them.” Because you are so clear headed on the reality of the relationship and where it’s headed, I think it’s worthwhile to simply just offer them without desire to use the tickets as test to where he stands on the relationship. You already had that discussion. Believe him. If he changes his mind, that’s an entirely other discussion. He might ask if you are going to come, then it’s on you to choose whether or not you want to prolong the relationship another travel weekend only to have another Sunday night conversation about what you two are doing.
Sell them on Craigslist. Craigslist is less the hassle than trying to communicate with a man about where and when the demise of the relationship will come.