Friends and Benefits

Poor you. There’s this girl you want to date, and she just wants to be friends. She’d rather hook up with some idiot and lean on you when he breaks her heart, because you’re the buddy she can trust.

Well, cry me a river. Look, I feel for you. Unrequited love is painful. But here’s the thing that you don’t seem to get – the fact that she’s not jumping your bones is a good thing. Did no one tell you? Jackasses get laid. A LOT. But we don’t value jackasses. We value nice guys.

Sex is awesome. It’s also complicated, brutal and manipulative; a massive power struggle. Even in a loving relationship there’s an element of that. When she says she likes you as a friend, maybe she means she wants you to go away and stop bugging her. Or maybe she means she likes you as a person rather than an object of desire. That’s a compliment.

So why is the friend zone seen as Siberia when it should be Shangri-La? We don’t choose who we lust after. Sexual attraction is moronic – we have no control over it. We do choose our friends. If we pick you it’s an honour, not an insult.

For most of my 20s the fact that I was attracted to a guy meant he was trouble. It was always the inappropriate one who happened to come along when I was too confused to realize that I didn’t really want what I thought I wanted. Relationships are a minefield. Everyone’s worried about what they can get rather than what they can offer, forgetting that the ability to love is the true gift and everything else is icing.

With my guy friends there’s no agenda. I can love them without pressure. It’s great to appreciate someone for his mind, heart, sense of humour, without being confused by chemicals that make my brain go hazy. It’s great to love someone and not need them, or need them to need me.

Our lovers have our bodies but our friends have our souls. The ideal romantic relationship combines both, and that’s tricky. Desire breeds expectation, expectation breeds resentment, and we’re still figuring out how to balance it. We live in a time when friendships last longer than marriages. Sex is easy and common. A real connection is rare. We’re looking for love, but we still don’t know how to appreciate it in all its forms.

You might get that perfect blend – a friend who is also a lover. Or you might hit a thousand dead ends. As long as you keep an open heart and mind, you’ll have a thousand wonderful experiences rather than a thousand failures. You’ll be glad you met them, rather than bitter that you lost them.

The search is part of the adventure. You know what you need on a great adventure, besides sensible shoes and perseverance? Friends. People who love you just because you exist. People who don’t need you to validate them or boost their egos.

Instead of “I don’t want to be your girlfriend – I think we should just be friends” maybe she’s saying “I don’t just want to be your girlfriend – I think we should be friends.” Maybe the guy she’s dating gets the side of her you never see, the side created by insecurity and conflict and drama. Maybe you got the better deal and don’t even know it.

Maybe less is more, and friendship IS the benefit.

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