I am not currently in the mental state to be in a long term, committed relationship, but I would like to be intimate with a woman/women. But I have no idea how this even happens. How does it start? And especially, how does a guy even bring up this idea without being labelled a douchebag/creeper/fuckboy?
I’ve asked similar questions to this online on multiple sites, just simply asking how a guy looks for this without being creepy, and have had answers along the lines of “it’s impossible, because FWB is creepy”, or “you’re basically asking how do I do this creepy thing without being creepy”, or “you don’t think she’s good enough to date but you’d still fuck her, you don’t see her as a person”. I don’t think I said anything to warrant this kind of reaction, so it seems to just be that they don’t like the idea. It would be one thing if this was just a matter of personal preference, but they seem to carry the implication (or in some cases, explicitly remark) that any guy who would want this or look for this is creepy, predatory, misogynistic, and awful.
So it seems like, when finding someone, that I have to be lucky enough to:
1. Not have any hangups about the idea, not think that it’s inherently creepy,
2. Not have any hangups about me in particular asking
and that’s in addition to
3. The whole thing with approaching in general, that she has to be fine with both my approach and the venue.
And of course, there’s no way of truly knowing any of this without asking in the first place. And these three things are just what I need to not be seen as a reprehensible creep for this, not even to actually FIND a FWB. At this point, it seems less like finding someone and more like playing the lottery.
So, how does this happen, and how does a man do it without being seen as evil?
The way you find a friend with benefits is pretty simple, BP: you put yourself out there and make it clear that you’re looking for a casual relationship, rather than something committed or long-term. The easiest and most reliable way to do this is through dating apps. After all: the people on dating apps are there specifically to find potential partners, including women who’re down for something casual and non-committed.
Different dating apps offer you different ways of indicating what kind of relationships you’re looking for. OKCupid, for example, offers a number of “looking for” options, including “short term relationships” and “casual sex”. On an app like Tinder or Hinge, you might point out that you’re not looking for a committed relationship, that you’re not in the market for anything long-term or that you’re not “The One” but lots of fun… there’re a lot of ways to be creative while still making it clear that you’re not offering anything more serious than a casual relationship.
The apps also let you filter for folks who are also looking for what you’re looking for, or who might be open to it. This is far easier than, say, rolling into the club and saying “hey, I’m looking for a FWB, you down?”
Now I have to admit: I would be very curious to see where and how, exactly, you posed this question, BP. I suspect that has far more to do with the responses you got than a universal truth that “all women think dudes looking for FWBs are creepazoids”. The truth is that, far from being a hive-mind, LOTS of women would be down for casual sex. The problem is that a) women face a disproportionate amount of risk when it comes to finding sex partners than men do, b) the sex is very rarely worth the risk and c) dudes have a tendency to immediately turn around and call women sluts afterwards.
But the way you framed this hypothetical search makes me think that you’ve got a fairly fundamental disconnect between what you want and what a friends-with-benefits relationship is. You seem to be coming to this from the angle that you propose an FWB relationship to someone you’ve just met which… isn’t really how it works. Especially if you’re trying to meet people off a cold approach, and doubly so if you’re meeting them some place outside of, say, a bar, club or dating app.
Because here’s the thing: the key word in “friends with benefits” isn’t “benefits”. It’s “Friends”.
To be clear: I’m a big believer in establishing the kind of relationship you’re looking for early on, especially when it comes to casual or no-strings relationships. But dropping the “so yeah, I don’t really want to date, mostly I wanna hang out, drink beers and fuck” right from the start is… not a great look. What you’re going to want to do is actually go on a date or two, see if you two are even compatible at all, and then — if there’s chemistry and mutual interest — discuss the kind of relationship you actually want. Like I’ve said elsewhere, the script is fairly simple:
“Look, I’m going to be straight with you: I’m not looking for/ do not want/ am not interested in having a girlfriend/boyfriend relationship. I’m a good friend and a good lover, but I’m not available for commitment beyond that. If that’s what you’re looking for, that’s not a problem, but I’m not the person who can give it to you.
Here’s what I want from this relationship and here’s what I have to offer.
How about you?”
That “How about you” is important. A lot of people feel awkward discussing the exact nature of what they’re looking for when it comes to dates and relationships. In fact, a mistake a lot of people make is that they never explicitly say what they’re looking for and hope that everyone just happens to be on the same page. This… works about as well as you might think. Which is to day, disastrously. By stating exactly what you want, what you’re able to give and THEN saying “and how about you?”, you’re modeling the type of communication that you want and giving them permission to be as open and forthright about what they want from a partner.
And if they say no — which they very well might — then you thank them for taking care of themselves, wish them all the best and move on; you’ve discovered that you and they weren’t right for one another.
But I want to highlight another issue I think you’re gonna run into BP: I think you don’t quite get what’s involved in a friends with benefits relationship. You aren’t interested in relationships right now, just sex. That in and of itself is fine. The problem is that I think you’re assuming that an FWB relationship is sex-on-tap, and it’s really not. Like I said: the key word in there is “friends”. These are — or should be — people you are friends with, who you enjoy spending time with and, in an ideal world, you would still want to hang with if sex weren’t on the table. They’re not people you just call up whenever you decide that yes, a blowjob WOULD be nice tonight. Nobody, even women who’re down for hooking up with a guy they met that night, likes to be treated like an ambulatory Fleshlight.
Unfortunately, that attitude is really common. The reason why a lot of folks, especially women, are down on FWB or casual relationships is because a lot of dudes tend to use the label “causal” as a reason to treat their PARTNERS casually. I can’t count the number of women I’ve heard from who’ve had casual relationships with dudes who were cold to them or felt like they had to keep reminding them that this was just a sex thing… as though they had to be assholes to keep those “soft-hearted ladies” from catching a bad case of feels.
(I’ve run into far more dudes who’ve caught feels for their casual partners than women, for the record…)
You mention not being in a mental state for something long term. While an FWB relationship doesn’t come with the expectations of monogamy or long-term commitment, it’s still a relationship, and one that requires care and maintenance. If what you’re looking for is more about casual sex, possibly even one-night stands, you’d be better off focusing on that. An FWB isn’t someone you can bang and ignore until you’ve got the itch again.
If you’re looking for a friend who you also occasionally bump uglies with… well, just realize that friendships come with obligations and responsibilities too.
So, I’m not sure what the start of my issues are. I know I lack romantic confidence, but have no idea how to build it, especially since the pandemic. I’m not really timid in the rest of my life (anymore) and even confident at times, but when I actually try to meet someone it’s like a switch flips and I can’t stop feeling like I’m unwanted and harassing a woman, even just to ask her out. I know this kills any chance I might have had, but it’s like I’m not the one driving anymore and just shouting from the backseat. I also seem to have a lot of “downtime”. If I get rejected it can take months for me to try asking someone out again, and even weeks to feel any sort of attraction again. I know it’s partially a numbers game, but when people say move on, what I hear is give up on weeks to months of invested feelings just so you can be in the position to allow the process to happen all over again.
This makes me wary to hear a first real relationship probably won’t last. My first instinct that if I find myself in a relationship, I should end it as soon as possible because is probably doomed and I might as well minimize losses (I know this has no basis in reality, but my emotions keep running with it).
All in all I know I’m still a mess, and I’m working with a therapist (which has been marginally helpful), but I don’t know how to get experience to be less of one.
Bless This Mess
A couple things in your letter leap out at me, BTM. The first is the idea that you need to give up weeks or months of invested feelings, and that it takes you weeks to feel attraction in the first place. The way you phrase this leaves things a little ambiguous; do you mean that you take weeks to develop an attraction to an individual, or do you mean that if you’ve been rejected, you take weeks to feel any attraction to anyone afterwards? If it’s the former, that sounds a little like being demisexual — someone who doesn’t develop strong sexual attraction to someone without getting to know them or having a strong emotional connection to them first. If it’s the latter… that sounds more like depression. Obviously, this distinction makes a rather crucial distinction as to the best way to move forward.
Similarly, mentioning giving up weeks or months of invested feelings sounds like you mean that you’ve spent weeks and months building yourself up to the point of trying to ask someone out. If that’s the case… well, that’s part of your problem. By spending that much time before actually making a move, you’ve invested far more in a person than is actually warranted. You end up making that person — someone you often barely even know — so important that their turning you down could destroy you emotionally. Needless to say, that’s far more power than a relative stranger deserves over you. Part of the way that you avoid this is fairly simple: you don’t wait that long in the first place. Being more proactive and not waiting for weeks, trying to get 100% assurance they’d say yes or trying to find the “perfect” moment, you don’t invest so much in any one person that they can wreck you with a word.
But if we’re being perfectly honest, I think that’s a lesser problem right now, and not the problem you should be trying to deal with. Yet.
When it comes to trying to fix one’s life, I like to focus on the order of operations. After all, it doesn’t do you any good to work on being more proactive about meeting women and asking them out when a single rejection is going to put you out of the game for weeks at a time. So that is where I would suggest putting your focus for now. Now, I want to preface this with the reminder that Dr. NerdLove is NOT a real doctor and the acknowledgement that I’ve recently been diagnosed with ADHD, so a lot of the co-morbidities of ADHD are in the forefront of my mind. With that being said: what you describe sounds a lot like rejection-sensitive dysphoria to me. Rejection-sensitive dysphoria is an extreme response to the pain and anxiety of being rejected by someone or feeling like you’ve failed someone important in your life. It can lead to people anticipating rejection and trying to avoid it at all costs — to the point of turning into a social phobia, and causing them to stop even trying anything that might lead to rejection.
Like, say, approaching women they’re attracted to.
Now, if that sounds like you, then that’s something I would suggest you bring up with your therapist the next time you talk to them. Your therapist is in a better position to determine whether this is a possibility for you and, if it is, recommend potential treatments. They may adjust your therapy to help you find coping strategies, or they may suggest medication that can help address the problems.
Getting that under control will make it easier to work on other issues, such as your feeling that your being attracted to someone is inherently unwelcome before you’ve even said anything. Each step forward will make each following step that much easier for you.
You’re in a tough place, BTM, but you’re taking the right steps. Focus on that order of operations, take care of those underlying issues, and you’ll get through to the other side and be all the stronger for it.
You’ve got this.
All will be well.