I know, I know…
Why would that phrase be on a Christian singles website?
Honestly speaking, I enjoy the shock value of the phrase “friends with benefits.” It’s the perfect response to those people inquiring about your opposite sex friendship in an effort to figure out your dating status.
Of course, in the case of this post, I don’t mean the culturally insinuated sexual benefits, but the relational benefits that accompany friendships between guys and girls.
So what are some of these benefits?
Friendship. I’ve heard people say it’s not possible to have a friendship with a person of the opposite sex without a physical attraction happening at some point (or messing it up, depending on how you view this topic). While I agree there will always be that possibility, I believe that there are healthy opposite sex friendships without the physical component.
Social companionship. Sometimes I go out on non-dates. I suppose by the definition of a date, I don’t have to be intimately involved with a person, but that’s how society defines it. Sometimes it’s nice to have a “+1” to take with you when you go to a party or event where the invitations are in pairs. This worked out nicely when I wanted to go to a black tie event and wear my mismatched Converse shoes. My male friend, who accepts my quirkiness, also wore some crazy shoes and we attended together. It was nice to have someone to converse with. (Pun intended.)
Sharing common interests. I love to volunteer at the homeless shelter. I go with my friend, who is also my ex-boyfriend, to volunteer on a regular basis. Weird? Some think so. He and I share common interests in many areas of compassion and we enjoy doing these things together. Some things are more fun to do with another person rather than doing them alone.
Differing perspectives. Sometimes it’s good to be able to bounce ideas off a guy instead of other girls. They see life differently and can offer a fresh viewpoint, especially when it comes to relationship advice.
What about the challenges of opposite sex friendships? In my experience, some existing realities could potentially strain these friendships or create an environment where one or both people get hurt. A few lessons I’ve learned:
Expect change. Life happens and it will change the relationships in your life. A friendship with benefits is no exception. Your friendship status could change for a number of reasons and that’s a healthy expectation.
People will meddle. People will assume what they want, encourage you to date and want to know why you’re not. If you’re worried about what others think, then you’re in for a difficult time. I’ve learned to take the jokes and deal with couples desperately trying to make my singleness fit in with their paired up world; I pick my battles. Acceptance of this process will make your life easier.
Communication is necessary. Have a DTR—Define the Relationship—talk. This is a healthy way to have opposite sex friendships. It eliminates the guessing game of defining your relationship. I’m not saying this has to happen before you can become friends, but this becomes necessary at some point to avoid hurt feelings. The key is honesty. Trust me, it’s the most difficult thing to do, but it works well.
Uh-oh, I’m attracted. This could happen. It could also be that you’re not attracted to your friend, but your friend is attracted to you. I don’t have an easy answer of whether you should or shouldn’t act on it, but it’s not a bad idea to think about it ahead of time. Consider the possibility so you’re not blindsided by it.
Your friends may encourage you. People will try to fix your singleness. They see your friends of the opposite sex as potential mates, as if you haven’t already considered this possibility. In my case, one of my best friends is my ex-boyfriend. And no, my friends have not stopped suggesting another round of dating. When they ask, “Why not?” Just be prepared to answer or deflect. “Look! Did Elvis just walk by?”
Status change will happen. Your friend may start dating someone. You may start dating someone. Tell them first, you know, before you post it on Facebook. This will undoubtedly change your relationship. Talk about it and set some healthy boundaries. You don’t have to end your friendship, but it will change things.
Expectations are important. I suffer from F.E.D. (Fairytale Expectations Disorder) so this is important for me. If you have expectations that you will someday date, or you will never date, or maybe this person will always be your best friend, go back and read the first point. Expect change. Be open to any and all possibilities. You don’t have to cross any bridge until you get to it, but know there are bridges ahead.
Whether or not we’re looking for a mate, or even desiring that right now, culture’s perception is, “You are single, therefore you must be looking for a mate. If you’re not, something is obviously wrong with you, or you’re lying about it.”
Just for the record, sometimes I desire a mate and sometimes I don’t. I’m open to it, but that doesn’t mean my existence is based on finding that special person. In the mean time, I’ll enjoy the benefits of my friendships. All of them.
What do you think about guy/girl friendships? Do they work? Leave your thoughts in the comments!
Most people would call her “radical,” but Jody Wissing doesn’t see it that way. She is known in her circle of friends as being an activist of everything environmental and humanitarian. Some of her challenges include a year of no retail shopping and a year of downsizing, which ended up in the ultimate downsize–her house. As a seeker of anything artistic and fun, Jody loves blogging, spending time with her two sons, adventures to find abandoned houses and likes being the neighborhood mom who gives all the kids water guns filled with paint. You can follow Jody on Twitter @jodywissing or on her blog at rethinkgood.com.
Photo credit: Powerhouse Museum