THE FIRST SUNDAY of August is International Friendship Day, a day to celebrate our friends and the unique bonds we have with those individuals outside of our biological family. For the LGBTQ community, our friends often form what is commonly referred to as “families of choice.” That is, in the absence of acceptance or strong relationships with our biological families, we as a community often form tight kinship networks with other LGBTQA people. Whether or not you have a good relationship with your biological family, your friends are no doubt an important part of your life. A good friend supports and accepts you unconditionally and is there for you through thick and thin.
With friends being such integral parts of our lives, especially for LGBTQ folks, what happens when a friend becomes more than just a friend? We’ve all seen friendships develop into some kind of romantic relationship. A friend is often someone who shares things in common with you, who you enjoy being around and trust—all desirable qualities one might look for in a partner. However, what if you are not looking for romance? Is a purely sexual relationship with a close friend possible or is such an arrangement doomed? Are there benefits to a “friends with benefits” arrangement?
According to journalists, bloggers and individuals on social media, there are basically two schools of thought on this topic. One side argues that in every situation where friends take on a more physical relationship, one or both individuals will ultimately want something more. If this desire is one-sided, that person will be hurt, and the friendship will be ruined when they are rejected by the other.
On the other side, some argue that a “friends with benefits” scenario could be healthy and productive when the people involved communicate clearly and have boundaries in place. I am not here to pick sides, but to offer some suggestions to those involved or interested in such an arrangement should the opportunity present itself.
I think both sides of this argument make valid points. There is definitely opportunity for those involved in a casual sexual relationship with a friend to get hurt. Even when both parties desire a “no-strings-attached” sexual relationship, feelings
change over time, and some individuals may not be as forthcoming about their true motives as we would all hope. However, if boundaries are established and communication is ongoing, I think there is potential for both parties to benefit.
What is always most important is that you are true to yourself. You have very little, if any, control over your friend’s thoughts and feelings about the situation, so it is imperative that you are clear on what you want and that you express those desires to your friend. You must also be willing to end the sexual relationship if at any time you feel yourself getting too emotionally attached or feel that your friend may be. In order to salvage a friendship if the sexual component ends, you must practice good damage control and avoid as much pain as possible.
If a “friends with benefits” arrangement is something you are considering, just be sure it is truly what you want, continue to communicate clearly with your friend and keep weighing the benefits. As with any intimate relationship, always protect your physical and emotional health.