• Fri, Jul 22 2011

Friends With Benefits: Why It Sometimes Makes Sense For Career Women

Friends with Benefits comes out today. Similar to the movie No Strings Attached, it’s about two friends who decide to add casual sex to their relationship. Mila Kunis‘ character is an over-worked headhunter who claims she’s “emotionally unavailable,” while Justin Timberlake, who is equally over-worked, defines himself as “emotionally damaged.”

Of course the arrangement of ‘friends with benefits,’ isn’t something that all people want to engage in ever in their lives. Dr. Drew Pinsky has been very outspoken about the potential downfall that can come with such a relationship, even saying: “It’s usually the sickest part of one person fitting into the attraction of the sickest part of another.” But if it’s just sex, how can it be so bad?

I am a big fan of friends with benefits. While it can get sticky (read: a total mess sometimes that involves screaming matches on a sidewalk somewhere), it is for some, an ideal situation. I have had been in a handful of relationships in my life, some more serious than others, and I’ve even dropped the ‘L’ word once or twice. But to be completely honest, I really cannot be any less interested in having a boyfriend at this point in the game. I’ve also never been one of those women who needs a boyfriend as some way to validate my worth or sex appeal.

For the past three years of my life, I have had an on-again/off-again friends with benefits situation with one of closest male friends. Actually, he’s one of my closest friends in the world. And while my girlfriends who are in relationships roll their eyes at the situation because, admittedly, it does keep me in a lot of ways from pursuing a ‘real’ relationship, considering my priorities, it works for me. Oh yes, there have been blowouts, there have been fights on more than a few sidewalks in this city, throwing of phones, horrendous name calling and in a lot of cases ending with me jumping on a plane out of town for several months at a time. But after not talking for months, it’s usually less than a week after my return to the city, that he’s back in my life and the drama, our bizarre and completely un-understandable relationship ensues.

Although I’m the first to admit emotions are the main reason behind the drama, a lot of it also stems from the fact that, perhaps, we know each other too well. We know how to hurt each other in ways that no one else can, and both of us having an evil streak, we go for the jugular every time.

Why do I put up with this? Because, honestly, I’m too busy for a boyfriend. I’d rather make it as a successful writer than have to work on having a grownup, stable relationship. I feel it would be unfair of me to even try to have a relationship right now, because I don’t have enough to give nor would I be as emotionally invested as I should be. When my career falls into place, then I’ll focus on love, but right now I can have fun with this friend and not feel obligated to call him the next day.

I’m not alone in this thinking either. Studies show that for some modern, successful women the idea of committing to someone besides themselves as “scary” and a “compromise.” If you have your sights set on achieving a professional goal and fulfilling that dream, it’s hard to make time for a relationship that, for some, may be second in line – or sometimes third or fourth.

The average marrying age for women has jumped significantly from the early 20′s to the early 30′, as women have embraced their place in the business world and their sexual liberation. Many women have replaced early marriage with self-fulfillment and their career path – a trend that is also making women far more sexually aggressive than they used to be. Polls regarding this show that many men are actually “frightened” by the sexual aggressive behavior displayed by their female counterparts. Whoever thought that anyone would be scared of: “Hey there. Why don’t you come over to my place, we’ll have some fun and then you’ll never have to see me again?” Seems like an ideal situation.

A study conducted of 125 men and women showed that 60% had, at least one time in their life, a friends with benefits arrangement. But of that 60%, only 10% evolved into a romantic relationship, 51% were able to return to being friends without having sex anymore, and 39% lose the ‘benefits’ and the friendship all together. Because let’s be honest, it’s hard to have sex with a friend, then just stop. It’s not as though it’s a relationship where both parties part ways.

I’ll agree that there probably is some psychological damage that comes with such behavior, but mostly I’m going to say that’s because the playing table can’t be even. One person is going to fall harder than the other. That’s not to say they’ll fall in love, but emotions are messy business and they are a major component for these types of relationships – even if people say otherwise.

As for me, I’m completely fine with my friends with benefits set up. No, really, I am. There are no emotions involved at all. I swear.

Never underestimate the power of denial.

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You can reach this post's author, Amanda Chatel, on twitter.
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