“What exactly does that expression mean, ‘friends with benefits?’ Does he provide her with health insurance?” ~ Sheldon Cooper, The Big Bang Theory
Well, it doesn’t work quite like that, Dr. Cooper. Although it’d be tremendously helpful if it did; I could use a good medical plan.
Though it’s come to the forefront of American culture in only the last decade or so, the concept of friends with benefits (FWB) isn’t new. The human creature is a pack animal and craves physical closeness. But what if you don’t have someone to be physically close with on a regular basis? What about single/divorced/widowed folks?
Use your phone-a-friend option. But before you dial, consider a few noteworthy points:
• Do you become emotionally attached easily?
• Are you particularly jealous by nature?
• Is there a possibility you have romantic feelings for your friend – or vice versa?
If the answer to any of the above is yes, put down the phone. Now. Remove the battery if you have to. Take a cold shower. A FWB arrangement is probably not the best idea for you.
If you’re a subscriber or you know me personally, you’re already painfully aware I’m a textbook Aries. As such, I have a jealous streak – but it’s not one of the usual flavor. My jealousy doesn’t originate from a place of insecurity, but rather from a desire to be Number One. I want to be at the center of your attention – not her, not him, not them – me, me, me! However, I also have a Pisces Ascendant, a wistful water sign which is prone to jealousy, and to top it off, my Moon is in Aquarius, which is a detached, ain’t-no-thang air sign, one of the least inclined to jealousy in the zodiac. So what effect does this astrological train wreck have on a person?
The Moon rules the emotions and how we see ourselves. An Aquarius Moon reveals a lighthearted, take-it-or-leave-it attitude in matters of the heart…or so I’d like to think (self-image). The Ascendant is our public persona; how we appear to others. A Pisces Ascendant appears to be a sentimental dreamer (the bastard water sign cousin to Cancer) whose head is in the clouds and is easily hurt. But as my witty Aquarius friend likes to remind me, the Sun always shines. It is the essence of our character. Put ‘em all together, what do you get? A stubborn person who needs to stand out above the rest (Aries Sun), comes across as an overly-sensitive airhead (Pisces Ascendant), all the while telling myself it’s all good, I don’t need all that mushy-gushy lovey crap (Aquarius Moon). Translation: I’m more jealous and become attached more easily/quickly than I tend to believe. Finally, just for fun, let’s go ahead and throw in a Venus in Gemini, which indicates I’m rather aloof, flirty, and (allegedly) unfaithful in love (a whole ‘nother topic; we’ll delve into that another time). It boils down to basically not knowing what I want…and just when I think I’ve figured it out, I change my mind (props to my Moon and Venus air signs for that one.)
After moving to Hot Springs, Arkansas in 2011, I began a FWB arrangement with my oft-referred-to hippie Aquarius tree friend who shares my passion for astrology. While I can’t speak for him, it worked out beautifully on my end (no pun intended). I never felt the spark of a “relationship connection” with my friend (which surprised me, because he has qualities that I find wildly attractive: extreme intelligence, sharp wit, and a wicked sense of humor). But I did have a physical attraction to him…and well, I do like sex. So, as roommates, we shared a home, but as FWB we shared a bed and our bodies. Outside the bedroom, we went to movies, went out to eat, laughed, watched TV, had long conversations, argued incessantly over what does/doesn’t constitute a curb and whether it’s a “cue-pon” or a “coo-pon” (debates which are still in progress today), smoked weed, shopped, cooked – but as friends. And it was a blast! I had the best time being in the company of my quirky Aquarian friend. And as “just friends,” there was no hand-holding, no kissing, no hugging, no terms of endearment (unless you count “hooker” or “dumbass”), no displays of affection like you might witness with two people in a relationship. The only difference between us and any other pair of friends was, about once every week or two, give or take, as needed, we would provide, ahem, benefits for the other. For me, the main benefit was human (sexual) contact.
Alas, there comes a time in the life of every Aquarian tree genius when he feels he is ready and needs to move on. My Aquarian amigo was no different. One of his reasons being, as roommates/FWB, although we weren’t a committed couple, we didn’t sleep with other people during the time we were roommates/FWB because it wouldn’t have been right. “Bad juju,” he called it. At the same time, we both had close friends of the opposite sex to whom we spoke regularly, and neither of us thought anything of it. But when my free-spirited Aquarian friend moved out, taking the benefits with him, my reaction surprised even me: I was jealous! I felt like I was going through a breakup and it stung. Knowing he had developed an interest in another woman, I was crushed. I cried, I (over)analyzed the situation, trying anything to figure out what was going on inside me. Major depression set in. But why? I didn’t think of him That Way. Or wait, did I, and hadn’t realized it until now? Even worse, had I – gulp – fallen in love with my friend? The unanswered questions constantly gnawed at me.
With the benefit of hindsight (and industrial-strength antidepressants), I was able to pinpoint it. I was jealous; there’s no denying that. But why, and over someone with whom I wasn’t even interested in having a relationship? A few reasons, I discovered. First, I wasn’t Number One anymore. There was actually someone else he wanted to be around more than he did me. Secondly, I realized I had developed an emotional attachment – and quite a significant one at that. I understood that it had nothing to do with falling in love with my FWB. This wonderful, witty Aquarian had breezed into my life at a time when I had never felt more alone. He was my metaphorical crutch. He was there for me physically and emotionally when I really needed someone. He genuinely cared about me and about what happened to me during a very painful period in my life when it felt like no one else did. While the FWB situation had served my urges for human contact quite nicely, thank you very much, what I failed to recognize was that our hookups had provided me with a physical closeness which helped me feel more emotionally secure given the frame of mind I was in – post-breakup of an eight-year relationship, recent long-distance move, and other major life changes. My Water Bearer had also distracted me from the grief I was attempting to keep at bay. With him out of the picture – well, out of the house, anyway – I no longer had the distraction, nor did I have the – albeit false – sense of emotional security. I was now, more or less, alone with my own thoughts, and way too many painful ones. I had too much time on my hands to think after he was gone. I felt naked, alone, and abandoned. And terrified.
Even so, I still believe I’m capable of being involved in another FWB situation. If I were to enter into another arrangement like that, however, I would have to be certain I was in a less vulnerable place in my life. I would have to be absolutely positive I was doing it solely for the sexual pleasure and not as a distraction or to fill an emotional void. None of this is meant to imply I was only using my Aquarian FWB; while it’s now clear I used him sexually for emotional support on a subconscious level, rather than for sexual pleasure, he was, and still is, one of my closest, most treasured friends.
That said, I’d be a liar if I said his impressive physical endowment hadn’t been a huge bonus. Pun intended.