Sex & Relationships

Love, Kate: Can We Be FWB When He Wants More?

Our sex and relationship columnist, Kate Carraway, to the rescue!

Love Kate Kristen Stewart
Is it OK to fool around with a really nice guy who is in love with me—when I’m not in love with him?

Oof, so you’re already making out with him, I guess? I don’t really see this happening in the way of, say, a beautiful man coming to you on bended jean with cartoon hearts beating outside his chest, which he then wraps up like a bouquet of flowers and hands to you with hopeful eyes…and then you just casually throw down for a few hours on a weeknight when you’ve already burned through the shows on your DVR.

More likely, you already had an adventitious sexual relationship with him in play, or were casually dating, and then he caught feelings that became love-love, and you weren’t so sure, but the attention and/or sex and/or attention-plus-sex was so good that you ignored his love-feelings until now, because maybe they’re starting to assert themselves in less innocuous ways, and you’re guiltily thinking, “This isn’t so good, I don’t think.” Am I right? I’m right, aren’t I?

My first question is, are you sure he’s in love with you? Like love-love? Did he actually tell you he’s in love with you? Has he expressed interest in being with you in a full-time datey way? If so, skip ahead a bit.

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If not: some guys are puppy-dog-devoted to the girl or girls in their lives, just naturally, as a part of who they are. (I tend to think this is especially common between more reserved, quiet guys and more outgoing, self-assured women.) It could be that he’s just psyched to be around you, and engaged with and inspired by you, and you’re interpreting his behaviour as love-love because he can be communicative and corny and there for you in a way that feels unusual if you mostly know guys of another, less expressive variety. Making assumptions about another person’s emotional status based on what feels good or flattering or whatever, is, in any scenario, selfish.

Or, yeah, he could be super-seriously in love with you but knows that you’re not in the same place, and is going to do whatever he can to prevent you from noticing and therefore feeling weird/bad/guilty (as you already are) and cutting him off.

Like you should be doing with anyone you’re in any kind of sexual or relationship thing with, talk to him about what you’re doing, and if you’re feeling any conflict or need to redefine boundaries. Make sure it’s crystal, crystal clear—and do it gently, since you are in the emotional-power-position—that you’re into him only as a friend with benefits. This kind of talk doesn’t guarantee that he’ll also be honest and upfront with his feelings—or that his feelings are necessarily obvious to him—but it’s a prerequisite when you’re not 100 percent on where someone else is coming from, what they want, what they’re getting. BTW: if he’s cagey about his feelings, or straight up won’t talk to you, end the nice-guy-with-benefits thing anyway. Not worth it.

We’re all adults, right? So theoretically he should be able to decide for himself, after you’ve said your thing, as plain as Saskatchewan, if he still wants to sleep with you. That is technically OK and just fine and have fun and use condoms.

Why Aren’t I More Obsessed with My BF? 

But. Shouldn’t there be an obligation on your part—and I think you might actually feel this obligation, or why ask?—or on part of the person in your position, to respect the fact that while love is an incredibly lucky thing to feel, even when it isn’t felt back, it can also be crazily awful and traumatizing? (Evidence that your heart “works” in this way doesn’t mean that unrequited love feels, like, good.) Isn’t it still manipulative to get down with someone who likes you a lot more than you like them, even if everything is on the table? And shouldn’t sex and relationships, even non-relationship-relationships, be opportunities to learn about and become the kind of person we want to be? (Yes!) Do you want to be the kind of person who takes and gets what she wants, regardless of what boy-scraps she leaves in her wake? (No? No.)

That’s hecka emo, but you know what I mean. I guess that’s all up to you. And maybe this situation will mutate, as they tend to do—maybe one day you’ll be thinking about him with cartoon-hearts busting out of your tank top, and how to get him to call you back. But I think if you’re looking for permission to do something you know isn’t right, don’t.

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