We are taught that all relationships that don’t end up in marriage are failures (because, ya know, hetero-normativity and patriarchal narratives or whatever).
But subscribing to that belief ignores the fact that romantic friendships can be extremely fulfilling, enlightening, and straight-up fun.
But sometimes, romantic friendships can offer a type of intimacy that committed relationships can’t.
Of course, I’m not dismissing the benefits of committed, long-term, loving relationships. And perhaps the reason romantic friendships are often so sustainable is they lack the soul-baring vulnerability and intense emotional investment.
Maybe the coolest thing about the fuck-buddy economy is that it allows women to actually enjoy sex in a casual way, without having to enter an old-fashioned ownership contract. It’s a chance to explore ourselves and other people.
“But with my fuck buddies it’s been like, For all the benefits of fuck friendery, it’s still possible for this dynamic to screw with your emotions.
“At different points in our relationship,” Casey recalled, “it was hard to respect the line between friendship and flirting when he started dating someone, because I’d known him more intimately than his new partner.
When I met him, he was 45 and charmingly grumpy, and he would always tell me: “Sex is so perfect. ” I’d go over to his apartment for a couple hours in the afternoons, we’d have sex (soberly, which meant I could actually cum), and then afterward we’d drink tea and complain about stuff. There were times when we saw each other frequently, and other times when things dropped off for a while, usually because one of us had a partner. It felt like we had entered this secretive bubble of transparency—we were emotionally intimate, yet free of the burden of jealousy and ownership.
And sure, when he would get a girlfriend I would be a little bummed out—I’m (unfortunately) not a sociopath—but it didn’t cause me to spiral into an emotional cyclone the way I would have if I’d been cheated on by a boyfriend. We could spill our guts to each other because we didn’t have anything to lose.
Others dismiss fuck-buddy dynamics as just being compulsive sex that’s devoid of emotion. Surely it’s possible to find a middle ground between eternal love and zombie-fucking a stranger: a place where you can care about someone, have good sex, and yet not want to literally implode at the thought of them sleeping with someone else. Case in point: The most significant romantic friendship of my life was with an ex-editor of mine, whom I’ll call Malcolm.
We started “a thing” five years ago and have yet to end it.
This arrangement would generally be called a friend with benefits, or a fuck buddy, or a romantic friendship, or perhaps even a relationship—with “no strings attached.” But let’s be real: There are always strings, aren’t there?
It was while planning this vacation that it hit me: The two longest relationships of my life have both been with men who I was never officially dating.
And he actually knows me better than a lot of my partners ever did.