Can a friends-with-benefits relationship turn into love? I’m 16 and my friend is 17. We really like each other, but school is so much pressure that neither of us feel like we can have a real relationship right now. Just hooking up gives us the chance to blow off steam and not worry for a while about getting into college or disappointing our parents if we don’t succeed. The problem is that I think I’m in love with my friend and I don’t want to tell him if it would ruin the friendship.
Ay yi yi! If I were your mama or papa, I’d be crying right now because I’d failed to teach you about the qualities of a healthy relationship. And, because of that failure, you’ve wholeheartedly embraced the culture’s belief system about sex and status.
Take a look here through the lens of truth: Attending a UC or Ivy League university is no guarantee of a perfect life. A good education is important, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t protect you from a 50 percent divorce rate. It’s also no shield against bankruptcy or cancer or addiction or having a child you can’t handle because she or he has birth defects or a mental illness. I’ve counseled plenty of addicts, and even homeless folks, who attended the best private American universities, as well as those highly favored UC schools. So here’s the secret about education that neither educational institutions nor the industries they support want you to know: It’s no savior and it’s no guarantee. A university education prepares you for a career. It does not prepare you for life.
It’s the job of the people around you to prepare you for life by mentoring the development of your conscience and compassion. Parents, teachers, neighbors, coaches, shopkeepers and others must model and teach you values, communication skills, conflict-resolution skills, creative problem solving, moderation, and, yes, the intricacies of emotional, mental, spiritual and physical intimacy. Unfortunately, too many adults are overly occupied by work, because they want to buy more status-related stuff, to do this.
If you are using sex to reduce stress, then clearly all of us have failed you. My apologies. Sex is a celebration of the attraction and love between two people, not something to do when you’re bored or when your parents are on your case about scoring straight As. If your folks burden you with so much pressure that you use sex as a release valve, you need to see a counselor to learn how to confront them about their behavior. Otherwise you’re laying the track for a subterranean life. That’s where, on the surface, you’re the accomplished, successful woman, but beneath that veneer you’re hiding an addiction.
So, can friends-with-benefits turn into love? If it does happen, it’s rare. It’s a relationship of using and being used, and that’s not what love is about. Even if the relationship began developing into something more, the tendency to take the other for granted already is in place. The physical intimacy of sex and the hormones released by the act lead our brains to believe that we’re falling in love. Actually, we’re behaving as if we are slaves to biology instead of masters of our conscious minds. That means if you and this guy are really friends, you wouldn’t be using each other. And hearing “I love you” could create a temporarily awkward situation—but between real friends, it would be met with honesty and kindness, even if it is not reciprocated.