When Sex Leads To Friendship

Photo by PHUOC LE on Unsplash

Last month, when my dating life seemed completely hopeless, I was on the phone with my friend who, among other things, is a psychologist. She coached me through my last major relationship and subsequent break-up, so she was well aware of my hot button issues. I mention this only because, during that recent phone call, as winter was ramping down, she suggested that I stop looking to get in a relationship and just try to find a sexual partner. Her explanation was that from everything she knew about me, she could tell that I used the word “relationship” when what I really meant was “sex.”

I wasn’t entirely convinced. As I continued to think about what she had recommended, I had to try to come to terms with who I really was as a person. I always considered myself emotionally evolved on a profound level and hook-up culture never seemed right for me. I was too sensitive for that kind of thing.

Or was I?

There was quite a bit to unpack there. In one respect, I love living alone and having the freedom of living my own life. The two months I spent over the winter, writing my book in complete solitude, was probably one of the most significant periods of my life. I had the unique opportunity to really get to know who I was, along with the experience of accomplishing one of the greatest achievements I could imagine. This was the sort of thing that never could’ve happened if I cohabitated with a lover.

But something was missing. Was it really as simple as the act of sex? I still wasn’t sure.

A few weeks passed and I received a Facebook message from a friend of a friend who mentioned that she had read quite a few of my recent articles and suggested that since we were both looking for physical release, perhaps we could be useful to each other. Obviously, this lacks the cinematic flair that many of us long for at the beginning of a sexual relationship, but for myself, it fit right into the pragmatic era I seem to be going through.

Before long, I found myself making the hour-long drive to her house. Mind you, I have very little experience with sexual liaisons that involve people I met minutes earlier, but there is a bit of excitement that goes along with that and it had been a long winter — excitement was exactly what I needed.

There was something else about the incident that I found satisfying, as well. Human connection. It had been so long since I had felt my body intermingling with another body that I forgot about the incredible release of brain chemical happiness that takes place as a result of this. It felt beautiful, not cheap — as I was afraid it might initially.

On the drive home, it occurred to me that “cheap” is a word we use to describe the way we feel about ourselves based on societal conventions. When we are brought up to believe that we need to go on three dinner dates with a stranger before it is proper to take our clothes off with them, anything less than that can make us feel strange. In essence though, what do we know about that person that I didn’t know about the person I had just been with? Not much. If anything, there was a little more honesty involved in what I had just experienced.

As time goes on and we joke and laugh with each other between visits, it feels like we are becoming closer friends. The conversations range from what we liked about our last experience and what we didn’t like; where we’ll meet next time and sometimes even about personal lives. It would be short-sighted not to imagine that it could possibly grow into something deeper and closer — however, there is quite a bit of physical distance between us. So, that could be challenging.

What I’ve learned, though, is that we’ve been programmed by societal norms to hope that we’ll meet a person, become friends real quick and watch it blossom into a physical relationship. This felt like something that took place more organically in college. The environment was right for that. Here at middle age, slowly becoming friends with the person you are having sex with feels more authentic. It might just be a question of logistics.

Whatever it is, I can say this for sure: I haven’t been this content for a long time.


When Sex Leads To Friendship was originally published in P.S. I Love You on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

2 comments

  • Deborah Paiva

    Deborah Paiva Delray Beach, FL

    I love your perspective. I also love the fact that once the idea of having sex, but not necessarily a relationship, was processed...then it seemed to organically happen. I had a similar experience after my divorce. I went for 3 years without sex. I love living alone, but I missed the human contact, the nakedness together, the vulnerability of the experience of being that open with another human being. I knew exactly when my 3rd anniversary of abstinence was, and the night before I allowed it to happen very organically with someone I'd dated only a couple of times, but had known for awhile. It was delicious, in the sense that I felt so unencumbered and so purely sensual. I drove home at 7:30 am feeling empowered and truly sexy again. However, I wasn't ready for a relationship, and so I said no to his future advances for a year and a half. Then I finally agreed to see him again, and we had a sexual "relationship" for about 6 months. I walked away because the emotional side wasn't sustaining enough, or deep enough for me. I may have looked at it more as "friends with benefits" however we weren't even good enough friends at that point, so it began to feel a bit empty. After awhile he began contacting me again. He told me he wanted a "relationship" with me. That no one else made him feel the way I do...and on & on. So one year after we had parted we began what he called "a relationship." He said he wanted long term, I knew it wasn't going to be, but once more I truly missed the human touch and connection. I was craving the nakedness with someone I could feel vulnerable and open with. I also missed the fun of being with someone I cared about. I didn't think it would end as quickly, or as abruptly as it did. This time it only lasted 4 months. I knew it wouldn't last a very long time, but it was fun, and I need fun in my life. I'm so serious about my business, my speaking gigs, my writing...and even my singing gigs. Looking back, his daily drinking was the red flag that I was totally aware of, but ignoring for awhile. I just wasn't ready to stop having fun yet. However, I learned so much about myself in this back and forth "relationship" of 3+ years. I learned that I can't be with someone who values alcohol over everything else (my marriage was a great example of that). I also learned that I need to be with someone who I can be my authentic self with at all times, and that my "fun" can't depend on anyone else. So now I'm working on making my business...all of it, more fun! I'm also open to whatever "relationship" presents itself, as long as I maintain my own sense of authenticity. I'm looking forward to being open and vulnerable again, to be naked with someone again, to have physical fun again. But it can wait...until it happens organically once more, and I know it will! Thanks so much for your blog Billy...it enabled me to open up and process my own thoughts.

    I love your perspective. I also love the fact that once the idea of having sex, but not necessarily a relationship, was processed...then it seemed to organically happen.

    I had a similar experience after my divorce. I went for 3 years without sex. I love living alone, but I missed the human contact, the nakedness together, the vulnerability of the experience of being that open with another human being. I knew exactly when my 3rd anniversary of abstinence was, and the night before I allowed it to happen very organically with someone I'd dated only a couple of times, but had known for awhile. It was delicious, in the sense that I felt so unencumbered and so purely sensual. I drove home at 7:30 am feeling empowered and truly sexy again. However, I wasn't ready for a relationship, and so I said no to his future advances for a year and a half.

    Then I finally agreed to see him again, and we had a sexual "relationship" for about 6 months. I walked away because the emotional side wasn't sustaining enough, or deep enough for me. I may have looked at it more as "friends with benefits" however we weren't even good enough friends at that point, so it began to feel a bit empty.

    After awhile he began contacting me again. He told me he wanted a "relationship" with me. That no one else made him feel the way I do...and on & on. So one year after we had parted we began what he called "a relationship." He said he wanted long term, I knew it wasn't going to be, but once more I truly missed the human touch and connection. I was craving the nakedness with someone I could feel vulnerable and open with. I also missed the fun of being with someone I cared about.

    I didn't think it would end as quickly, or as abruptly as it did. This time it only lasted 4 months. I knew it wouldn't last a very long time, but it was fun, and I need fun in my life. I'm so serious about my business, my speaking gigs, my writing...and even my singing gigs.

    Looking back, his daily drinking was the red flag that I was totally aware of, but ignoring for awhile. I just wasn't ready to stop having fun yet. However, I learned so much about myself in this back and forth "relationship" of 3+ years. I learned that I can't be with someone who values alcohol over everything else (my marriage was a great example of that). I also learned that I need to be with someone who I can be my authentic self with at all times, and that my "fun" can't depend on anyone else. So now I'm working on making my business...all of it, more fun! I'm also open to whatever "relationship" presents itself, as long as I maintain my own sense of authenticity. I'm looking forward to being open and vulnerable again, to be naked with someone again, to have physical fun again. But it can wait...until it happens organically once more, and I know it will!

    Thanks so much for your blog Billy...it enabled me to open up and process my own thoughts.

  • Billy Manas

    Billy Manas

    What an interesting turn of events. I’m so glad you found it helpful.

    What an interesting turn of events. I’m so glad you found it helpful.

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