From her Twitter direct messages to her guts, it has been a true Miami love story from the start. It began with a simple lunch date to an Italian restaurant but evolved into an intimate relationship with the highly prestigious title of “friends with benefits”. In case you’re stuck in the middle ages, “friends with benefits” describes a friendship with the physicality of a relationship, but none of the commitment. I guess you could say we are committing to being friends, but there’s still an agreement for no emotional involvement.
So how did our relationship evolve to be like this? Well when I met her my first words were a cheesy pickup line, so it was understood that I wasn’t taking it too seriously. I puffed my chest out to nonverbally create an aura of confidence and gave her a kiss on the hand. I don’t know if it was the steady eye contact or a combination of all if it, but it inevitably created sexual tension. The pickup line eliminated the idea that I was approaching her for a generic friendship, and my body language established the atmosphere. The conversation progressed from talking about grabbing dinner to what we were going to do for dessert. After two dates of getting to know each other, we went to my friend’s house for drinks. It was just the four of us. She was visibly comfortable with everyone, her posture was up right, and there was a lot of subtle but noticed haptics going on between us. We were laughing and smiling the entire night, and since my friends approved of her, we left there attached to the hip. That night we consummated our “friendship”, and the following weeks were bliss. Everything was going smoothly until I received the dreadful but necessary, “What are we?” text.
Inherently, that question told me that all she needs is some simple clarification. We had tip-toed around the subject before, and it had always ended in a very ambiguous way. You could tell that neither of us wanted to complicate things because everything was going so well, but there comes a time where “the talk” is essential. I figured that she knew I didn’t want to get attached, because I hadn’t been in a relationship for over a year, and every girl I’ve flirted with after it I told the same thing, but her posing the question implies that she didn’t. It’s wasn’t problem at all, I’ve had this talk many times before. The worst thing that could happen is she’s not cool with it, ending it there.
Before we met to speak, I reflected on everything I’ve said and done to leading up to this point. I saw how my actions didn’t match my words, how every time I would see her I would act like we were in a relationship, but then when we weren’t together I would never call or text her. It definitely puts her in a confusing state, so it was time to lay the playing field.
The conversation was remarkably easy. She just wanted to know where this was going. I told her that I didn’t want commitment and she confirmed and said that she just needed to know before she started catching feelings. Going into this I knew that she wanted to know what my intentions were, but I didn’t know how she would react. She could’ve gotten upset and stormed out, but luckily she was down for keeping a purely physical relationship.
Things were moving seamlessly along, and I was seeing her about once a week for the next month. I wouldn’t text her very much, but when we would talk we would always have a lot to talk about. There were little to no times where we were bored in each-others company. I got really busy with school work and didn’t reach out to her for about two weeks, and the next time we met up she was noticeably upset. She was slouching, and her facial expressions conveyed a feeling of disappointment. I asked her what’s wrong and she refused to tell me. I cracked a couple of jokes and when she started to smile the flood gates opened. She went on and on for what felt like days about how I’m probably seeing other girls and that I don’t hit her up anymore and so on and so forth. Once I heard out her concerns, I reiterated that I’m not looking for a commitment. I said that I don’t have time, or interest for that. I told her that we should spend some time apart because she had become attached, and that’s what I’ve been trying to avoid. She told me that she’d get over it and that her feelings just came naturally. I agreed with her and said, “Whenever you think you’re ready, you can give me a call”.
About a month after that, I received a call from her and we picked up right where left off. All the physicality, none of the emotion. We would hang out more often then and she’d grown to be much more comfortable with me. While her emotional breakdown was exactly what I was trying to avoid, I wouldn’t just leave her out to dry because I was the one making her feel that way. After all, I knew beforehand that what I was getting into has a high risk and high reward. More often than not, one of the two people involved gets attached. Regardless, we evolved into a healthy friendship, and she seemed to be doing much better for herself. We left the emotions at the door and had a good time whenever we meet up. After all that’s what life’s about. Fast forward to present day and we are still going strong. We don’t meet up nearly as often, but when we do it’s always to lift each other up. She confides in me the same way a girlfriend would, but there’s no strain in the relationship, because we both understand that there is more to life than love.
I must say, her initiating the “what are we” conversation, says a lot about her self-perceptions of emotion. She was aware enough to notice that she was becoming attached, so she anticipated and reflected on what would come from it. Her action tendency lies in her decision to send me the text message, because she needed to know what to do with these newfound emotions. I don’t want to psychoanalyze her too much, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t try to read into what she’s thinking and feeling. It’s a double-edged sword because we never truly know what people are feeling and when we attempt to assume, the consequences of being wrong could be counterproductive.
Despite that, I’ve noticed that I’m quite good and reading people’s emotions. I don’t know if it’s a genetic thing, but throughout my 19 years of experience, that’s something I’ve learned to understand well. The six basic emotions may be the easiest to pick up on, but as I saw my friend’s “disappointment” all over her face, it’s clear that I can read into more complex ones. In one of our conversations, she asked me if I was seeing anyone else. I could sense the jealousy in her tone of voice, so I responded with “Do you really want to know?” Of course, her eager-minded self said yes, but I told her that’s not something I want to talk to her about. She understood but was noticeably suspicious. It was a mix between a glare and a scowl. By then though, she knew that if she kept bombarding me with questions that we would be over, so she kept quiet and we haven’t spoken about it since.
From our get-together to our times alone, I couldn’t tell if she was more extroverted or introverted. I’m sure she has a bit of both. Naturally, she was more defensive when we met compared to how we are now, but whenever we were around other people, she seemed semi-comfortable. There was only one exception. When we were with a bigger group, she noticeably spoke less and seemed more anxious. I think it was the intimidation of a bunch of people. She perceived the environment as not her comfort zone, so it spiraled into determining that it was unfavorable to act out. She figured she’d do better unnoticed. Her body language was hunched over and very inward, and she was doing much more listening than talking.
Although, when I think about it, what I thought was listening may have just been hearing. She did seem to space out from time to time. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want you to think that she had an awful night and crashed a party. It was still a fun night, and as the night went on and the drinks were served, she proceeded to blossom, but there was a noticeable difference as to how she normally is. She may have been listening, but believe me there was no attending, interpreting, or remembering. To this day I don’t think she can remember more than three of the people’s names who attended.
She is a time-centered listener, while I’m an action-centered listener. I tend to understand the premise of what people are saying and interrupt before they finish because I already know what the end of their sentence will be. I implore the cooperative principle often, although it can come across as rude. I believe knowing people’s desires helps me reach my own. Knowing what people want is also the key to survival in Game of Thrones, but since times aren’t as tough, it’s less about survival and more about just living a fruitful life. Understanding everyone’s goals assists that. This doesn’t eliminate that I’m a people and content centered listener, because we are never one all the time. Different conversations require different modes of attentiveness, I just find myself to be in action-mode more often than not.
Our main argument’s (although argument may not be the best word to describe them, it’s more so just a conversation), involved learning about each-others wants and needs. They stemmed from miscommunication, or should I say, a lack thereof, in that there was no communication at all. When we would finally come together to speak, it would be best to speak in concrete terms. In order to avoid confusion, which is what started the conversations in the first place, we didn’t abstractly elaborate our viewpoints too much. Our conversations always moved along smoothly because of it.
The last thing I want to mention, is that “friends with benefits” doesn’t just happen with anyone. As I defined it to you earlier, I may have had to define it to her as well. She may not have known what it was either. It could have been something completely unimaginable in her culture and ended up changing the entire dynamic of our relationship just by the mention of it. That’s the beauty of language and communication. It’s consequential. How my friend interprets every action I’ve done and every word I’ve spoken, will reflect how she has been raised. She will apply all of her past experiences to understand what I want, what she wants, and how to make both, one, or none of them happen. That’s why she starts off like closed book until she learns more about me. She’s constantly deciding what the right words are, just the same as me. Our intimacy affects the conversational dynamic as does every situation we’ve been in. From that I can read into how she thinks. It is linguistic relativity, and it all comes full circle.
While I do care for her, I’ve kept it a priority to not get attached. It’s definitely a distraction to me right now. I can’t predict exactly what our future will look like, but I’m sure it won’t lead to commitment. Actually, now that I think about it… Who knows? I know what I want now, but in the future, there are limitless possibilities. She is a good girl so I’m glad we have an agreement and I’m not just stringing her along, but I don’t see it evolving much more. I see us continuing what we have going until the near future. Until then, I’m, just going to enjoy the ride. Maybe I’ll meet a girl that makes me want to commit, maybe I’ll go viral on YouTube and drop out of school, or maybe I’ll pass this class with an A… Actually, I’ll make that a definitely. I don’t know where my life will go, but I’ll be enjoying every second of it.
Jandt, F. E. (n.d.). Conflict & Communication. Sage.
Doyle, A. (n.d.). A List of Conflict Management Skills With Examples. Retrieved from https://www.thebalancecareers.com/conflict-management-skills-2059687