Has anyone ever used that phrase with you before? “Friend with Emotional Benefits?” I don’t remember where I heard it, but let me just define it for you. A “Friend with Emotional Benefits” could be described as someone that a member of the opposite sex (or same sex, if that’s more your speed) spends all of their time with, in between significant others. You’re not their significant other, but you do all of the things that couples do. Almost like an emotional bootycall. Things don’t ever really get physical, but the emotional boundaries get blurred. They tell you everything. You do everything together. You’ll get phone calls that go a little something like “Hey, that girl I was ‘talking’ to? Yeah, well, we broke it off. But I still really wanted to go see that movie and grab dinner. Wanna go? I’ll pay!” Yes, that exact situation happened to me. One of my closest guy friends stopped ‘talking’ to that one girl and as he was LEAVING HER DORM called me. This was the first time I realized I was his friend with emotional benefits. At the time I didn’t mind. Because I had a crush on him. I thought, oh, well now I get to hang out with him! This is great! What I didn’t realize was that all that time, he was taking advantage of my emotional availability, as well as my time. Now, I don’t think he realized it either. He’s one of the sweetest men I have ever had the privilege of knowing; I don’t think he’s capable of intentionally putting someone into that situation. Hindsight is 20/20, right? So, looking back I see how glaringly obvious it was that I was the girl in between girlfriends. But at the time, I didn’t see it. I’ve thought about writing a memoir about this topic because I have been that girl for so many people.
Signs that you are someone’s “Friend with Emotional Benefits”
- You know things about them that their past/future S/Os will never know.
- They text you at midnight because they don’t want to go to Jimmy John’s by themselves.
- They show up at your work with your favorite flower because it made them think of you. Did I mention they might also be wearing a tux?
- You might go on spontaneous road trips.
- They will definitely exploit your ability to give kick ass back rubs (if you have this skill, keep it to yourself. You’ll thank me later).
- You’ll meet their parents and subsequently make them fall in love with you. You may even end up with their phone numbers.
- You’ll feel comfortable staying with their parents when you need an escape from your responsibilities.
- They might call you and talk to you on the phone for hours at a time when they do move away from you.
- They might meet your parents and subsequently win their hearts.
- They will learn all of your siblings names and ages, and ask how they’re doing on the reg.
- You might sit in their car with them until 3 o’clock in the morning eating Taco Bell and talking about life.
- They might not find it weird at all to walk arm in arm with you out in public.
- They might make a point of paying most (if not every) time you go out together.
- They might not find it uncomfortable to lay in bed and watch Netflix with you.
- Your best friend might suddenly get fiercely protective over you and want to tell this boy what’s up (because she can see you deserve better than this even if you don’t).
- They do all of these things without any romantic attachment.
Based on this list alone, I’m sure that memoir would be longer than the Order of the Phoenix (shout out to JK Rowling. I love all of those books). Reading this list may not raise any red flags, but let me remind you, all of these things are happening without actually dating that person. And it’s not all their fault. I could’ve put my foot down; set up some more rigid emotional boundaries. I could’ve done a better job at protecting myself.
But one day, not too long ago, I realized that I would let myself get into these situations because I didn’t think I deserved any better. I was so insecure in who I was as a person that I had somehow convinced myself that all I would ever manage to have in terms of a romantic relationship was to be someone’s friend with emotional benefits. What a damaging view to have. To think that I thought that I was somehow unworthy of actually being in a relationship with someone. I thought I didn’t deserve to be loved. I didn’t think I was good enough. I’ve since come a long way. I acknowledge that there are a lot of things about myself that I think are great. I won’t lie and say I never, ever feel insecure, but I will say that I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m a catch. Flips hair.
Maybe you’re a dude looking at this list of things thinking there’s nothing wrong with it. There’s nothing wrong with stringing along your female friends and doing “coupley” things with them without the label. I just have to say: you’re better than that. Maybe you’re a girl reading this list and thinking there’s nothing wrong with being in situations like this. There’s nothing wrong with a guy treating you like his girlfriend and then going off and actually getting into a real relationship with someone else. To you I’ll say, you deserve better.
Going to a Christian university in the Midwest was a wild ride, especially for someone that grew up in New York. People smiled at me. People I didn’t know. But out of all of the cute little quirks that make the Midwest different from New York (aside from the significantly lower driving standards), the one that got to me the most was the pressure to get married young. Maybe it’s not a universally Midwestern concept, maybe it’s just the Christian school mindset, but still. A 2013 study found that the average age for a woman to get married in Missouri was 26.5, while the age was 29.1 in New York. There’s a little bit of a difference there…Maybe not as much as I was expecting, because it seems like literally EVERYONE I know has gotten married, even my friends that are younger than me. I even have friends that are having babies on purpose. Anyway, there was a cute little saying at Evangel… “Ring by Spring!” At first I thought this was some horrible, sick joke. You couldn’t honestly expect to meet someone at the beginning of the academic year and be engaged to them the next semester…right? I could buy a sweater in August and completely regret it by the time May rolled around. How on earth do you know in that amount of time that you want to spend the rest of your life with someone? I know I know, “when you know, you just know!” My whole life I have been skeptical of people who get married that quickly. And my dad says to me all the time “Kate, you know that’s exactly what’s going to happen to you, right? You always say that’ll never happen to you, but you just wait.” My dad has never been wrong. But there’s a first time for everything, right?
The sad thing is, it isn’t a joke. People meant it. In my junior year at Evangel, I made a list of everyone I knew that had gotten engaged or married just within those past twelve months. I stopped counting at 46 couples. That’s 92 individual people. At a university of only 2,200 students, that’s like 4 percent of the population. IN ONE YEAR. In an environment where you’re surrounded by people feeling like they have to be in a relationship, it can take a toll on you. You start to believe “Well, I still haven’t met anyone or gotten into a relationship…maybe there’s something wrong with me?” As much as I hate to admit it, there was a time that I bought into that. I thought there was something about me that was inherently unlovable. I’m too emotional. I’m too stubborn. I’m too independent. I’m too… The list goes on. Fortunately, I didn’t feel that way for long. I realized, yes, I am emotional, stubborn, and independent, but none of those things make me any less lovable than anybody else. Which is an important but difficult lesson to learn.
Let me just throw in a little disclaimer: I do not think any less of you if you met your S/O in college, or even if you ended up with a “ring by spring.” I saw a lot of beautiful relationships come out of Evangel. I just don’t want people walking around thinking that something is wrong with them if they don’t meet someone in college.