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What Do You Call Friends You Sleep With?

Recently I’ve been enjoying the adult company of a couple of friends. And having interesting conversations about the definition of friendship.

I had gotten into a stupendously frustrating argument with an older man about my friends, or rather, my lovers (his word, not mine). He kept insisting that my having two lovers was going to lead to trouble.  He seemed to think that just because we were having sex, it would automatically lead to jealousy. I failed to see how, since we weren’t lovers! I know this sounds like a pointless argument about semantics but given the subject, I thought it was important.

His definition of a lover was simply someone you have sex with. That’s it. To reduce a term so replete with meaning to just an act irritated me profoundly.

I don’t know about you, but the word “lover” conveys much more than what my friends and I are. It implies romance — for me there would be tokens exchanged like little gifts, or at least date-like experiences or even a meet in a hotel room. Some sliver of adventure.

Our relationship(s) have none of those things.

We talk, we have a drink (tea, oddly enough) and we have sex. We give each other pleasure — copious amounts of it — and it’s deeply, richly satisfying. But there are no professions of affection, no cute presents, and certainly no expectations of a Relationship. We are not lovers.

Still he persisted, whilst making a bid to be my third [cue eye roll]. I terminated our connection (again, his words, not mine. I think you can see why.)

But it did get me thinking about my arrangement with my friends.

One is someone I’d first met over 20 years ago. We’d only become close in the last few months because like me, he’d been through the wringer (my story is a fairy tale compared to the rather special hell he’d just been through).

The other I’d met a few months ago, someone who came into my life as it is now, completely separate from my history. He too is scarred by a relationship that crashed.

We bonded over our various injuries, our children and moving on. And right from the outset, we’d established boundaries: we were just friends who happen to enjoy each other physically.

Neither is aware of the other, they have no reason to cross paths. I haven’t felt the need to talk about them to each other, nor do I think they should meet. They are very different people and I don’t think they’d get on.

I did doubt whether I could have friends I could sleep with. Prior to these two, there had been two others. One ended badly because I was too emotionally involved — I tried to be just friends, but I couldn’t, because, stupidly, I was in love with him. And the other, well, we hit it off at first but the connection was tenuous. We weren’t really friends – we just happened upon each other at the right time. And when those conditions changed, we found we didn’t really like each other all that much. That relationship simply faded away.

I am well aware that casual can tip into not so casual. Having been burned twice, I think I know the signs by now.

So – is this arrangement working? Last I checked, it was working perfectly fine. With both of them. Question is: what happens when one of them falls in love? Not with me, I think I’m pretty safe from that. And me?

That’s a bridge too far ahead to worry about just now I think.

PS: You may have noticed I’d not used the phrase “friends with benefits”. To me, friendship has its own benefits, so it doesn’t work for me. Happy to be label-less for now. We’re just friends.

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    I appreciate your point of view, but my idea of friendship with either sex, whether or not there is any ‘physical enjoyment’, is that a friendship IS a relationship. Friendships usually include not only shared confidences and a cuppa as you have now, but also gestures of affection, gifts, and a relationship of sorts that include what you might call ‘dates’ or shared experiences- even between people of the same sex- eating out, theatre trips, social activities. You have a definition of ‘lover’ but I’m not sure you have defined friendship. And I wonder if, without the things that usually define friendship, at least to me, they really ‘friends’? Or do I have an unusual view of what friendship means?