Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Defending The Friend With Benefits

I had an interesting telephone conversation with my brother, Joe, last night. He called to speak with my mom.  I can hop up and reach the phone much faster when it rings than my mother can, so I answered the call. My brother and I chatted for a few minutes and eventually he brought up the subject of my love life. He always does. I hate that. He is happily married (for real) to the love of his life and he can't help but want the same for his sister. Our conversation went something like this:

Joe: So how's it going? Any new love interests or prospects on the horizon?
Me: No. I am really not looking. I don't have the time or the head space for it. I do have a friend with benefits I see occasionally. 
Joe: Oh. My. God. Where is our mother right now? 
Me: She's on the other line.  Listening.
Joe: I can't believe you said you have a friend with benefits right in front of her. Did she fall off her chair?
Me: Not yet.
Mom:  What's a friend with benefits?
Me:  A really nice boy who lives in the city. He takes me out for dinner, to the theater, or anywhere I want and expects nothing in return.
Mom:  That's nice, dear. You deserve to be spoiled. 
Joe: Oh. My. God. Mom! You're so naive. 
Me:  I'm hanging up the phone now.

My mother really isn't that naive. I am pretty sure she knows all about friends with benefits; she just doesn't want to think about her daughter having one. My mother also knows that my life has not been easy and she's happy that I have someone who treats me well; even if I am not in a real relationship.

So, I have a friend with benefits. It works. For now. I like the guy. In fact, he's terrific and when I am with him, I feel like Cinderella. He's charming, successful, sweet and funny.  He wines and dines me and there's nothing he won't do to make me happy. He's the kind of guy who disappears for half an hour and then he leads me by the hand to a soothing bath for two. Candles. Champagne. Romantic music. Passion. The whole deal. With everything I've gone through over the past few years, this is healing for me. And I deserve it.

I have one failed marriage under my belt. After my divorce, I tried my hand at a couple of real relationships. Fully committed. Holidays, vacations and family events together. Coffee and the Sunday paper. My last relationship was sort of working (emphasis on sort of) until my dad got sick. The guy bailed because a huge chunk of my attention was suddenly focused on someone other than him. I wore myself out trying to take care of everyone until he finally said, "I didn't sign up for this!" That was over two years ago and I haven't had a relationship since. Can you blame me?

I am not anti-relationship. I would love to be in one.  I just can't seem to find the right guy. I am not particularly choosy, my standards are not so high that they are unattainable, and I am not unrealistic. I am not looking for a drop-gorgeous hunk of a man with a huge bank account and a penthouse on Park Avenue. An Atticus Finch sort of guy with strong morals, convictions, principles and devotion to home, community, and causes would be ideal. I know Mr. Finch is a fictional character from a book but he was also based on Harper Lee's father. So, I know men like this actually do exist. They just haven't come knocking on my door yet.

So many of my friends find it difficult to exist outside of a relationship. So they settle for less than the best and most of them are miserable. I think the real definition of misery is trying to exist in a relationship that is not a true union of two hearts and souls. I refuse settle for anything less than that. In the meantime, I will continue to get what I need, when I need it.

The whole Friend with Benefits thing won't work for everyone. There must be ground rules or someone will get hurt in the end. That's never a good thing. As long as you avoid the whole expectations and demands part and refrain from sharing real intimate, personal details of your life; it can work. There also must an agreement that if one happens to meet someone special; the other must bow out gracefully.

Some people are actually shocked that I would have such an arrangement. At my age? I simply explain that I am a woman and  there are times I want to enjoy the company of a man.  I want be taken to dinner and romanced every once in awhile. I also explain that this is a temporary fix until I find what I really want.

Some believe this is setting me up for failure in any future relationships. I disagree. One is completely different from the other. I love the excitement and the independence of my Friend with Benefits arrangement.  It's all about fun and  passion without the yucky life stuff.  He never asks where I am or who I am with when I am not with him. I don't have to answer to him. I can go and do whatever I want.  I don't have to listen him whine that he's tired and wants to stay home on a Friday night and wants me to stay home, too. To do what? Watch him sleep? I don't think so. On the other hand, I have this longing for quiet evenings snuggling on the couch and dozing off together while watching movies because we're just so darn comfortable. There is definitely something so appealing about that type of comfort and security.  I would love to just exist with someone; not out of obligation, but because I can't imagine wanting or needing to be anywhere else but beside him. I just haven't found that level of trust, security or comfort yet.

I am experienced enough to know there is no such thing as the perfect relationship. Two different people trying to build one life together? That's no easy task. There are ups and downs, bills, work, responsibilities and baggage. It take time to deal with all that baggage. I have no problem unpacking it - together. It's also absolutely ridiculous to expect special treatment and attention all the time. No one is going to treat me like Cinderella every day and I can't always make my man feel like a prince. There are actually days when I am more like the wicked step-mother. I would like find someone who accepts me either way. My mom tells me I just haven't found the right man yet.  She believes there is someone out there waiting for me.  A guy who will listen and understand and won't disappear when times get tough. Someone who will love my precious heart and guard it as if it were his very own. My mother- the hopeless romantic. Bless her precious heart......

In the end, I know it's not about undivided attention, fun or weekends filled with passion.  I am really not as selfish as I sound. I'm pretty easy going and much prefer to do most of the spoiling.  I am not looking for someone to be my sole source of happiness either. I am responsible for my own happiness.  All I really want is to find that one person to stick with me through the good and bad. Someone willing to peel back his mask, set aside all the phony facades, and just let me love him. And love me back. Someone who loves US so much that he will fight with me to preserve it. No matter what.  All the other details, issues, faults and failures? We'll work on those and figure it out day by day. Together. Now that's a true friend with benefits.

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