I’m A Hopeless Romantic But I Settled For Being A Hookup & It Was Soul-Destroying

Commitment is all but impossible to find, but that doesn’t mean us romantics still can’t get our kicks. Yet when I, a hopeless romantic, became friends with benefits, I discovered a handful of unlikely consequences.

I gained sexual confidence.

 This was perhaps the single greatest highlight of my short-lived FWB experience. Without an emotional or romantic investment in my partner, it became easier to focus solely on the physical pleasures of sex. After all, the goal of FWB is sexual fulfillment, meaning both of us had to be comfortable stating what we wanted in order for the “relationship” to be worth it. Here I had carte blanche to experiment with different positions, ask for what felt good, and not have to worry about coming off as “needy.” All things considered, this was the perfect opportunity for sexual exploration.

I set my own boundaries.

FWB involves a delicate balance of attraction: enough to get hot and heavy under the sheets without falling head over heels. Though I certainly hoped for something more, I had the authority to establish ground rules in terms of how far I was willing to go without a romantic commitment and define just what our “relationship” would look like. Just sex, coffee now and then, and the occasional Netflix and chill (i.e. more sex). No dinners, walks, or Valentine’s Day plans. I reserved the habits of romantic couples for some hypothetical future guy who I’d begun to doubt I’d ever meet.

I had to separate sex from emotions.

 This partnership was based on convenience rather than a mutual romantic interest. Although I believe my partner was a decent human being who cared about my feelings (at least he said he did), the bottom line was that he was just in it for sex. I had to deny my emotional needs in favor of my physical ones, however unnatural it felt to do so.

I guarded my heart.

Of course it was my natural instinct to fall hard and fast in love with the first guy who expresses interest, but as FWB, I learned to prepare for the worst. As expected, my partner didn’t change his mind, fall in love with me after our first night together, and suddenly decide he was ready for a committed relationship. I didn’t share my fears and dreams with him or turn to him for advice. I didn’t rely on him for emotional support or anything other than a bit of company when I didn’t have other plans. I didn’t let myself fall further.

I kept secrets because I was embarrassed.

 There are few things more difficult than explaining a FWB arrangement to your parents. When my mother asked if I was seeing anyone, I’d either deny the “relationship” altogether or lie about its nature. To my friends who’ve known me to scribble hearts around my fifth grade crush’s initials, this change of behavior seemed worrying, so I lied to keep my sexual relationship hidden from them.

I gained a valuable perspective on relationships.

None of them are perfect and all of them involve a certain give and take between both parties. As a FWB, I discovered that relationships aren’t about gaining the upper hand; both partners need to compromise so that neither feels abused or neglected. That meant if my partner was going to send a “What up?” text at 2 a.m., I needed to feel equally comfortable doing so. Conversely, if I wasn’t DTF on a Thursday night, my partner needed to respect that and give me the space I wanted.

My white horse became a booty call.

In the world of FWB, Prince Charming doesn’t arrive against all odds to save his damsel in distress (not that we women need a knight in shining armor). I had to lower my expectations, settling for a beer in place of chocolates and roses and a quick goodbye in place of a ride off into the sunset.

I forgot I’m worth more. 

Once I began accepting a sex-driven relationship as the norm, I forgot the fact that I’m worth all the cheesy tokens of affection I’d seen in romantic comedies. Sure, they’re tacky, but so am I, and I want a guy who loves that about me. After a few weeks of FWB, I assumed I’d never find a guy willing to go the distance and consequently settled for less than what I really wanted.

I was unexpectedly devastated when the “relationship” ended. 

No matter how hard I tried to protect my emotions, the end of our casual partnership still felt like the end of something deeper. All along I’d remained painfully optimistic and no matter what I’d told myself, I hadn’t stopped hoping that a knight in shining armor—or at least a ruggedly handsome Nicholas Sparks character—would appear.

I delayed my opportunity to meet “The One.” 

While I was settling for half of the relationship I wanted and deserved, I was holding myself back from meeting more people and potentially the guy who was made for me. He’s out there and I know it’s only a matter of time until I find him. Yes, a lot has changed since Jane Austen’s protagonist met Mr. Darcy, but not all the good guys are taken. And when I find my person, sex will be only one of the many benefits I’ll enjoy in his company.

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