3 min

Negotiating sex and friendship

No need for romance to enjoy a good romp

Welcome to Fantasyland. You’ve just added sex to your relationship with your friend and you don’t want anything to change – except you want to enjoy sex with her occasionally?

Sex does change relationships, making them special and unique. But don’t panic. This is not bad news. In fact, sex can be additive and rewarding if you follow some basic rules.

You don’t tell me whether either or both of you defines as polyamorous, and that is the hinge pin upon which the success or failure of your situation rests.

Let’s look at the variables.

If you are poly and she is not, you have probably just stumbled into a dating predicament that will teach you quickly and painfully some dating truths. Hopefully, you’ll need to learn these lessons only once.

As poly, you likely believe that you can maintain your friendship and share occasional sexual romps that will bring depth and a measure of intimacy to your relationship. It will be fun, right? Sex will add a further dimension to your friendship. Life will continue as before, only better.

However, if your friend is the monogamous sort, having sex shifts the axis of her relational world from an easygoing, casual friendship to a situation in which an unspoken, interpersonal contract has been negotiated. Expectations adjust and fantasies flourish. The meaning of the relationship changes.

Though you are still friends, you are now something else, too – you are girlfriends. For monogamous people, the difference between friendship and relationship is sex. Be forewarned: neither of you may be consciously aware of this discrepancy initially, and if she knows of your polyamorous standards, she’ll contain her intentions of couplehood.

Still, they will be inescapable, and you will be forced to explain to her, painfully for both, that you just don’t feel that way about the two of you.

Or you’ll have occasion to share the giddy news that you’re crushed out on someone new – just like you’ve always disclosed to your friend – but now you hold back, and you will realize that you have lost your freedom. The cost to regain it is to hurt your beloved friend.

Perhaps your friend is poly and you are not. Perhaps you think you can maintain the pretence of intimate friendship while she catches up and realizes that you are really the one for her. Don’t longtime friends fall in love all the time? See above.

Then again both of you may adhere to the principles of polyamory, basing your choice to couple on values of similarity and complementariness, rather than on the fact that you’re sleeping together.

You may be experienced in managing the fiery emotions of jealousy and insecurity and prefer that to trying to control your partner’s behaviour. Choice may be your favourite word. You may understand loyalty in an entirely different context than what you do with your body. You may believe in the limitlessness of love.

Germaine Greer once said (something like) “You have a much better chance of waking in the arms of your lover if they are with you by choice than if they have nowhere else to sleep.” Polyamorists understand this; monogamists don’t like sleeping alone.

You and your friend need to talk, if you haven’t already. You needn’t have exhaustive talks, for you can either have a relationship orprocess one, but not both. Establish whether you are on the same page philosophically.

If not, be honest about it and kiss goodbye the sexual component of your friendship before you lose it. Don’t pretend; don’t try to convince each other that you can dodge the rules. Maintain your valuable friendship and save the sex for more appropriate matches.

If, on the other hand, you both claim “Don’t fence me in” as your theme song, if at least one of you has some personal experience with polyamorous relationships, and if you are both sufficiently independent and ethical to treat sexuality as a bonus to add to your well-established friendship, then you have the essentials to build a mutually rewarding sexual friendship that can nourish you for years to come.

Is sexual friendship possible? Of course it is. We commonly define our mates as our best friends. The differences in your scenario are but two: romance and exclusivity.

We do not need romance to enjoy and appreciate sex. We have sex for many and varied reasons, all valid. Exclusivity is a social construct, embraced by many, but not all.

Find happiness where you can. If you and your pal can negotiate a sexual friendship, good on you.