Q: I’m a 26 year old woman and I have been friends with a man who is 27. We’ve known each other since we were in grade school. We are very close friends but we have never dated. Over the past year, we found ourselves in certain situations where we have become intimate. At times it’s rather awkward since our other friends don’t know about this. Recently, our intimate encounters have become more frequent but we’re still not dating. I guess we’re friends with benefits. I feel awkward about the situation even though at some level I like the convenience. I wonder what your opinion is about this issue. I confided this to one of my cousins and she told me it’s not a good situation and I could lose his friendship if something happens to the “benefits” part. I would like your guidance.
A: Nowadays “friends with benefits” are a more common occurrence. I generally don’t recommend this kind of relationship for a variety of reasons. In your case, since you already know there is no likelihood of a long term relationship, by giving into the convenience, you may be robbing yourself of the opportunity to get into a healthier relationship with guys who are more suitable for you. The risk of losing your friendship is also very real. You are essentially his girlfriend without being his girlfriend. My advice is to have a sit-down talk with him. Explain to him that you do not see the potential for a long-term romantic relationship and amicably stop being intimate with him. I want to warn you it may be difficult and you might end up losing his friendship. But if that’s what it will take to end this unproductive relationship, you must do it. The other reason to do this is that he may have unrealistic expectations that this will turn into a long-term romantic relationship. You should not keep him under false impressions.
Q: I’m dating a great woman. I’ll call her “Jenny”. We’re both 22. I’m attending college and hope to go on to law school. She is not going to college and works at a restaurant. My parents are afraid she is going to get pregnant and trap me which will destroy my dreams to be a lawyer. They also know her parents and don’t like them. I am an only child and Jenny comes from a big, boisterous family. I love being with her family but my parents are getting on me about spending more time studying. They’d like me to distance myself from her and her family. My mom has even gone so far as to say she wishes they would paint their home and cut the grass more often because it embarrasses her. I don’t see what this has to do with how I love Jenny and I don’t understand why they think she’ll trap me. Jenny is very supportive of me and I know she’ll make a great wife someday.
A: Parents only want to give their kids the best future they possibly can. So I do understand their concern. They just want to make sure your dreams are not compromised by whatever plans you may have with Jenny. What you need to do is sit down with Jenny if you haven’t done it already and explain to her in clear terms what your long-term career plans are. Once she understands that and she still feels she can support you moving forward, make sure you convey that to your parents. Discounting your parents’ concerns will only make them more anxious and concerned. Your parents have more life experience and may have seen similar situations play out for other couples. Therefore, I would engage in more discussions with them and not arguments. Will Jenny make a good wife? I believe you need to get further along in your education and your relationship with Jenny before making that decision.
The purpose of this article is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical or psychiatric issue. Dr. Rakesh Ranjan is a practicing psychiatrist and a researcher. He is a recipient of several research awards and has authored several peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters on psychiatric illnesses and their treatments. He is a national speaker for several organizations and serves on the medical advisory board for NAMI for Greater Cleveland. If you or a loved one is experiencing any symptoms that would lead you to believe that there could be a mental imbalance, please email your questions to Dr. Ranjan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Each Wednesday, Dr. Ranjan will address some of these questions in this column. All contact info will be kept confidential.