I got cranky reading Patty Brisben's "Friends With Benefits Over 50... A Do Or A Don't?" When an article about sex starts with "Don't" -- I bristle, especially when it goes on to moralize about what we should or should not do sexually. There's a difference between saying, "This would not be right for me," and "You shouldn't do this either."
We're not always fortunate enough to be in a love-filled, committed relationship. Does that mean we should not have sex until that happens again (if it does)? That's the choice of some of us, but not all of us. "Friends with benefits" means a friendship that involves sex -- it doesn't mean a hook-up devoid of emotion. We can feel close to someone, even intimate, in a FWB arrangement. I think we can make these decisions maturely on our own.
Although I do not have a friend with benefits at the moment (I wish I did, frankly), I have had these relationships in the past over my many decades of single adult life, and they were marvelous. We were real friends -- in fact, we still are. We cared about each other, we enjoyed learning about each other, we delighted in conversation in and out of bed. We just weren't in love and we were not expecting commitment or exclusivity.
When it was time for the sexual part of the relationship to end -- usually because one of us fell in love with someone else and was ready for a committed relationship with that person -- we ended it cleanly and honestly, and stayed platonic friends after that.
I get occasional emails from women asking whether a FWB or "sex buddy" relationship is possible at our age. The women who write me usually worry that they'll become too emotionally involved. I say that if you're worried about this, heed that fear, because it's likely a warning sign that you will respond this way. FWB isn't right for all of us. I'm not pushing you to try it -- rather, to know yourself, your emotional needs and habits, and determine for yourself whether a FWB arrangement would work for you or not.
Sex without commitment can work if we believe it can, and we're clear ourselves as well as with our partners about the boundaries. Are we friends first, lovers second? Are we playing at romance, or refusing to let the relationship become romantic? Are the reasons that we want to be friends with benefits but not actual "in-love" lovers clear and valid to both of us? Honesty is required in this kind of relationship.
I believe strongly that if there's a third person involved -- you or your friend/lover has a primary partner -- that it has to be okay with that partner. Don't sneak or lie -- if it can't happen honestly, it shouldn't happen. You may say, "Aha! And you said you hated the "don't" word!" True. I don't moralize much because I believe that anything two consenting adults do is no one's business but theirs, whether or not I would personally enjoy doing what they're doing. But if another partner is involved, that partner has to give consent, too.
In my thirties, forties, even fifties, I had friends with benefits at various times -- men who remain friends to this day, though it's been decades since we were sexually involved. Could it work today, at age 69? I think so, given the right person, the right friendship, the right communication, the right circumstances.
Are you involved in a friends with benefits relationship over age 50? Tell us your tips for making it work.
Ageless sexuality advocate Joan Price is the author of Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex and Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty. Naked at Our Age won Outstanding Self-Help Book 2012 from the American Society of Journalists and Authors and Best Book 2012 from the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists. Joan edited the new steamy senior sex anthology, Ageless Erotica. Visit her zesty, award-winning blog about sex and aging at http://www.NakedAtOurAge.com and her Naked at Our Age Facebook page , where Joan continues to talk out loud about Boomer/ senior sex, partnered or solo.