Ask Joan: When Is It Time To Dump the FWB?

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When is it time to dump a Friend with Benefits? A reader asks for advice from Joan Price, Senior Planet’s Senior Sex contributor.

A reader asks:

I am a widow, age 67, in a “friends with benefits” (FWB) relationship with a 68-year-old man for four years. We have sex each time we see each other, about once a month, and we enjoy each other’s company. We phone and text regularly. This arrangement worked fine until recently. Now I wonder if I should continue to see him.

To FWB or not to FWB? 

I told him from the beginning that I wasn’t interested in marriage. He had two failed marriages and other relationships that didn’t last and wanted only FWB. When he is in a relationship, he says he feels trapped.

The problems began when he informed me that an ex was coming to visit.

The problems began when he informed me that an ex was coming to visit. I asked if he planned to sleep with her, and he said, “Nothing wrong with that.”

Friendship hits a bump

I see plenty wrong with that! My understanding was that we could date others but not have sex with them. I told him, “When you have sex with another woman, I am out.” His ex’s visit fell through, and we continued as FWB.

He’s become short tempered. He used to say that he enjoyed our sex, but recently he complained that I don’t give a good blow job. I told him I don’t have any experience with it. He accused me of lying, saying I must have done it in my marriage or with a previous boyfriend. (I hadn’t.) Sometimes he slaps me on the butt, though I’ve told him I don’t like that.

The Big Blow Up 

The big blow up was when I went to his house unannounced to try to resolve an argument we’d had. He was furious, accusing me of arriving uninvited to try to catch him with another woman. I just wanted to resolve our argument! I didn’t see why it was such a big deal to drop in on him. If an acquaintance came to my house unannounced, I’d welcome them and serve them food.

Still, the next day I apologized for being rude and disrespectful. He said, “No, it was a deceitful attempt to try and catch me with another woman and you know it.” I told him, “I forgive you for screaming at me. Can we just forget this? I love you and treasure what we have together.”

We haven’t resolved this. Should I continue seeing him?

— Unhappy FWB

Joan responds:

Easy answer: No. The two of you define your relationship (yes, FWB is a relationship) differently and want different things from it. What worked for you in the past has run its course. Your need for closeness conflicts with his need for privacy and autonomy. He’s treating you badly, making hurtful comments and doing things you’ve told him you dislike.

The Limits of FWB

Let’s back up and define FWB. It’s literally “friends” – people who feel close and enjoy each other – “with benefits,” meaning sex. It’s a relationship where you agree to be friends who have sex. It’s not a commitment, and there’s no expectation of sexual exclusivity.

It’s not a commitment, and there’s no expectation of sexual exclusivity.

You say your understanding was that you each could date others but not have sex with them. Was that clearly stated? If so, when? Have you updated your agreement over the four years? It sounds as if he wants the freedom to have sex with others (which is the usual way FWB works), but you’ll leave if this happens.

He values his privacy and never wanted a relationship where you could drop in on each other uninvited. You’re fine with unannounced visits. This may seem like a small difference, but it’s crucial. You wanted to resolve an argument in person. He felt trapped and under suspicion.

…why should you have to grovel and “forgive” a man for screaming at you?

He never should have yelled at you and accused you of lying. You apologized and tried to make it right, but why should you have to grovel and “forgive” a man for screaming at you?

His cruelty about your lack of skills in oral sex and his insistence that you were lying about that are unpardonable. Even if you had been experienced with fellatio (oral sex on a penis) with others, men are different in exactly how they like to be pleasured. A smarter, kinder, more productive response would have been for him to give you gentle directions instead of a verbal attack.

You deserve respect and kindness from the people in your life, especially the man you have sex with. I don’t know why you’re considering staying with him. This connection may have been great in the past, but it isn’t anymore. It’s not what either of you needs, and it’s more contentious than affectionate.

It’s time to move on. I know it will be painful to end it, but I think you know it’s no longer right for you. Let him go, then give yourself time to heal and figure out what you want and need from your next relationship. You’ll find it.

More about FWB and seniors (be sure to read the reader comments):

Readers, have you been in a FWB relationship as a senior? Please tell us how that worked for you — or not. Let us know in the comments! 

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Joan Price has been Senior Planet’s “Sex at Our Age” columnist since 2014. She is the author of four self-help books about senior sex, including her award winners: “Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex” and “Sex after Grief: Navigating Your Sexuality after Losing Your Beloved.” Visit Joan’s website and blog for senior sex news, views, tips, and sex toy reviews from a senior perspective. Subscribe to Joan’s free, monthly newsletter.

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