Dear Auntie Sparknotes,
I have a (for all intents and purposes) friend with benefits. We met at a family event and pretty much clicked right away.
We don't hang out all too often, so we often supplement seeing each other by calling. I like where we are and so does he, but problems arise with my parents. FWB and I both get that this is a mutual no strings deal. However, my parents are very much traditional in the way that anytime a girl and guy hang out they think it's a date. And they're convinced that I'm desperate for FWB's attentions, that I'm throwing myself at him in a pathetic attempt to be his girlfriend, and that he's only using me. (He is a player.) So the issue becomes that they feel like I'm degrading myself to get him to like me. They want to essentially cut all ties between me and FWB. They will take away my phone if necessary because they want it to stop so badly. I can't really explain our "relationship" to my parents because that would only give them further proof that I'm degrading myself and apparently also have low self-esteem. I'm not ready to call it quits with the guy, but it seems like I might need to, which is a huge bummer. Any advice?
Yeah! How about... (and hang on, because I'm about to blow your mind, here)...
Because while this seems on the surface like a complex problem, it's not. In fact, it's as simple as this: your parents are mistaken. And just as you'd politely correct them under other circumstances in which they'd misunderstood your motives ("Actually, mom, I'm watching the Discovery channel for a school assignment, not because I love watching elephants have sex"), the only way to stop your parents from making boneheaded assumptions about your relationship is to do the one thing you haven't done: namely, tell them what's actually going on.
But wait! Don't worry! Because when I say that you should tell them what's going on, I don't mean that you have to tell them, y'know, what's going on (cue schmexy Marvin Gaye soundtrack). The details of what you're doing don't matter here. What's important is how you feel—and that's something you can tell them without a single explicit mention of your schmexy activities. So, sit down with your parents, and initiate the launch sequence for a Mature Conversation. As follows:
1. Acknowledge their concerns. This is what's known as a preemptive strike: you let them know they've been heard and understood, thus keeping them from raising the same misinformed argument again. (Ex: "I know you guys are worried about my relationship with FWB, and I understand your concerns that I'm going to hurt or embarrass myself.")
2. State your intentions. Namely: you understand how they feel, and now you want to clear the air and make sure they understand how you feel. (Ex: "And that's why I want to have this conversation with you, because I think you've misunderstood my feelings.)
3. Present your side. This is where you've got to keep your cool; be calm, polite, and reasonable while explaining your take on the situation. (Ex: "FWB and I have already talked honestly about our relationship. I'm not interested in dating anyone seriously, and neither is he. So while I understand your concerns that I'm going to get hurt, the fact is that I spend time with him because I enjoy his company, and that's all. And one of the reasons it's nice is that neither one of us wants a commitment.")
4. And, finally, ask them to respect your choice even if they don't agree with it. (Ex: "I'm telling you this because I don't want you to worry about me when there's nothing to worry about. I'm not doing anything that goes against my values or hurts me in any way. And I hope that, now that you understand my feelings, you'll stop suggesting that I'm embarrassing myself or asking me to sever contact with him.")
Will this conversation be the magic bullet that sets things to rights and stops your folks from sticking their noses into you business? Honestly, no; if your parents are the kind of people who can't fathom that you might enjoy a casual relationship for its own sake, they may also be the kind of people who believe that it's weird and wrong for you to do so. But once you've had this conversation once, it becomes a convenient reference point for all future conversations on the same subject—making it easy for you to derail any additional interference with a simple, "Hey, mom, we've talked about this, remember? I understand your concerns, but in this case, they're misplaced."
Just, y'know, don't actually refer to him in these convos as "FWB". (He's got a name, right?)
Have your parents ever gotten it all wrong when it comes to your love life? Vent in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Related post: When FWB Goes FUBAR