not-quite-poly: lovers & friends w/ benefits

See, in my view, there's nothing immoral about marriage, or poly, or any promises, in any kind of relationships, because, 9 times out of 10, people have every intention of keeping that promise when it is made. IF they can't, there's always breaking up and divorce.

But hey, if that's not something you are okay with, great. Everyone is different.

Totally. :D I'm used to being very much a minority anti-marriage voice. Loads of my friends are married. I've been a bridesmaid several times and been at loads of weddings. I just wouldn't choose it myself.

Hey JayneQ - I very much approve of the way you approach marriage. Maybe if it was more generally like that, I would feel differently.


Ok - since I derailed the thread loads. It isn't my life now but FWB type relationships have featured heavily and very positively in my life in the past.

In my younger days I was massively a fan of fairly casual sex and slightly creeped out by relationships. I also had lots of groups of friends and very much liked to spend my summers working away from home in a series of waitressing and cooking jobs.

It was a lifestyle that lent itself very well to FWB relationships and I had lots of them. Two really stand out.

One was with Art - my now partner. He and I grew up in the same town. We share a mutual friend who both of us have known since we were very young.

Anyway in spite of this long mutual friendship, Art and I didn't actually meet until I was in my late teens. As was my habit back then, we had sex the first time we met and then struck up a friendship. Art became one of the people that I would go to with problems for advice. He was and is smart and compassionate - people absolutely love him.

It was an easy friendship. We'd have sex if Art was single. If he had a girlfriend we didn't. I didn't have boyfriends then - or at least not ones that lasted longer than a few weeks.

Art tended to have lots of girlfriends and FWBs. I mostly got on with the ones I met. I have a very good friend to this day who was one of Art's FWBs. The first time I met her, we spent ages laughing about Art's women - it was both of our experiences that whenever we met a woman who knew him, we tended to assume he'd had sex with her.

Until I met somebody and fell deeply in love. Art and I lost touch. Although I knew how important he was to me, I had no idea how important I was to him. I didn't think he was all that bothered about me and so we drifted apart when I started a serious, house buying, life entangling relationship. We both agree now how important it is to tell the people we care about how much we care - partly because of that.

When we next saw each other, it became clear that the years had changed things between us and our relationship now is very different. Still supportive and loving - just more serious and involved.

My other significant FWB was a guy who lived in the village where my family, friends and I holidayed for years and where I had a summer job for a few summers. We knew each other as children and when we were older, we started a fairly casual FWB type relationship.

He had struggles from a very early age and lives in an area where alcohol abuse is common. He worked and earned lots of money from an very young age, had a car and cash for booze before the rest of us. This made him very fun to hang around with but wasn't great for him. He has a real problem with becoming violent when he has been drinking. He periodically stops, then starts again.

It is sad. He's one of the smartest people I know and very driven to do things but struggles with life.

I think warmly of him. He once I'm pretty sure saved me from a nasty experience. I was living in a caravan at the time while I worked in the village. Everybody there knew my preference was not to have boyfriends but to go out and maybe take a friend home at the end of the night. This was all fine and then I was approached at work by a man from the village who I didn't know.

He talked about how he was working hard, going to escape the village, how he tried to stay away from the drinking culture. He asked me out for dinner. I said no - that sort of thing has always given me the creeps.

He turned up at my caravan late that night and invited himself in. He left again quickly afterward because I had one of my friends with me who was sleeping off a shed load of alcohol.

A couple of weeks after that he turned up at my work and told me he had a night out that night but would stop by and see me after he was done. I lived in a very isolated spot, the door didn't lock, I didn't have a phone - I didn't have running water or electricity - and it was the days before mobile phones.

I was a little concerned. Not at all sure what to do so I went out and walked around a bit to think. I met my old FWB on the road and I told him what I was worried about. He told me he had no plans for the evening and said that he would head out to the same place as the worrying bloke and look out for him, said he might stop by later and make sure I was okay.

That was the last time I ever saw the guy who'd wanted to take me to dinner. I suspect he got thoroughly threatened and I hope it taught him a lesson about stalking women on their own.

Anyway - I don't have FWB type relationships right now but I do have lots of fond memories of them. :)
Well ... a number of us choose to "move in" the new partner. (Me, Bluebird, Phy - to name a few.) For us, just because at the beginning a relationship may be described as "secondary" doesn't mean that it can't evolve into "co-primary" if that is what the participants desire. Just saying. Labels are just words, it is the people that matter and what works for them.

Absolutely. However, in many if not most cases, this wouldn't be a possibility due to limited resources, lack of compatibility between the people who will be living together, existing responsibilities and relationships, etc . That's where having the freedom to have relationships that stay within specific confines as agreed by everyone involved becomes vital. My partner generally describes them as long-term casual relationships, but at a push she will call them secondary. I tend to adopt the general terminology of the people I'm interacting with.

Hey JayneQ - I very much approve of the way you approach marriage. Maybe if it was more generally like that, I would feel differently.

Thank you. MrS was very anti-marriage when we got together so we talked about it a LOT before it happened. I was anti-relationship (see below) so, once the "relationship" hurdle was breached, it seemed that re-defining marriage to suit our desires was a lesser issue.

That being said, we were young when we got married (I was 22, he was 23) and some of the "reasons" why getting married was a good idea (familial approval as we were living together, financial/legal benefits, societal recognition) are no longer as important to me, or could be done in a different way. I don't know that I would ever do it again, but I am glad that I did it then, with him.


In my younger days I was massively a fan of fairly casual sex and slightly creeped out by relationships.

In my pre-MrS years this was me as well. Some of this stemmed from my skepticism about the concept of "love". Some of this stemmed from my observations of how others my age were "relating" to each other - it seemed to involve many of the possessiveness that you object to in marriage. Having to account to someone else as to how you spend your time? Who you spend time with? etc? Fuck that.

I was all for having intimate friendships and sleeping with interesting people but I had "rules" to prevent things from developing too far in the "relationship" direction. I wouldn't sleep with virgins, I wouldn't sleep with "clingy" people, I wouldn't sleep with the same person more than 3 times, etc. (I wrote about this in my first blog).

My first sexual partner was also my first FWB - I picked him because he "got it" (he was effectively solo-poly himself - although we didn't have that terminology back then), that worked out really well for years. Then FWBs and FBs drifted and out of my life and I met MrS - so that happened.

My longest-term FWB is VV - similar to a part of your story, we sleep together when she doesn't have a boyfriend (or has one that doesn't object). My FWB relationship with her is just about as long as my relationship with MrS.

Any relationship that I am likely to ever have is going to start as friends or FBs and evolve into FWBs - that is kind of my default relationship structure. It takes a LOT for me to go past that (it has happened twice, once with MrS and once with Dude).
I don't know anybody who is a happy secondary partner.
*waves* Now you do.

I have been in non-primary, non-nesting relationships with two guys for the last 4+ years. One is married and has another partner, the other has another girlfriend. I have recently acquired a third guy, and although he is single I have no intention of seeking a primary-style relationship with him either. I am very happy with the shape of these relationships and don't want to turn them into anything more primary-ish.

Edit: Note to self, refresh the page to read the new content before replying to a thread that's been left in an open tab since the previous day.
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Hey Emm *waves back* :)

I have a question about FWB type relationships. Do people find that age is a factor? I noticed that when I was young - late teens/early 20s - having those sorts of relationships worked really well. I enjoyed sex, had lots of companionship from those people and from platonic friends - and didn't have to consider anybody else's feelings when I planned summers away or wanted to do things with my friends.

Then I was in a serious, monogamous relationship - the sort where we hung out with other couples, talked about our houses, discussed kitchens and cars and that sort of thing - for 10 years.

So when I was single again in my 30s, I initially thought I would drift back to a semblance of the lifestyle I'd had when I was younger. Not exactly the same - I had (still have) a job I love, a house I owned and was caring for 3 dogs so heading off for 3 months of the year to work somewhere else wasn't an option. Still - I imagined that having sex with friends as well as having platonic friends would be a thing in my life again.

I certainly did lots of travelling in my 30s for short periods of time, meeting lots and lots of new people - some of whom have become very good platonic friends. I had many transformative experiences in that time.

Sex with others, though, didn't really feature. I found that most of the people I met who were roughly my age and were open to having a relationship were looking for marriage and kids or they already had kids and were looking for a committed, child care including relationship. Some of them seemed lonely and as if they would be clingy. Every so often I'd join a dating site and look around a bit - only to find a similar thing.

I wonder if it was my age? Does being in the years when most people are rearing children make it harder to have FWB relationships.

I sometimes wonder if I were to find myself single in my 50s things would be different again. I have a friend who is in her 60s and who says she has tons of friends, some of whom she has sex with - and I wonder if the ease she finds in that part of her life is partly to do with her age?

What does everybody else think? Does age make a difference?

I think for some people age might make a difference, if they subscribe to the idea that at a certain point in one's life, things should look a certain way.

Personally... I lost my virginity at age 20 to a guy I was friendly with, but we didn't become FWBs because he got angry with me for *him* almost getting caught with drugs on him. Not someone I wanted to be involved with.

I met my kids' father when I was 19 (the guy mentioned above was during a break-up period with kids' father). We married when I was 22. We were married for 14 years until I smartened the hell up and got out.

Because of various things that were taught to and done to me growing up, I had a very negative, unhealthy view of sex. This was hugely reinforced by my ex-husband's behavior and treatment of me if I appeared to enjoy sex whatsoever.

After I left him, at age 36, I wasn't emotionally healthy enough for another relationship. Nor did I want one, because I couldn't trust that I wouldn't find another abusive sack of crap like him. I could, however, make friends. Some of those friends were men. I fucked some of them because I liked them, and because I saw it as a way to overcome the negative and unhealthy view of sex I'd developed. Having FWBs, or one-time hookups with friends, worked for me at that time despite my age and the fact that I was parenting two kids (I didn't bring guys to my home; I went out when my kids were with their father or grandparents for visitation), because there was no pressure. It was just fun. For me, sex and love have no relation to each other; I need an emotional connection of some kind to want to have sex with someone, but if I love someone, sex with them is actually more difficult for me because I'm afraid they'll judge me.

Sadly, Hubby undid a lot of the work I did on my view of sex and of myself as a sexual being... So when he opened the marriage, I took the same approach at first. Make friends with guys, have sex with them if it seemed like something that might be fun. Actually the first two guys I hooked up with after we opened the marriage were guys I'd been friendly with since before I met Hubby, and one of them was someone I'd hooked up with in that interim period before leaving my ex and meeting Hubby. During the first six months of the open marriage, I had an occasional FWB arrangement with two other guys.

And then I screwed it all up by falling in love with one of them, which is how things went from open marriage to KC being polyamorous while Hubby chose to stop even trying to meet anyone else.

Now that I've had two relationships as a poly person, and have rediscovered that sex with someone I'm in love with is fraught with complications because I care what they think of me and am afraid they'll think something negative, I'm kind of leaning toward trying the FWB thing again for a while. The first guy I met after my second boyfriend broke up with me turned out to be a perfect person for that... unfortunately, despite him insisting that he wanted the friendship even more than the benefits, apparently he didn't actually want either, so we aren't involved anymore.

So I'm 45, married, and my kids are nearly grown... but for me FWB works a lot better than relationships. So for me, I would say no, age isn't a factor at all, it's about my personality, my issues, and wanting to have fun without feeling pressured or worried about the other person's opinion of me.
I'd love to see this thread make its way back to the original topic, instead of debating the validity or ethics of marriage and/or hierarchies in poly.

I'd love to hear from more polyfolk (and "not-quite-polyfolk") about how their casual lovers and FWBs fit into and enrich their lives, and how it works for them.

I just had a conversation last night with Rocky. We decided to keep being casual intimate lovers. And I realised how important he is in my life, just the way we are. He has now told his beet friend and sister I am poly, and he has been involved with me. That's awesome. I am super proud of him. And he is actively trying to earn my trust again. I am really grateful we had that talk. G

He fits into my life by each of us giving ourselves freedom. Do I get lonely on my own sometimes? Yes, but I have a lot of love in my life. And a lot of friends, and I like my freedom, more than I want a committed relationship right now. Even though my ideal is to live with someone eventually, I am not at that point now.

I was talking to Mr Bond, a potential FWB/FB and he is very interested in long term committed relationship, but it has a lot of elements of possessiveness. He asked me to be sexually monogamous with him after two months of online chat and we haven't met in person. This was very presumptuous. He wanted to fit into my life as the one, and I just don't agree with that. So he is interested in reading more than two and we keep talking, but I don't want to have to keep educating people. Also he says he's very private about his relationship life and well I am not willing to go down the rabbit hole of secret lovers. Lol.

I am now very hesitant to start being sexual with him, because although I think we'd click well in that department and he has a high sex drive, I have no desire right now to start a third relationship that is invested on the same level as Rocky and Trip. It's too much time and energy for me right now and I want to preserve what I have with rocky and Trip which both need work and attention without adding more new people. It will be close to two years with rocky, and 6 months with Trip, so these relationships take higher priority, and no person gets to walk in and presume they can make such vast sweeping changes on the outset. Lol. Trust is earned not freely given.

If I were to have another FB/FWB it would be purely sexual, and not emotional at this point. I am really digging deep and trying to figure out why I want to live with someone and why that is my goal and dream, and if there's other goals and dreams that would suit me better, so intimate friends works right now to have love and friendship but not the same level of intertwined commitment that I just don't want to give right now.
I don't want to be one with someone.
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This is lovely to read about, starlight1. It makes me feel inspired/reassured to read these stories and to know there are different options if my life were to change again.
I wonder if it was my age? Does being in the years when most people are rearing children make it harder to have FWB relationships.

In my experience, child rearing makes an enormous difference in regard to the kind of relationships a person wants. It's extraordinarily unusual for a woman to seek multiple sex partners when she is pregnant, nesting, bearing a child, raising a baby. Sure, it happens, but it is rare, and even leading up to that point, the vast majority of women seriously looking to make a family are not going to include multiple sex partners in that vision.

Something indeed shifts sexually when a woman is on the other side of creating her children. For some women, the shift comes soon, for others, the shift comes much later (empty nest, etc.) and of course, some desire never to explore their sexuality ever again. But the nesting phase (if a woman experiences such a phase) is all about security and focus on the home (in all of their various expressions.) Freedom seeking and especially sexual exploration come during times when nesting and child rearing are either off the table questions or complete.

Know, though, that as with all aspects of your life, what comes to you is what you're open to and what you're ready for. FWBs of any stripe will come into your life when you are open to them, not because of statistics or because of what "most people" are doing. If your heart is open to new friends that welcome sexuality, you will find each other.
*waves* Now you do.

Me, too.

I am married, but now emotionally and sexually separated (living with my husband and kids) so "secondary" is what I have to offer. I have a lovely FWB relationship of one year and two more intimate-feeling new relationships. I don't hammer out rules and limits and I certainly don't ever use the word "secondary" but I do keep very well aware of how these relationships feel to me. I would love for one of my new relationships to evolve into a "primary-in-my-heart" because I don't have one at the moment, but for now I am happy with "I have a few beautiful lovers." For me, the line between FWB and lovers is very blurry on purpose.
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Regarding the age thing...

When Cat and I got together she was just turning 30. When I became her "primary" she decided she wanted monogamy. She never had kids and never wanted to. She just wanted to settle down. I guess that was the age to do that, for her.
Me, too.

I am married, but now emotionally and sexually separated (living with my husband and kids) so "secondary" is what I have to offer. I have a lovely FWB relationship of one year and two more intimate-feeling new relationships. I don't hammer out rules and limits and I certainly don't ever use the word "secondary" but I do keep very well aware of how these relationships feel to me. I would love for one of my new relationships to evolve into a "primary-in-my-heart" because I don't have one at the moment, but for now I am happy with "I have a few beautiful lovers." For me, the line between FWB and lovers is very blurry on purpose.

Hi to you too in that case. :)

This is also lovely to read about. Especially that you are able to co-parent and get along with your husband even though you have decided to separate. So inspiring. Thank you for writing.
Thank you for writing.

My pleasure, IP. One thing that I find essential in living the life of a "secondary" is to not get focused on "enough time" with any one person. Feeling good about someone is due to so very many factors, having "enough time" just being one - and I would argue, a pretty minor one at that. Time and number of hours spent is not what makes a relationship beautiful. Feeling loved, appreciated, wanted is not dependent on how much the other proves that he loves, appreciates and wants, but on how I think about myself. Not having all the time in the world with someone (anyone) kinda forces me to appreciate the time that I do get to spend and appreciate what we can share. Feeling loved and wanted is about my perspective and doesn't really have too much to do with the extent to which I'm domestically enmeshed with someone or how many hours I have with that person. Love can expand or contract independent of time. We have all experienced this, yet somehow we equate "more time" with "more love" and truly, that's just not so.
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Suggested list of titles for people you have sex and/or romance with, starting with the least emotional/life involvement and proceeding down to the most emotional/life involvement:

  • one night stands,
  • fuck buddies,
  • friends with benefits,
  • lovers,
  • lover friends,
  • boyfriends and girlfriends,
  • steady boyfriends and girlfriends,
  • partners,
  • fiancés and fiancées,
  • spouses and heart spouses.

Presumably, anything above boyfriend/girlfriend (on the list) is *not* a relationship, while anything below lover friends (on the list) *is* a relationship.


I honestly think of friendships as relationships, whether or not they are sexual or romantic. My closest platonic friends are no less important to me than my "romantic" partner of twenty years -- and I am most definitely in relationship with these dear ones. I neither understand nor participate in the very common usage of the term "relationship" in which the word signifies a specific kind level of commitment in a strictly romantic relationship.
That list was interesting, but it's hard to have labels that rigid. For instance, I had a very dear female friend in high school. We were mostly platonic, but screwed on occasion. So we were fuck buddies and lifelong friends up until she died. I would call that a relationship.
I think the meaning of "relationship" depends on the context.
A lot of people use "relationship" as shorthand for "romantic relationship," because most other types of relationships have other names, like friendship, family, etc. Maybe it's because not enough coffee yet this morning (spent my usual coffee time helping Country scramble to finish an essay due today), but I can't think of any English word offhand that means "romantic relationship" as opposed to any other type.
Yep, that's kind of where I was headed.
I have been poly for a year with my husband. I researched and really worked on myself to be ready for polyamory for 4 years.

When we first opened our relationship, I had a serious boyfriend for six months. He gave me giardia and I almost died. I broke up with him because he never checked on me or asked if I was okay. I was really upset because I was so serious about him and did things for him I would only do if I knew I’d be with someone long term. I do hope he is happy, wherever he is.

Afterwards, I really could only date a few people I was serious with. But I did try hooking up with people I was emotionally attached to. It may just be where we live, but it’s hard finding people to even commit to a fwb relationship.

I love autonomy so much that I would definitely settle for a fwb if that made us both happy and we genuinely cared for each other as real friends and loved loosely.

I personally feel when you are poly the focus is the authentic love, communication, and most importantly, the autonomy. And I love that in a poly relationship it can be whatever you want it to be.

We did close our relationship only due to a lack of interest in dating in our area, which makes me sad, because I do long for deep connection of any kind.