Jill Di Donato
Author of Beautiful Garbage: A Novel, and Professor of English
What’s a Relationship Lite? It’s a new (perhaps French-inspired?) take onFriends With Benefits. Can we just do away with the dreaded FWB term altogether? I don’t like what it implies:
1) That unless you’re having sex with me, my friendship is benefit-free.
2) That a Justin Timberlake film bears some relevance to my dating life.
I don’t necessarily think a Relationship Lite has to begin and end with sex. I’m defining a Relationship Lite as an arrangement between two people where you do relationship-like activities (hanging out, going out, ordering in, talking and sharing stories, getting drunk together, cuddling, watching movies, teasing each other, meeting each other’s friends, having sex) yet these activities lack the intimacy of a full-blown relationship. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the two of you don’t share moments of intimacy, but you must remember that “moments of” do not a relationship make. A full-blown relationship is built around the idea that the intimacy you share with your partner is reliable and acts as a stabilizing force in your life. You count on your partner for certain things (both practical and emotional) and in turn, your partner counts on you for the same support.
You should note the list of activities permitted in the Relationship Lite include things prohibited in the traditional FWB model. In her article for AskMen,“Friends With Benefits,” Mish Way gives men a woman’s do’s and don’t of FWB. She writes, “This is a relationship based on sex and that is it. Not hanging out, having dinner, watching movies or any of that. That is girlfriend stuff and this is not about that.” Here is where the Relationship Lite distinguishes itself from FWB. It’s a more sophisticated model, one that would work for two people who like each other, enjoy spending time together both in and out of bed, but do not want the responsibilities of commitment. It does require a more nuanced level of communication between the two parties, which means people involved must be able to speak honestly, frequently and respectfully to one another about the status of their wants and needs. Therefore, people involved should have a certain degree of maturity and self-confidence. They need to be able to discern when it’s time to walk away, which is when needs aren’t getting met or you found someone you’d like to pursue more seriously, or well, you just don’t have a reason: because, guess what? You don’t need one.
Now, I’m not advocating ghosting the person you’ve been sharing your time, body and emotional connections with; that’s just disrespectful, cowardly, and rude. However, don’t feel the pressure to explain away why the Relationship Lite isn’t working as well for you as it had in the past. Just state it, and move on. I’ve found guys I’ve have this arrangement with continue to be my friends, and can stay in my life in a less intense capacity, and this is, well, nice.
Although relationships never come with a guarantee, there are fewer promises made in the Relationship Lite, fewer expectations. Therefore, this arrangement works best for people who are more free-spirited and might not be in a position where he or she wants to give over his or her life to a full-blown relationship. A Relationship Lite is ideal for people who are happy never to wonder “Where is this going?” because the answer is already determined: nowhere. You are not “dating” in a Relationship Lite. Dating implies that eventually, the relationship will progress or fizzle out. Not so with the Relationship Lite. There’s no pressure towards progression. Remember, this person isn’t your soul mate or even partner; you might not even like or respect all qualities about this person. But it’s very rare that people are either 100% great or 100% lousy. And just because you might not be ready to commit yourself to a specific person or commit yourself in general, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have emotional needs that need attending to. There’s something comforting about falling asleep and waking up next to someone you’re involved with (just not every night). There’s also something freeing about not having to decode what he or she is thinking about you or the situation. Is this the best of both worlds, or a surefire way to get burned? Just bear in mind, it tastes great, but is less filling.