DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m a straight, non-monogamous male. I have a friend with benefits, X, who has been my lover for two years now. She’s also one of my best friends overall and even though a traditional relationship escalator-type thing is not on the table, we are planning long-term a co-housing project on a farm. X has never been my type physically, and even though I’ve enjoyed making love with her, she’s rather shy and passive in bed which makes the sex just average, not the awesome sex I’m aspiring to.
Now my attraction for X has been going steadily down lately because she’s been taking quite a bit of weight. I know society judges this as being fatphobic because most people believe that we have no influence on our weight and it’s not supposed to affect our attraction for others, but I can’t seem to help it. I look at X and even though I’m very fond of her, the sight of her stimulates my libido less and less as she is gaining more and more weight.
This problem is exacerbated by a new FWB I’ve been f--king, Y, and she’s not only more of my type physically, she’s totally GGG and I’m having the best sex of my life with her. This doesn’t affect the strong feelings I have for X but it does make the sex with her seem even less interesting.
Where the situation gets delicate is because X has low self-esteem problems, she’s self-conscious of her body and has a hard time accepting it. I’ve always been careful to make her feel beautiful by having very sensual sex with her and telling her she’s pretty, and I never made a single comment about her weight. I believe people should choose how to manage their body and others don’t have a say in it. My philosophy is that my choice is limited to taking people as they are or not taking them at all, and I shouldn’t ask nor expect them to change for me.
I think our relationship is heading towards phasing out sex from it but the problem is that I don’t want to exacerbate her self-esteem problem, I don’t want to make her hate her body even more and make her more self-conscious about it. So I don’t want to tell her that I’d rather stop having sex with her because I’m not attracted to her anymore. I don’t want to lie to her. And I’d rather not have sex with her that I don’t feel like having, just to please her. And above all, I don’t want to jeopardize our friendship and our project.
What should I do, Dr. NerdLove? Is it me who’s wrong and I’m not supposed to be any less attracted to her even though she’s taking weight? If so, what am I supposed to do about it? If not, how can I detach my lowering interest for sex with her self-esteem issues?
– Seeking Humane Answer to Lowering Libido for Overweight Woman
DEAR SEEKING HUMANE ANSWER TO LOWERING LIBIDO FOR OVERWEIGHT WOMAN: Alright, SHALLOW, there’s a lot going on here, but there are two that stand out as being the most significant. The first is that I think you might be misattributing your loss of interest solely to X’s weight. The second is that you’re giving yourself a false dichotomy here. But there’re more than a few issues that’re getting tangled up in all of this and making things worse.
As with a lot of complicated issues, let’s roll it from the top, shall we?
To start with: I’m kind of wondering how attracted you were to X in the first place. I mean, right from the jump, you’re telling me that she’s never been your physical type to start with and that, while you like getting laid, the sex is mediocre to average at best. That doesn’t exactly make your loss of attraction to her much of a surprise; it seems rather like it was more inevitable, rather than something that’s caught you by surprise. This is especially true when you’ve started hooking up with Y who not only is your type, but also has the kind of sex you want. Not only do you have all that New Relationship Energy crackling in your brain, but you’re banging someone who you’re actually in tune with, sexually, instead of going through the motions because an orgasm WOULD be nice tonight. This is why I don’t think her weight gain is the root cause of your loss of interest. I don’t think it’s helping in this case, but I strongly suspect that it’s the easiest thing to latch onto. You weren’t that hot for her to start with, and these changes were enough to snuff out the last of your interest.
Now I get that X is your best friend and you love her… but the way you describe things makes me think that you made the mistake a lot of straight guys make: you bought into the idea that men and women can’t be just friends. One of the most pernicious myths that straight dudes believe is that sex always gets in the way between men and women — the old “yes, your guy friends all want to f--k you” bit from When Harry Met Sally. This alone makes it hard for guys to have honest and emotionally intimate friendships with women. But then there’s also the fact that, because society encourages men to be detached from their emotions and we equate emotional intimacy with sexual intimacy, men tend to confuse an emotionally close friendship with romance. As a result: you get a lot of guys who mistake friendship for romantic attraction and who try to make a relationship work with someone they’re not actually attracted to.
And that’s generally a good way to end up with a lot of hurt feelings and unnecessary pain.
I don’t know if it was just a case that the two of you had a one-night stand and decided to make a go of it, that one of you kicked things off with the other and it just kind of spiraled from there or what but it sounds to me like this is a relationship that’s had an expiration date from the get-go. And, in fairness, that’s the case with a lot of FWB relationships. As I’ve said before, friends with benefits tend to end one of two ways: either you quit having sex, or you quit being friends. Sometimes that means you quit being FWBs and move to something more committed, or the friendship falls apart. And frankly, SHALLOW, I think you’re going to end up with both if you’re not careful.
But here’s the thing: your choices aren’t “lie to her about why you don’t want to f--k her any more” or “destroy her self-esteem by telling her you think she’s too fat”. Nor is it to continue having maintenance sex because you’re trying to boost her self-esteem with your penis (which, incidentally, doesn’t work). What you should do is be honest: you’re feeling the nature of your relationship changing and that it’s shifting more to the “friends” side of the equation than the “benefits” part. She’s still very dear to you and you love her, but for you, the sexual side of your relationship is coming to an end.
And then leave it at that. This is, in fact, a normal part of relationships; plenty of folks have transitioned from FWB to friends without benefits. Sometimes it’s because one or the other has decided to pursue an exclusive relationship. Other times, it’s because that attraction faded over time… like it often does. That doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with her or the relationship, it just means that part of the relationship reached its natural conclusion. If you’re going to make that leap yourselves, then telling her “Bee-tee-dubs, I wasn’t that into you into the first place, but putting on a few pounds killed that dead” is the last thing you should do. The important part of “friends with benefits” isn’t the “benefits”, it’s the “friends”.
So let her down gently, SHALLOW. Make sure she understands that this isn’t about her, it’s about you and the nature of your feelings. She has done absolutely nothing wrong, this is just how things have progressed for you. Then continue to treat her like a dear friend… that you’re not f--king.
And in the future, be a little more mindful of your feelings and don’t try to round a friendship up to something more. Especially when you’re not that attracted to them or sexually compatible in the first place.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org