This is post 6 in our series on Sex Before Remarriage.  Read the previous article, The Importance of Knowing, here.

Friends or Lovers? There is a difference. We will relate differently depending on which type of relationship we believe we are in. There are certain behaviors/lines/boundaries for friends that aren’t there for lovers. There are certain privileges and expectations for lovers that don’t belong in friendship. Sex, especially casual sex, muddies the relational boundaries. One of you may be able to have sex and maintain friendship while the other feels that having sex means the relationship is exclusive. The words, attitudes, and behaviors don’t line up, which causes confusion and hurt. (Again, different sexual values.)

An Exercise

To help couples keep it straight, I suggest an exercise of listing attitudes, behaviors, and words that they believe belong in categories of relating.  ‘Here are some categories to try, ‘Friendship’ ‘Friend with Benefits’ ‘Dating’ and ‘Committed.’ Discerning things this way helps them get clear as to the kind of relationship they are in, or probably more correct is it helps them get clear as to which of them is in what category. They may not, and often don’t match up.  You wouldn’t expect the same kind of behaviors from a co-worker as you would your family.  The same is true in the realm of friendship and lover.

Each type or relationship has a different set of parameters.

Friendship has different behaviors and expectations than Dating; Committed has different behaviors and expectations than Friends with Benefits, and so on. (For instance, most people don’t include ’sex’ as a desired behavior in the ‘Friend’ column, but they do in the ‘Committed’ column.) Once the expected behaviors for each category have been identified they can clearly see where they are. Seeing this visually helps them understand why they feel so crazy. This exercise also helps them identify from which column the person they are dating sees themselves. If the two are in completely different categories there is a conversation that needs to happen.

I’ve coached a few women who say they are in the friendship stage and are not interested in partnering at all, and yet they are in a sexual relationship. Once these women align their words, attitudes and behaviors, they begin to get clear on what they really want.

It is much more useful for both of the couple to consciously move from one category to another rather than to slip-slide between them. Unconsciously sliding between categories is like participating in an ambiguous bait and switch tactic that is just plain crazy making.

I’m saving the best for last.  The final article in this series: The Sacredness of Sex.