The last time I saw him, he told me, “You’re my best friend!” Oh, yeah. I’ve heard this before. He had been basically living at my house for a month, and we had been engaging in some pretty hardcore kinky sex, and then all of a sudden, it’s, “You’re my best friend!” I rolled my eyes when he said it because, well, it’s not the first time I’ve been in this situation. In fact, it seems to be a common occurrence among my female friends – our more immature male sexual partners have this habit of relegating us to the friend zone even though we’re all fucking. However, when I look at these so-called best friendships, I realized: actually, in every single instance this should be a romantic relationship, maybe not necessarily girlfriend-boyfriend (although, at times, definitely exactly like that) but at the very least those relationships qualify for the “dating” category. So why are we being told that we’re best friends?
The first thing I consider is: what is the difference between a best friend and a boyfriend? There are a lot of similarities. For me, both a best friend and a boyfriend are people who know my true self, someone I enjoy spending time with both drunk and sober, someone to whom I can talk openly and frequently about my day to day life, political opinions, hopes and fears for the future, or whatever dumb bullshit is on my mind. The main difference between a best friend and a boyfriend falls into two categories: am I in love with the person and do I have sex with this person? With best friends, sure, sometimes I’m in love with my best friend, but I don’t have sex with that person. Also, sometimes I have sex with my best friends, but we’re not in love. Other times, it’s not weird at all and I’m not in love with my best friend and we’re not having sex. A boyfriend, however, is someone that I’m mutually in love with and having sex with.
So when a guy I’m fucking tells me we’re best friends, what I hear is: we’re not in love with each other, and that’s not going to happen. I have had plenty of male best friends over the years. If someone wants to voluntarily opt out of the running, that’s fine.
However, after I thought about what the difference meant to me, I wondered: is this the same for men? It’s my inclination to think that men don’t have the same grasp on romantic language that women do, and perhaps the difference between best friend and boyfriend is different to them. (*Cue the toxic masculinity*) I’m under the impression that men seem to think that telling a female sexual partner that they’re best friends seems to come with fewer responsibilities. (Trust me, it does not. I make my best friends do the most for me, and they love it. I make my best friends take me out on dates and buy me shit, drive me around, we talk about building our futures together, I meet their families, I demand their time and monopolize their attention. You know, all those things that most people do with their romantic partners. Maybe I just treat my best friends like my boyfriends. Whatever.) Mostly when a man tells me that we’re best friends and not dating, what I hear is, “I’m close to you in a way that I don’t really understand, and it doesn’t fit the model of a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship that I learned when I was growing up, so I’m going to call you my best friend.”
I find this to be very boring. Personally, I’m a huge fan of being in love. It’s my favorite drug.
This also came with the realization that perhaps our culture’s model for romantic relationships is…kinda fucked up. Perhaps we haven’t been taught that our wives and husbands and girlfriends and boyfriends aren’t the people that know us the best in this world, they’re not the people we’re closest to, they’re not the people we’re most comfortable with, they’re not the people we’re most honest with about who we really are. I wonder: is that true? I mean, sure, yes, I’d have to admit that I live in a society that sets up an unreasonable expectation for who we’re supposed to be and how we’re supposed to love each other. Even dating culture is mostly about the Tinder veneer and whether or not your partner looks good on Instagram. Our relationships aren’t designed to have emotional depth, and we’re not in the habit of practicing intimacy with each other. So, of course it gets confusing when you encounter someone that wants to see the worst parts about you and then continues to care about you and love you. It’s a lot more exciting to make elaborate displays of rejection on the Internet than to quietly admit to your friends that you’re involved with someone who is imperfect. For some reason it seems that we’re all on the ceaseless quest to find a partner who is super hot, great in bed, has tons of money, is morally pure, agrees with our political opinion, will always be loyal, supports us in every way, and has a promising future ahead of them that we can share together. I know that we’re all out there, swiping away on our dating apps and hollering at people at bars, hoping to find this person. I wonder: does this person exist for any of us? Sure, this person exists, but it’s impossible to embody all those characteristics in a constant – the world is a complicated place, and someone who was one day very loyal can tomorrow be given to infidelities. It’s the nature of our existence.
I was talking to a close female friend of mine who is in this exact situation. She told me about this male “best friend” that she’s been sleeping with. She told me that, according to him, she’s the person he’s closest with in the world, the person who cares about him the most. I told her that was a dangerous situation to be in. Mostly because if you’re fucking someone, and you love someone, and you’re used to them being a steady presence in your life, and the nature of your relationship allows that person to go outside that relationship to seek out romance because romantic needs aren’t being fulfilled within that relationship, then that person will probably go pursue whatever romance is available to them because romance is fucking fun, so why not. The shift in dynamic creates chaos, and because the initial relationship is in the context of mere friendship, the normal conversations that one might have in, say, an open relationship or a polyamorous relationship tend to not happen. So rather than setting healthy boundaries, jealousies flair up because the person who you think loves you the most in the world is now putting you on the back burner to fuck someone she’s in love with and loves more than you. Honestly, I’ve experienced this with best friends I wasn’t fucking, so maybe this is just a common pattern in friendships in general, and fucking your best friend is a weird way to compound that.
On the other hand, on multiple occasions I’ve had my male “best friend” whom I fuck and love dearly start to pursue other women romantically. As someone who believes in boundaries, I’ve had to let them know that, hey, maybe we shouldn’t fuck anymore because you’re pursuing something new and I don’t want to get in the way of your relationship. It’s hard to have that conversation without it being construed as sexual rejection, which, well, we’re all fragile creatures and we all hate sexual rejection.
Of course, this isn’t to say that you can’t or shouldn’t fuck your best friend. Totally do that if it works for you. Rather, this is to say that if “best friend” is coded language for something else, it creates chaos due to the overlap with genuine best friendship and maligned relationship ideals in a culture that doesn’t prepare anyone for any type of intimacy.
The sad truth of it is – when he told me that I was his best friend, I knew what it meant. It meant that he had never treated me nearly as shitty as he had treated any of his girlfriends, therefore I must be in a different kind of category. He treated me with the respect he gave his male friends, therefore I must be a best friend. So, damn straight I’m his best friend. I would never be his girlfriend. Maybe that’s the difference – it has nothing to do with love, or being in love, or intimacy. Maybe it’s just that men respect their best friends, and they don’t respect their girlfriends.
Boy, you better fucking respect me!