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So my son is seeing a girl as of a couple weeks ago.

They go out salsa dancing a lot, which both like, and take salsa classes together. He told me he made it clear to her that a relationship is not possible for him. He just came out of one and just knows that he does not want a long-term relationship now. Friends with benefits is fine though.

The girl, on the other hand, was telling him that he must tell her as soon as he has something with someone else, and then she'll end it.

Do you see the problem with interests here? The relation they have between each other is not right from the start. From experience I would say, it is rarely the case that boys and girls want the same thing. So, this is not a such a big surprise is it?

My son wants other girls. So sooner or later this is bound to fail anyways.

So his question was actually:

"Should I try to make clear to her, all the time, that we are not together, so when I actually meet someone else the final punch in her face will be less brutal or should I say/act not related to this and one day surprise her with the news that I was with someone else?"

Additionally, he asked me this:

"I really like her, so if I have something like a one night stand with another girl I don't want to lose her for that. What if I just keep it to myself?"

I felt a bit lost. What kind of advice would you give to your son?

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    I don't see any problem here. The girl is presumably an adult, she knows what she has gotten herself into and doesn't need constant reminders. Assuming she does is IMO an insult to her intelligence. – user7953 Sep 19 '14 at 22:29
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    If your son wants to sleep around, then your son needs to make his intentions very clear. It is obvious, the girl, even if rebound, doesn't want to date someone that is sleeping with another girl at the same time. She wants serial. If your son decides to have a one night stand, it's better to tell her before hand so she can decide if she wants to continue dating him. If your son can't let her know beforehand, then he should talk with her as soon as possible. It's only fair the girl knows the situation completely and let her decide from there. Hiding the fact is very disrespectful. – Sun Sep 25 '14 at 6:27
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    Tell him to check out David D'Angelo he will have plenty of great valuable advise. Careful though his stuff works well, landed my friend with benefits into being my wife with children of 8yrs, lmao. – Tony Oct 4 '14 at 21:56
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    it's about adult relationships -- asking on behalf of one's child does not necessarily make it relevant to parenting – Acire Apr 9 '15 at 2:12
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    @Erica I tend to agree with you that it's off topic, but not because of the age (we specifically have the adult-child tag for 17+). I think the question "What kind of advice would you give to your son?" is to broad, as Joe mentions on Meta: "Questions that are a dump of a situation with "What do I do?" or "I'm lost, please help". We need to put these on hold immediately, and point the author to good examples of how to make their question specific enough and organized such that they can get good help." – user11394 Apr 9 '15 at 18:09
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Disclaimer: I'll use the word 'relationship' in the general sense, encompassing any kind of relationship; I'll use the term 'exclusive relationship' to refer to, well, an exclusive, mutually agreed to relationship.

So, let me recap. He told her he doesn't want to be in an exclusive relationship; he wants them to be friends, and he want to have sex with her occasionally, but also wants to be free to have sex with other women. So far so good.

In return, she told him "that he must tell her as soon as he has something with someone else, and then she'll end it." This does not sound like she agreed to have a friendship with benefits; it doesn't even sound like she fully understood what he was trying to tell her. It sounds like she thinks they will have an exclusive relationship which will end the moment "he has something with someone else" (and I'm not even sure what exactly she means with this term - the moment he has an interest in someone else? The moment he has sex with someone else? Does your son know?).

As he has asked for your advice, he clearly understands that there is a misunderstanding between the two of them, and from this misunderstanding springs his insecurity about how to proceed further. So obviously, the first step would be to go back to her and try to clear up this misunderstanding.

If he succeeds in clearing up this misunderstanding, she will probably make the decision herself whether or not she wants to continue the friendship, and under which terms. If so, the case is solved and he can move on.

If the misunderstanding persists, or even if she says that she has understood but then continues to contradict this by other things she says (like what you quoted above), then your son needs to decide how he wants to proceed, and I'll try to describe the consequences that I think will be most likely to occur.

should I try to make clear to her all the time, that we are not together, so when I actually meet someone else, the final punch in her face will be less brutal or should I say/act not related to this and one day surprise her with the news that I was with someone else?

So, once your son did his utmost best to clear up the misunderstanding, her decisions are obviously her responsibility. But as you have written above, your son actually cares for her, and doesn't want her to get hurt. Of course he's not responsible for her possibly making wrong decisions, but his actions will affect her, which in turn will determine the course of their friendship. If she continues to send mixed signals and he continues to suspect that his and her interests aren't aligned, he needs to decide what is more important to him. His options in that case would very likely be:

  • have sex with her, have sex with other women, and risk her getting hurt and end the friendship
  • decide that he values their friendship (without benefits) more than he values having sex with her, and seek out other women
  • agree to an exclusive relationship (which he's probably not interested in doing, and that's fine)

I don't actually think that it makes a difference whether or not he tries "to make clear to her all the time, that we are not together" - he needs to make sure he did his best to clear up the misunderstanding, but if she doesn't understand then, telling her every day won't make a difference.

I really like her, if I have something like a one night stand with another girl, I don't want to lose her for that. What if I just keep it to myself?

Seriously, this isn't that hard.

Ask him to imagine he has one night stands with other girls, and keeps it to himself. He might be able to hide it for a few times, but sooner or later he might have to lie about it. Does he want to be that kind of person?

Also, as it stands now, she agreed to the (possibly not well understood) relationship between them under the condition "that he must tell her as soon as he has something with someone else, and then she'll end it". If he has a one night stand with another girl and keeps it to himself, despite her specific request, it means he's disregarding the terms under which they agreed to this relationship, and she has every right to feel betrayed.

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    This is my favorite answer so far. To me the statement "the final punch in the face" says a lot about this lopsided relationship. The boy knows he's hurting this girl. Your answer gives the OP the perfect line of questioning so as to guide this young man to realize he's really a decent guy (since he's asking for guidance, he obviously knows he's outside his moral comfort zone) and to act accordingly. – Jax Sep 26 '14 at 17:40
  • Errrm, the phrase "clearing up misunderstandings" comes up a lot in this thread, and I just thought I'd mention that in my own personal experience doing anything like "clearing up misunderstandings" always ends in disaster. My strategy is to simply wait until something becomes a problem rather than a misunderstanding and then try to fix it if possible. Why attempt to pre-emptively solve problems that haven't happened yet? – Atsby Apr 9 '15 at 7:45
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    @Atsby If you were traveling along a road on a cliff edge, would you prefer to see a fence at the edge, or a hospital at the bottom? In this context, "misunderstanding" translates roughly to "two people in a relationship where they each have different beliefs about what that relationship entails". This means one of them is working on false information every time they choose how to proceed with the relationship, and is therefore bound to choose wrong eventually. This is already a problem. Doing something about it now means there's a chance to fix it before someone gets hurt. – anaximander Apr 10 '15 at 11:07
  • In my experience, it's always better for everyone in the relationship to know where they stand. Note that "better" doesn't necessarily mean "less painful". Usually, but not always. Also, "less painful" isn't quite the same as "less damaging". – anaximander Apr 10 '15 at 11:29
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Did it ever occur to him not to sleep with her? He sounds like he wants it all. At everyone else's expense. I'm more floored that you found it hard to respond to him. Would you react the same way if it were your daughter. I don't think so. Tell him to leave her alone. There is no such thing as a friend with benefits.

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    I agree. She may have misunderstood him, but he knows she misunderstood. – Little Ms Whoops Sep 20 '14 at 18:08
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    I have to wonder a little why you are floored that people in different cultures might have different values than yours. I'm not saying I think the answer isn't right in the end; I'm saying it's not necessarily a no-brainer. I see no evidence that this open mother struggling to be wise (and realistic) with her son would be any less likely to struggle with her daughter. – anongoodnurse Sep 21 '14 at 2:28
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    I think Joann has a good point that "There is no such thing as a friend with benefits". Sex is a powerful thing: young people thinking they can separate it from any emotional impact or attachment are fooling themselves. – AlexC Sep 24 '14 at 11:07
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    AlexC - I would have to disagree 100%. I think people should be able to separate it completely - it's all a question of culture whether you can or can't. – Rory Alsop Sep 24 '14 at 19:32
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    I'd have to disagree 100% as well. There is definitely such a thing as friend with benefits (I know from first-hand experience). Now in my case as well, the friend eventually wanted to upgrade to a relationship, and that ended things, but there was definitely a time span in which it was clearly friends with benefits. – Atsby Apr 9 '15 at 7:52
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It seems like your son wants to have sex with women without committing to them emotionally, socially, or exclusively. Basically he wants to have his cake and eat it too.

Furthermore it seems like he hasn't gone to you to see if this is something right or wrong, but to see how he can continue doing it without suffering any negative consequences. You should tell him that, even if he doesn't mean to hurt anyone through his actions, sex is a powerfully connecting thing for at least 1 person involved and a revolving door of sexual partners will almost certainly result in emotional scars and heartbreak, either for him or the women.

Friendship is also a two way street. Even if your son is totally honest, tactful, gentle, and kind to this girl she may still feel hurt by staying in the "friends with benefits zone" while he's having sex with other women. But maybe she won't and it'll be your son that's hurt. That's the risk that friends with benefits take.


What kind of advice would you give to your son?

~~~~Opinion Alert~~~~

I'm different than you, so I don't see how knowing what I would tell me own children could help you if you have a fundamentally different view of the world, morality, sin, and God. If it were my son, I'd tell him that I love him so much and that I will always want the best for him, and that this idol of sex will eventually disappoint him and may even leave him permanently scarred.

I would tell my son that my view of truth is that sex was something that was designed to happen between a man a woman that are exclusively, totally, emotionally, physically, financially, and lovingly committed to one another for the rest of their lives. Any kind of sex outside of that committed relationship is ultimately damaging.

  • -1 from me. I don't perceive from the OP that the son wants a "revolving door of sexual partners". Instead, it seems like he just got out of a long term relationship, and isn't ready to get back into one yet (which is a fairly mature and healthy realization, imho). Nor does it sound like he's looking to avoid negative consequences, but rather how to best handle the situation, knowing that one way or another there are going to be complications. While I appreciate you've clearly marked part of your answer as opinion, you make some pretty significant leaps and assumptions that I disagree with. – user420 Sep 24 '14 at 19:46
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    @Beofett That's fair. Thank you for explaining your downvote. My "revolving door" inference was from the son's hypothetical "...what if I have a one night stand?" – LCIII Sep 24 '14 at 21:19
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    -1 from me. Answer seeks to treat an adult woman as if she is a child that needs to be protected from the consequences of her own decisions. – user1450877 Sep 25 '14 at 2:09
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    @LCIII thanks for your perspective. Sex is very powerful and can make relationships that much more complicated. – Sun Sep 25 '14 at 6:23
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    The problem with treating sex as a recreational activity, like tennis, is that it is designed to lead to a) emotional entanglement (hence the massive release of endorphins) and b) babies. neither of these things are cool unless both parties are committed. – superluminary Feb 29 '16 at 0:01
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If it were me I would tell him to be completely open and honest from the start about what he wants from the relationship and not to lead her on. As long as he does that then as an adult the woman involved is perfectly capable of making up her own mind about how she wants to take things forward.

It may sound cynical but women, in my experience, are not delicate flowers that need to be protected from themselves and their own feelings. Also you cannot be responsible for someone else's happiness.

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Drawing on my personal history I've always found that FWB have a very short shelf life. First time around she wanted kids, a family, etc. I didn't and after a little bit of time she moved on and found what she was looking for. We're still friends to this day.

Second time around I made it very clear I had intentions of moving across the country. Time went on I'd keep repeating what my intentions were and I found that she was just hoping I'd change my mind or want to have her move with me (I wouldn't have any part of moving someone away from their kids).

In both situations, people got hurt. Didn't matter how clear it was made.

In your son's situation, he's young, it's a perfectly natural thing for him to do what he wants to do. Heck he should while he's young. It's certainly her choice to stay once it's made clear to her, it's also his option to knuckle up and move on since it'll end up like that and let her get on with her own life.

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I think the best piece of advice is to tell your son, "Wear a condom." Definitely don't believe a young woman is taking the pill (correctly) even if she tells you she is and especially if you aren't even in a real relationship with her.

Some other observations that seem obvious:

  • this girl is using sex to be with your son. Don't feel sorry for her or worry about your son being a pig (yet). He was honest. She is letting him take the car for an extended test drive hoping he never brings it back to the dealer.

  • your son just said what most 20-something boys would say if girls could read their minds. He just had the balls to tell her. He might mean it now, he might mean it in a year. He doesn't know about her yet and doesn't want her to get attached. They are adults so who cares. Now this could backfire if he really likes the girl a few months from now... but the chances are if she was the one he wouldn't have said it.

  • if anything his honesty trumps everything else. He isn't going out and sleeping with 4 girls and lying to them all.

  • if he sleeps with another girl she will be hurt. She might not say anything, she might even keep seeing him but she will be hurt. It is really hard to have this kind of relationship without at least one person getting hurt.

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