Terms of Service

I never realized how complicated dating, relationships, love and sex could be until I got a divorce. Granted, I married young and was married for over a decade, so I wasn’t exactly hip to the dating scene. Gone are the days of boy-meets-girl simplicity. Sometimes,  it seems, you need a full-blown contract that lay out all the terms and conditions of the “arrangement” that you enter into.

These days, there are lots of non-traditional forms of getting your groove on with the opposite sex and they don’t exactly scream “committed”. Now, sex without commitment is not exactly a new concept. Still, I’m finding that there are a few twists that can be both liberating and extremely complicated.

 The One Night Stand

A fairly simple concept; a one-time hook-up, often (but not always) accompanied by adult libations. The concept has never been very appealing to me personally, but apparently there are more and more women who are willing to enjoy the occasional romp with a stranger. In fact, one acquaintance posted on her Facebook page after a night of bar-hopping: “Since when did it become so hard to find somebody to fuck?”

The Fuck Buddy

This is a step above the One Night Stand in that it is a standing arrangement for as long as is amenable to both parties. Gone is the fear that someone won’t find you fuckable. It is like built in sex insurance. The relationship does not involve commitment; often it doesn’t even involve friendship. Rather than hit the bars when you feel the need, you simply call up the fuck buddy and hope that he is available. Hanging out as friends is probably best avoided, because otherwise it can escalate to the next stage…

Friends with Benefits

Hanging out is a strong component, because the relationship is about more than just the sexual intimacy. For one reason or another, the relationship doesn’t cross over into “committed”, but it isn’t platonic either. After all, you have a great time together. You’re both hot and sexy. Why not double the pleasure?

Non-Monogamous Lovers

A variation on the Friends With Benefits theme, in that you clearly have more going on than just friendship and more going on than just sex. Yet…there are just so many other people out there! Maybe neither partner desires a committed relationship. Maybe neither partner wants to limit their options. It could cross over to committed, but for right now you’re just enjoying the ride (no pun intended).

 These twists and turns on the way to true love have their pros and cons. Today, “single” rarely means “celibate”. To find the option that meets your needs for physical and emotional intimacy, while waiting for “the one”, can be tricky. As you move through the hierarchy of uncommitted intimacy, the potential for payoff and disaster rise exponentially.

In the end, it is all about boundaries. With a one-night stand, it a little more clear-cut: This is about the pleasure of the moment and not being alone for a few hours. That is, if both parties understand…

With the Fuck Buddy and the Friend with Benefits, what boundaries do you draw around the relationship so that neither gets hurt? Is dinner with a Fuck Buddy acceptable? Do you cuddle afterwards? Or might it smudge the line if you eat pizza before you have sex? For that matter, what is the line? With a Friend with Benefits, what happens when one person decides that they feel something other than friendship? What happens when one of the parties involved meets someone they want a relationship with, therefore ending the “benefits” portion of the relationship? Can the friendship survive?

If only human relationships were like contracts, with places to initial and sign on the dotted line. Perhaps it would make this modern dating scene easier to navigate. Then again, perhaps it wouldn’t help at all. Aren’t love and sex and all the emotion that surrounds interplay between the sexes fraught with potential complications, despite the “terms of service” that you might choose?

Yet it is surprising how much grayer I see love and relationships these days. Perhaps it is getting older. Maybe it is realizing that if the person that promised to love and cherish me until death (and had what is very nearly a contract saying as much!) can stop doing both, then there is really nothing that is permanent. It could even be that now that I’m a mother, my children are very beautiful time markers, always making me aware of the forward movement of time. I’m not sure that I want to go without someone touching me, holding me, cherishing me (if only for an evening) until I find the person I hope to be with long-term. I’m trying to live much more in the present. Commitment, wedding rings and white picket fences don’t guarantee forever.

In the end, I believe in love; I think that two people who work at it can find long-term happiness together if they choose. I’m simply no longer certain that I want to pass up the opportunity to grab life and love right now, simply to wait for an ideal. Sometimes, being held and knowing that no matter where that person will be the next night, they are with you at the present moment…well, that is a shade of gray that can be a beautiful thing.

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