My Friend-with-Benefits’ birthday is coming up. Do I get him something?

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sigorette asks:

I’ve (28f) been seeing this guy (24m) for a few months. Supposedly we’re just friends with benefits but it feels like some sort of relationship in denial. We hang without sex, cuddle, go out for food together, hang with friends, spent Valentine’s together making awkward married couple jokes, etc. Anyway that feels like an entirely separate issue I am currently choosing to ignore… ANYWHO I feel like I can’t disregard his birthday – any ideas how I should go about this? Present? Just get him something small? Or…?

Demetrius says:

Funny enough, the one thing you don’t want to confront is the very source of your confusion about what to do for your friend with benefits’ birthday. If had established clearer boundaries, you’d have a better idea of not only where you stand with him in this quasi-fuck buddy thing you’ve got going, but what sort of gift you should or shouldn’t get him.

Let’s be real for a second. Friends with benefits, (FWBs for the sack of brevity), occupy a weird gray area that is a lot broader than just meeting up for sex occasionally. Some people really have problems with the idea of a title and will turn a FWB situation into a quasi-relationship because they’d rather have all of the trappings of a traditional relationship, including monogamy, spending time together, etc, without the title. I’ve seen it before, and it’s always weird to see a couple that is very clearly a couple, say that they’re just friends. This is very different from dating multiple people, I’m talking about people who have a FWB, who they are sexually monogamous with, who they hang out with in a manner that implies a relationship, pretending that the title, or lack of a title makes their arrangement significantly different then actually dating. I’ve seen it, I’ve done it, and it’s never not weird. You’re in this weird FWB situation and choosing to ignore how relationship-y it has become is a problem on a larger scale, but on a smaller scale since his birthday coming up, now you’ve got to decide not only if a gift is appropriate, but what message you’re trying to send with the gift.

Getting a gift for a friend means that you appreciate your friend and could afford to get them a gift, getting a gift for someone you’re seeing romantically can mean a hell of a lot more. Are you trying to make things a bit more serious so you get him a thoughtful gift? Do you go for an ironic or joke gift to convey that you are thinking of his birthday but not taking it too seriously? Do you call or text a happy birthday message to signal to him that you care, but not that much? Do you just send a card or take him out for a night on the town?  What you should do all depends on what you want your gift or gesture to say to him. Whatever you decide to do will be a signal of where you want things to go. Gifts, especially ones given around significant dates or holidays, are symbols. A gift isn’t just a gift, it’s a physical token of your feelings about someone. When people say “It’s the thought that counts”, they really do mean it.

I can’t tell how things should progress between you two, but I would say pick a gift or gesture that sets the tone for your wants out of this relationship. If you want things to just be sex-only, text him or call him and wish him a happy birthday. If you want things to move toward being more committed, get him a gift or take him out for his birthday. The particulars of the gift don’t matter that much, so much as the effort you put into the gift.

Also, you didn’t ask but I’ll give you a piece of unsolicited advice: It’s time to talk to him about your relationship. Deciding to be FWBs worked for a while, but ignoring your current situation isn’t productive. Woman up, ask what the hell you guys are doing and what he wants, and stop ignoring the signs that you both have accidentally become quasi-boyfriend and quasi-girlfriend.

Good Luck Out There.


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