Friends with Benefits: Can You Have Great Sex With Someone You Don’t Like?

10/05/2012

Couple-kissingReader question: I met this guy and told him I didn't want anything serious, just a casual relationship. I don't LIKE him that much but we have incredible physical chemistry. It drives me crazy when we plan on "hanging out" on his days off and he doesn't show. I know he has a life, but I want more attention. Am I crazy? We sleep together two to three times per week. I want more!

Dr. Ty: This reminds me of my chronic yearnings for the to-die-for cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery in New York City's West Village. After having my first chocolate cupcake there in April, I found myself distracted by images of those delectable treats for weeks. When someone told me that even Carrie Bradshaw could not resist Magnolia, I knew I was on to something good. Those cupcakes began to feel addictive because: (1) my craving was insatiable, (2) I needed more of them over time, and (3) I must admit that not getting them was upsetting.

It turns out that great dessert and great sex have more in common than you would think. Brain imaging and physiological studies of sexual arousal show that hormones such as estrogen and testosterone increase heart rate, glucose levels, and blunting of pain. In the right contexts, this can be a euphoric or “drug like” experience, which can lead to cravings.

You’re probably not crazy -- your cravings are probably just a biological response to great sex. Although not typical, the biological and psychological underpinnings of sex and love can function independently in some situations. So, I would say you should tread carefully in this situation, especially if you get upset because he doesn't show you attention. Deeper emotions can seep into these casual arrangements, which can create a bad situation. However, if you’re being safe, insist that he treats you well (e.g., showing up when he says he will), and find that something casual and infrequent can be fine with you, then I guess you might be able to have your cake and eat it, too.

More on Sex and Relationships:

How to Fire Up Your Sex Life

Is It Love or Lust?

How Much Do You Know About Sex?


Ty Tashiro is the author of The Science of Happily Ever After: What Really Matters in the Quest for Enduring Love, an entertaining look at why modern dating is so challenging, why people can easily make bad partner choices, and how science can help us make smart decisions in the search for enduring love. It's available on Amazon, Indie Bound and Barnes & Noble. Dr. Ty received his Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Minnesota. His research has appeared in top academic journals and he has been an award-winning professor at the University of Maryland and University of Colorado. Follow him on facebook and twitter.
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