Sam Holstein

If You’re Just Friends, Then Act Like It

Don’t Send People Mixed Messages

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

I’m a contemporary-minded millennial. I don’t have a problem with people being friends with benefits, hooking up, practicing nonmonogamy, or any of it — as long as it’s clear what’s happening.

My big, huge problem with millennial dating is that it’s never clear what is happening. People say one thing and do another all over the place. We have labels: ‘friends with benefits,’ ‘fuckbuddies,’ ‘talking,’ but each one of these labels is so loaded and means so many different things, to so many different people, that they might as well be useless.

For instance, there are multiple things friends with benefits or fuckbuddies means:

And talking:

And dating:

So, two people who call themselves friends with benefits may yet be more serious than two people who are talking (or even two people who have gone on a date).

A friend of mine remarked recently:

It’s hard to talk about this stuff. All these words mean so many different things to so many different people.


What aggravates me the most about these things is the failure of people to align their words with their actions. If you’re looking for a hookup, that’s fine: then say “I am looking for a hookup.” If you’re hoping for this to become something more, say “I am hoping for this to become something more.”

And if you do say “I am looking for a hookup,” act like it. Don’t buy her dinner and call it a date, don’t cuddle her for hours after sex, don’t text her that you miss her, and don’t tell her how beautiful she looks. If you say you want a hookup, but do these things, you are sending mixed messages. (Unless you explicitly say, “this is platonic for me, I enjoy doing these things with people.”)

And if you do say “I am looking for a relationship,” don’t shy away from the commitment that entails. Don’t say that because you feel like it’s the only way to get anyone you like interested in you.

If you often find yourself in romantic trouble because the other person got the wrong message from you, it might be time to analyze your words, and actions, and how they align. What message are you sending that keeps confusing people?

Basically — if you do anything with a friend with benefits that you wouldn’t do with a platonic buddy (besides sex), you might have something more than a friend with benefits on your hands.


What really drives me up a wall about all this is that it’s always boiled down to a ‘hookup’ versus ‘long term relationship’ dichotomy. You either want quick casual encounters, or a long term meaningful one. And nothing in between.

In reality, people want a variety of different things. Some people might be looking for a whirlwind romance, deep and emotional but impermanent. Some people might not want a life partner, but a long-term close friend with benefits. Hell, some people want to be in marriages without sex.

If we were all honest about what we want, instead of hiding behind the false hookup/relationship dichotomy, we wouldn’t have the fuckboy/girl who goes around breaking hearts. Instead, everyone would be able to look for arrangements which meet their needs, and nothing extra.