Dear Em & Lo, Is Physical Attraction in Friendship a Gift or a Curse?

photo by Vivian Chen

Dear Em & Lo,

Is physical attraction a gift or a curse? I’m writing this because a friend and I have been friends for a year. Let’s just say we’ve had our share of up and downs. From us being friends with benefits to helping him deal with his crazy ex-girlfriend. I enjoy being friends with him socially, being able to do regular normal things. We have a lot of similar interests. I’ve always been there for him.

But the downside is our extreme physical attraction to each other is very intense and strong. I don’t want that to destroy our friendship. He’s been cheating on his new girlfriend with me several times. He claims he loves her but she isn’t a very sexual person.

I know he feels guilty when he wakes up and I’m just numb and when I leave I feel like a whore. We’ve set up boundaries — like no sleeping over anymore — but over time I feel our sexual tension will start to build up again. What should I do ?

— Friend with Limited Benefits Plan


Here’s a better question for you: How many of your other friends make you feel “numb” and “like a whore” after you’ve hung out?

And here’s another question: How many of your female friends make you feel “numb” and “like a whore” after you’ve hung out?

You do have other friends, right? We’re assuming this dude isn’t the only person you share interests with, the only person you enjoy socially. So you don’t really need him, socially speaking.

The reason you do need him, we think, is because you actually enjoy the sexual tension. Why else would you ask us if physical attraction in friendship is a gift or a curse? But this guy is (a) a bad friend with benefits (the sex makes you both feel bad — and the whole point of FWB sex is to have fun); (b) an even worse friend (you’re always there for him, but it doesn’t seem like he’s there for you); and (c) a terrible, cheating boyfriend (in case you were thinking along those lines). So why the hell would you keep him around?

We understand the thrill that comes from an FWB — but we think you should replace this dude and find a new one, someone who actually plays by FWB rules. And in the meantime, spend lots of quality time with your female friends who don’t make you feel numb or whore-like. If, god forbid, you find yourself missing those numb and whore-like feelings, then we suggest shelling out $15 to see Charlie St. Cloud at a movie theater near you.

Gifted & cursed,

Em & Lo


  1. My ex-boyfriend and I were best friends for years before we decided to try a romantic relationship and after almost 3 years together he broke it off. So not only did I lose my best friend I lost the love of my life, so I think it is a curse. Be careful.

  2. I have to agree with Carlie. I have also been i this situation before, but from the other side. Trust me, I am fully ashamed now, but at the time I can honestly admit I was just being selfish. I knew my FWB had become a little in love with me, but as long as he didn’t complain or tell my then-boyfriend I just let the good times roll. So Wrong! It didn’t seem to matter if I was in a relationship, if he was, or we were single. We found an excuse to have our long standing Friend-Sex. When our relationships failed we blamed the ex and not ourselves, even though we made ourselves unavailable emotionally by keeping the dirty secret. THIS GUY IS USING YOU. and maybe you could be really open to getting your own boyfriend if you stopped using him?

  3. It’s a curse, trust me. Guys can’t help their attraction to girls in the first place, its like an animal instinct that takes over and they have to get the action they’ve had their eye on.

    I’ve been in your situation about a year now, except that he is single and just doesn’t want to commit b/c he’s been hurt in the past. Biggest problem is, he is the sweetest guy ever. It took me a while, but the main thing I had to realize was that he may be a nice guy, but he’s NOT doing a nice thing to ME.

    And in your situation, he’s not doing a nice thing to his GF either!!!!!!

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