"So is it like a casual sex thing?" my best friend Megan* asked as we walked to my car. I had told her that I had started having sex with my ex-Not-Boyfriend again, after almost a year of no contact with him.
"Not really." I got into the driver's seat and tried to think about how to explain how I felt about Rob. "It's like I trust him, you know? That's not casual for me really, but we're not like dating or anything."
A Not-Boyfriend is someone that is like a boyfriend in many ways; you have sex with them regularly and are good friends. Not-Boyfriends are often within your social circle- someone convenient. It's not monogamous in theory, but it practice it often is. People only have so much free time and it is easier and often more sexually satisfying to go for someone that you already have a rapport with. Finding new people can be tiring. A Not-Boyfriend might even tell you that they love you "as a friend". Always with the qualifier.
I hate the term "friends with benefits". Sex is not a benefit of my friendship. A recent article in The Good Men Project Magazine lists different types of "pre-exclusive relationships" but none quite fit what I call a Not-Boyfriend. Lovers, maybe.
Rob and I started hooking up when we were roommates two years ago. We both intended for it to be a one time thing, but we started sleeping in the same bed every night almost right away. He was affectionate in a way that I craved and he didn't hold it back the way that my past Not-Boyfriends had. It was hard summer for me and it felt good to be held. Don't get me wrong, the fucking was great, really fucking great, but the holding was something I desperately needed but could never ask for.
I am not a touchy-feely person; most physical contact outside of sexual relationships makes me uncomfortable. Part of the reason that I enjoy sex so much is because despite my aversion to touching, I want to. My skin will feel numb if it's been too long since I've been held or caressed or something like that.
Through this, my life was changing tremendously. The summer that Rob and I started hooking up I finally stopped drinking. I almost drank myself to death that summer and Rob was there for me through all of it. The week I stopped I shook and cried and threw up and was overwhelmed with all the feelings I had been drinking away for years. Sometimes Rob said the wrong thing and sometimes he said the right thing but he was there when I was too afraid to reach out to anyone else.
There can be many things that keep a Not-Boyfriend from becoming and Actual-Boyfriend. Rob and I don't have anything in common. He isn't in a place in his life where he wants a committed relationship and I often question whether or not that is something I could handle. I have waves of love-feelings for him, but I am not convinced that we are right for each other. I have always been a little in love with him, but not the kind of love that I have felt in my past actual relationships.
Yet, there is something inside of me that only stops moving when I am in his arms. He has seen the worst of me and still wants me in his life. That is not casual for me. We are not on a path towards a relationship, but there is a connection that is different from one that I would have with a fuck-buddy.
One hot summer afternoon, when we first started hooking up, we were lying in his bed, covered in sweat. He turned to me and said, "You know, I don't think other people would get it."
"Get what?" Endorphins were still rushing through my body and I felt calm.
"Like, how it is with us." He wrapped his arms around me and kissed my forehead.
"What do you mean?"
"It's different from..." He sighed. "It's hard to explain."
"I know what you mean." I pressed my body against his, even with the summer heat.
*Names have been changed