Can you have sex with someone for years without dropping the L-bomb or calling what you have a relationship? For some people, the answer is yes, yes, yes. I t is 30 years since the release of When Harry Met Sally.
That way, if I die before I finish I know how it comes out. That, my friend, is a dark side. For Rachel, a bisexual woman in her early 30s, the answer is an enthusiastic yes, yes, yes! Rachel always felt she knew exactly where they stood, because they talked about the nature of their relationship, discussing the limits of what they expected from each other.
As someone who has never had this sort of relationship, I found it difficult at first to get my head around it — not because I felt judgmental, but because I felt admiring. I think you have to be quite emotionally mature to be able to accept something for what it is, without trying to turn it into something more, or denigrate it for not being something it is not.
You might end up spending most of your time with this person, making decisions about your life based on their input, using them as your main source of emotional support. It may sound too good to be true, but for psychosexual therapist Kate Moyleit does not have to be. She believes this kind of less demanding relationship is on the rise because of the lifestyles of young people.
That is part of the appeal of sex-only relationships for Laura, in her late 20s, who began seeing her then-colleague Mark four years ago. We usually see each other once a fortnight maximum, and the vibe is always quite intimate — even though it is understood that it will never be any more than what it is. You never get past that honeymoon period.
But for Laura — unlike for Rachel — there is a downside. There is a sense of a relationship even if they want it not to be a relationship, because we have a form of a relationship with anyone we are regularly connecting with.
This is what Mary found. She is a mother of three in her early 40s who divorced five years ago, and she has been having regular sex with a male friend. But it is now proving more complex than she had hoped.
She has developed feelings of attachment for him, and he for her. This might sound like a Harry Met Sally happy ending, but, as she explains, it is not.
Closeness and intimacy
I think you have to lay down rules at the beginning and stick to them — or someone will get hurt. There is a name for two people having regular sex with each other on the understanding that it will not grow into a loving, committed relationship — in fact there are several names.
But, for the people I spoke to, none of these terms accurately encapsulates what is going on.
For Emily Witt, the author of Future Sexa book about contemporary sexuality, the name is important. That experience really is worthwhile. This rings true for Rachel.
Communal and exchange relationships
Do long-term, no-strings sex arrangements ever work? Moya Sarner. Tue 12 Mar Topics Relationships Sex Young people features.
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