How Deepening Friends With Benefits Led Me To Love

It’s 4pm on a Monday.

I’m lying on a yoga mat at home, three months after the end of a three-year relationship. I’m not ready for anything serious. I’m also not interested in one-night stands.

Up until this point, fear has held me back from truly and unapologetically exploring my relationship to sex and intimacy.

But now I’m imagining a sexual encounter that is vulnerable, intimate, adventurous, healing, and communicative. I want to be selfish and giving. I want to take turns leading. I want to experience sex as a part of my human experience, and for it to be an expression of who I am.

During a meditation earlier in the day, my friend Dana* had appeared as the essence of femininity. In my mind, I witnessed our embrace transform into a rocket that spiraled into the stratosphere. Taking this as a sign, I decide she’s the one to approach about this sexual exploration — what I deem an “intimacy practice.”

I speak with Dana that night. After catching up, I tell her what I am looking for — an opportunity for intimacy that is vulnerable, intimate, adventurous, healing, and communicative. I sit, anxiety growing, and nervously wait for her response.

“Yes, that sounds amazing!” she says. Relief.

Three days later we sit in Dana’s bedroom and outline our ideas for the intimacy practice:

Meet no more than twice a month

Keep the relationship specific to intimate encounters (no going on dates, hanging out as friends, texting, etc.)

Each session will be 4–6 hours with specific rituals to open (massage) and close (discussion) “the space”.

Discuss the following at each encounter:

  • What am I trying to get out of this? What am I hoping to receive?
  • What are my fears? What makes make me feel vulnerable?
  • What are my strengths? What makes me feel confident?
  • What are my weaknesses and triggers? What do I know I need to work on?
An hour after laying out our plan I begin one of the most amazing sexual encounters of my life.

We connect in a deep and vulnerable way — we ask for anything, seek feedback, and every question has an ensuing reward. Things I had been too ashamed to ask for before are some of her favorite things. When either of us feels a desire for something different, the other senses it and moves onto something new. We read each other’s bodies like braille. We love holding eye-contact. We recognize we have both been longing for something like this.

As our sessions continue, any notion I have of this being just for me disappears. A few times, Dana breaks down in tears and we pause to talk through what she was feeling. When she comments that I look sexy, I notice my brain reject the compliment, chalking it up to a lie meant to make me feel good. Afterwards we discuss how my reaction is connected to my self-worth.

This beautiful, uncomplicated intimacy gives us the opportunity to let go of past shames, to openly acknowledge and pursue our desires, and to feel deeply connected to our bodies. It is therapeutic and electrifying–physically, emotionally, mentally, and sexually.

Five months into our practice, Dana calls me. “I met someone, and I’ve fallen head over heels in love with him,” she says. I feel a wellspring of emotion come up.

“What? Tell me about him!” I reply.

Over dinner, she tells me all about how they met, their plans to travel together, and most importantly, how our intimacy practice prepared her for this love. Rather than feeling robbed or jealous, I feel utter joy that she’s found someone deserving of her love. Our sessions had healed some part of her and helped her call in life-changing love.

With the practice over, I begin to mention it to my female friends and their jaws hit the floor while their eyes light up, “that sounds incredible!” My male friends are equally intrigued, wondering what alchemy I had done to transform friends with benefits into something…spiritual.

There must have been some alchemy there because a few weeks after Dana met the love of her life, I met mine. Big cosmic love. We fell head over heels for each other. Moving in together six weeks later, we’ve been madly in love ever since. Inside of our relationship we set aside time every few weeks for intimacy practice and it continues to have profound effects.

Looking back now, I see that I took a risk to ask for what I wanted, thinking it was a new sexual experience. In reality, what I found was healing.

In long-term monogamous relationships, I hadn’t felt comfortable leading someone into the experiences I desired. I feared what they’d think of my requests, and when I did voice them I thought my partner was simply trying to placate me rather than being really excited about exploring what I suggested. Contrary to what I believed, confidently asking for what I wanted helped bring me and my partner closer together.

What I realize now is that we all have the opportunity to be healers in the bedroom.

For so many people (especially women) sex is an act of shame, guilt, old patterns, and obligations. It too often robs women of their power— either by their partner or their past. However, I have found that when we as men create a safe space for women to express and receive what they want, we help them heal. And in being present, we too find healing. And through this healing, we help ready ourselves for true love.