Friends Who Have Sex

About three months ago, my best male friend and I decided to have sex. It was my first time but not his. It felt so wonderful being wrapped up in his arms and falling asleep in his bed. We've now had sex quite a few times, but our relationship hasn't really changed. It's almost as if it's just something we do when we're bored. Some other people found out about it, and their reactions made us rethink our relationship. My friend called to say that he doesn't think we should continue to be friends who fool around but he doesn't want to risk a romantic relationship and perhaps lose the special closeness we shared before sex entered the picture. Since that conversation, he hasn't called me and we've stopped hanging out. I feel completely rejected and worthless. What can I do? --iVillager ''B''


Dear B:

How sad that the one man closest to you cannot accept the conversion of this relationship from best friends to lovers. Unfortunately, this is a common theme: that once you cross that platonic friendship line, the relationship changes forever. Some friends who turn lovers then go back to just friends do pick up where they left off and feel ''safe'' again in their friendship. Others never do find their way back to solid, platonic ground -- at least, not without taking a healthy break from seeing each other. Ironically, if I were to tell you the best foundation for an intimate sexual partnership, it would be to start out as good friends.

The way you describe your situation, I hear a lot of self-blaming, guilt and shame. Don't beat yourself up because you chose to lose your virginity with a close, trusted friend rather than with a romantic partner. Who knows whether a romantic relationship would have brought any more of an intimate future? It seems to me that you and your boyfriend have some challenges and decisions to face. If you decide to stay erotic and not just platonic, then you have to override the disapproval your social world is conveying. You also need to take a hard look at why you're sleeping together. Is it because you have sexual and romantic feelings for each other? Or is sex between the two of you merely a time-filler and an antidote to boredom? It could be that one or both of you is not really ready for the deep plunge into intimacy. From what you've written, your man seems to be the culprit, but it's important that you analyze your own feelings about this, too. Do you want you and your friend to be a romantic couple, or would you prefer to cut out the sex and go back to being friends only?

Please don't feel ashamed or like a failure because you had sex with him. Instead, try this empowering exercise: All this week, wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and say to yourself, ''I am a beautiful person. I deserve to share my sexuality and my love with a man.'' That type of affirmation will help you get over the negative emotions. Try to talk all this over with your friend when he's ready. If you just can't decide whether to resume as lovers or as friends, that may be your sign that it's time to move on, even away from your friendship.

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