Reader question: How do I stop myself catching feelings for the person I'm having casual sex with?
OK, I have some . . . below average news for you. To be honest, in my experience, it is near-impossible to stop the feels. If you're at the point of asking this question, I think you're too far gone. I'd assume you already have the feels to a certain degree, so let's look at managing that instead.
Why do you want to stop the feels?
Is it because you don't think they feel the same way?
There seems to be an assumption within hetero friends with benefits situations that the woman will be unable to stop her feelings developing while the man remains uninterested and apathetic. Yes, this may be the case for some people, but each relationship is different. Unless you have explicitly discussed your feelings (or lack thereof) for one another, don't try to stifle your feelings unnecessarily. In the wise words of Pharrell, "Don't be afraid to catch feels."
Almost all my relationships have started as non-committal, low-expectation casual sex that has developed naturally. For all you know, your FWB is on the feels train also. SO! Before you attempt to detach, have a conversation about where you two are headed. There isn't a need to profess your love, just check in to see if you're on the same page and go from there. It's important to get confirmation of where you both stand so that you don't mentally torture yourself attempting to speculate if the kiss on the forehead after sex actually meant anything.
Remember, any answer is a good answer. If they feel the same way and want to develop the situation beyond sex, great! If they don't, then you have the power to decide if you want to stick around or not.
Or is it because you're not ready?
If you're not ready for anything serious, it is totally fair to be scared of attachment. Sometimes, it's best for everyone involved if you rein in those feelings until you're ready. Again, before you make any moves to distance yourself, have a conversation with your FWB. Explaining your need for your situation to remain casual will help you to establish boundaries and stick to them. This chat also gives your partner the chance to to make an informed decision about whether they want the casual sex to continue.
Make clear boundaries for yourself
It's terrifyingly easy to fall into a messy situation with regular casual sex, particularly if the sex is good. No matter the reason, if you want to prevent feelings, it's important to set boundaries for yourself. Figure out what is a high-risk situation for you to be in when it comes to attachment and CUT IT OUT.
For example, my love languages are physical touch and quality time. Therefore, I know that if I regularly go to dinner with a FWB and there is a heap of PDA, my brain will implode and decide to start planning the wedding, even if the person I'm with has the personality of a wet piece of cardboard.
Knowing this about myself, if I don't want to catch feelings, I avoid these situations. I set myself boundaries to only see my FWB at home and only for sex (and maybe a few cuddles because who doesn't love aftercare).
Figure out what is going to trigger feelings of attachment for you, and avoid those activities at ALL COSTS. Don't use this situation to fill a void, don't use it to avoid being alone. Take it for what it is. Sex can be play, keep it that way.
These boundaries are going to be different for everyone, so get to know yourself and stick to your guns!
Ultimately, there is no way to stop the feels (SORRY!)
I hate to break this to you, but you can't help who you have feelings for. Love can be uncontrollable and that's why it's exciting, terrifying and intoxicating. If you feel yourself falling for someone regardless of how many boundaries you've set or how many conversations you have, you may never be able to stop yourself from letting all those love chemicals take over your brain.
If you know that this is going to hurt you in the long run or is currently hurting you, you need to cut it off. Staying in a situation that isn't serving you will only create insecurity and prevent you from finding something or someone that is a better fit for you.
You need to take stock, examine your feelings and perhaps make a momentary sacrifice to prevent larger harm down the line. It will be hard initially, but trust me, it's for the best.