Can ‘Friends With Benefits’ Really Work? 15 Rules for Mess-Free Arrangement

We all know the phrase "let's keep it casual" but what does it really mean to be "friends with benefits". Friends with benefits (aka FWB) is a casual sexual relationship with either a friend (duh) or just a random person. Successful FWB relationships are strictly sexual and avoid all of the romantic and physical intimacy of a true relationship. For a lot of people, FWB relationships are a great way to scratch a sexual itch without having to commit the time or emotional investment into a full blown relationship. They are also excellent for polyamorous people who are interested in pursuing multiple different types of relationships at one time.

And while some people really thrive in these casual relationships, others have a hard time separating sexual intimacy from emotional intimacy. Begging the question: Is it truly possible to have a sexual relationship without catching feelings? Casual relationships aren't for everyone, so there are a few ground rules people should ask themselves to keep a FWB situation from becoming too involved.

1. Make sure you're emotionally mature enough to be FWB

Like we said before, not everyone is cut out for a casual FWB relationship. Sleeping with someone in a non-committal way takes a lot of emotional maturity. Before you start a FWB fling, make sure that you can deal with the different outcomes of the relationship. Adding sex to the equation will never make things easier (though it potentially adds a lot of satisfaction), so ask yourself if you can handle a casual thing from the jump.

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2. Don't become FWB with someone you already have feelings for

A successful friends with benefits relationship will end when the relationship is no longer serving one/both of you, or when one of you starts dating another person more seriously. Most FWB do not end with you dating your bed buddy! For this reason, you should not become FWB with someone that you are already into. If you agree to just sleep together, you should not expect for them to wake up one morning and reciprocate your feelings. For a lot of people, it’s easy and normal to separate emotional feelings from physical/sexual relationships and that’s what you’re signing up for as a FWB. Sleeping with someone with the hopes that they fall for you is a sure fire way to break your own heart. Instead of going for someone that you are romantically interested in, choose someone that you know less well so that things can indeed be casual.

3. Choose your partner wisely

The ideal FWB is someone that you are physically attracted to, but not emotionally attracted to. In addition to sexual chemistry, it’s important to choose someone that is honest. Successful FWB relationships take a lot of communication and trust, so it’s important to choose your partner wisely.

4. Don’t be lovey dovey

This might be the golden rule of successful FWB relationships. Don’t hold hands. Don’t smooch in public. Don’t go on dates. Don’t practice PDA. In general, just don’t be lovey dovey with your sex friend. It’s important to keep things in the bedroom so that you don’t start developing feelings for them. A lot of people find that it’s actually easiest to minimize the amount of time they spend with the FWB to keep the relationship more casual and low key. While you don’t want the relationship to feel transactional, you do want to make sure that it is mostly/entirely about your sexual chemistry and connection.

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5. Avoid sleepovers

Along the same lines....after having sex, LEAVE! Cuddles and spooning fall squarely into activities for couples and should be avoided if you want your FWB relationship to work. As nice as it is so wake up next to someone in the morning (and potentially have morning sex!) that is an intimacy that you should try and reserve for future partners. This is not to say that you need to kick your friend to the curb as soon as you finish having sex, but you should be weary of sleepovers, as they might add complications to your casual relationship.

6. Be transparent about your sex life/be safe

FWB relationships are not typically exclusive, which means that you and your friend are probably seeing a couple different people. If this is the case, it’s super important that you are both transparent about your sex lives and that you are practicing safe sex. In addition to condoms and other forms of protection, it’s a good idea to set up routine STI screenings so that you do know your status.

7. Set expectations at the beginning

Okay not everyone is into scheduling, but it can be helpful to talk about what your FWB relationship will look like from the outset. Do you want a standing hookup on Wednesday nights? Or do you want things to be more spontaneous? Are you down with flirty texting? Or is that crossing a line? Do you expect to be in this for the foreseeable future? Or are you moving across the country in two months? Talking all of these things through at the beginning will help make sure that you and your friend are on the same page.

8. Expect the bare minimum

In addition to setting expectations in the beginning, it’s a good rule of thumb to set your expectations as low as possible. A FWB relationship won’t come with any bells and whistles so don’t expect a birthday present, a Valentine’s card, or a bouquet of flowers at any point. Keeping your expectations low (yes, even lower than the expectations you set in the beginning) will prevent you from getting overly invested in your casual relationship. And it will prevent you from getting jealous or upset if your friend blows you off or doesn’t prioritize you.

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9. Set boundaries

Boundaries are important for every relationship, and FWB relationships are no exception. In order for both of you to feel fulfilled in this relationship, you need to make sure that your boundaries and needs are being respected. This is often more important for FWB that share the same friend group or have some social overlap in their lives. If this is the case, it’s important to discuss who will know about the relationship, how you will navigate the relationship in public and whether or not friends or certain people are off limits. Setting up boundaries or rules is just as important (if not more important) than setting up expectations at the beginning. It’s important for you and your friend to check-in about your boundaries throughout your relationship.

10. Prioritize the friendship part of "FWB" over the physical

At the end of the day, remember that you should be friends with your FWB and that the friend part should be able to continue even if the benefits end. You don’t need to spend a ton of time together to maintain your friendship, but focusing on keeping things fun, lighthearted, and playful, will help you prioritize the friendship part over the physical.

11. Communicate

Communication is key in every relationship, but especially important in a FWB relationship when you need to discuss things like expectations, boundaries and your sexual health. Being able to have these discussions requires a lot of maturity (remember our first tip), but it is also a skill that you can develop with practice. It’s also important that you are able to communicate your sexual needs. After all, what’s the point of the benefits if they don’t do it for you! It’s important to be able to communicate openly about your sexual needs so that the FWB is fulfilling. This also means listening to what your friend wants and needs in bed.

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12. Don’t be jealous!

Like we mentioned, your FWB will likely be sleeping with other people. As will you. It’s important not to let feelings of jealousy get in the way of a good sex parternship. Possessiveness is not a good color on anyone - in any type of relationship - but since an FWB highlights the word ‘friends,’ which by very definition means not together, it’s especially out of place.

13. Don’t stop dating

Remember that you and your friend likely won’t end us as serious partners, so if that is what you are ultimately looking for, you should continue to date on the side. The great thing about a FWB relationship is the fact that things are so casual. You can sleep with your FWB when you are in the mood, and take things slow in your dating life. Or not! Totally up to you, but having a FWB can often take the pressure off of dating in the early stages.

14. Understand that they are also still dating

Just like you will likely be dating on the side, so are they. Be aware that as a FWB you probably aren’t they’re priority and you might have to be comfortable taking a backseat to their dating life. You probably want the same thing, so this usually works out for the best.

15. Don’t forget why you started

At the end of the day, friends with benefits relationships are about sex. Make sure that you and your friend are having fun sex together! FWB relationships are also a great way to explore different types of sex and to get creative.

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