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" with someone? Friends with benefits (aka FWB) is a casual sexual relationship with either a friend (duh) or just a random person. The general idea is that you are friends (or at least friendly) with the other person and have a sexual chemistry, but are not interested in pursuing a more serious, romantic, relationship. 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 if you are interested in pursuing a FWB, there are a few ground rules you should ask yourself 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 get go.
Having emotional maturity also means that you are able to evaluate your own wants and needs. Before getting sexually involved with a friend, think about what you really want out of your relationship with them. Are you the type of person that can handle casual sex? Not everyone is. Knowing this about yourself is important before embarking on a FWB relationship so that you can protect yourself and your friendships.
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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. You should not go into a friends with benefits relationship expecting (or hoping) for it to become something more serious. 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 them to wake up one morning and reciprocate your feelings. And if you are sleeping together, your feelings for the other person will probably only become stronger, which can make the situation even more difficult.
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 surefire way to break your own heart. Instead of going for someone that you are romantically interested in, choose someone that you are not romantically attracted to 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. At the end of the day, you also need to consider what will happen if the FWB relationship doesn’t work out. Do you really want to risk changing the dynamic of a friend group by sleeping with your pal on the off chance that it does not work out? Sometimes it’s better to keep a playful friend group flirtationship rather than pursue a sexual relationship with a friend. And other times sleeping with your buddy totally works out. Everyone operates differently and all friend groups have a different dynamic. Just make sure that you are considering all the factors when deciding to become a FWB with someone.
4. Don’t be lovey dovey
If you are in a friends with benefits situation, do not act like a couple! 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. If you start doing couple-y things with your friend with benefits, then you may start to develop feelings for them, even if that’s not your intention. It’s only natural to start falling for someone if you spend a lot of time together, especially if you are already being sexually intimate. So try to avoid this situation all together.
A lot of people find that it’s actually easiest to minimize the amount of alone 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. If you do want to spend time together outside of the bedroom, it’s a good idea to do so in group settings. Group dynamics will keep PDA to a minimum and it will emphasize the FRIENDS aspect of FWB.
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5. Avoid sleepovers
Along the same lines as the last piece of advice, you and your FWB should avoid having sleepovers. 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 does pillow talk, which can often get very intimate. 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 serious 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 and be safe
FWB relationships are not typically exclusive, which means that you and your friend are probably seeing a couple different people. When you first begin a friends with benefits relationship, you and your new boo should talk about whether or not you plan to sleep with other people when you talk about your boundaries (more on this to come). During this discussion, you should talk about how you plan to practice safe sex with each other and other people. It’s not necessary to disclose the other people that you are sleeping with (unless that makes you and your partner more comfortable), so long as you are on the same page about your expectations for protection during sex. 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
Being in a FWB relationship requires a lot of potentially awkward or blunt conversations cough cough,why we mentioned that bit on emotional maturity. You and your FWB should talk about the expectations for your relationship at the outset. We understand that 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. Expecting the bare minimum will also help you avoid falling into the trap of catching feelings.
Remember that you shouldn’t expect this relationship to turn into something more serious, so keep your expectations for the relationship realistic/low and leave space for other people in your life to provide emotional support and more consistent friendship.
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9. Set boundaries
Like we mentioned above, it’s extremely important to set boundaries when you take a friendship to the Friend with Benefits level. 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. A FWB relationship is not just a random hookup and it’s important to keep up a good relationship with one another outside of the bedroom. Because FWB is not a long-term thing, you should focus on being able to keep your friendship alive even if the benefits part of your relationship comes to an end (which it eventually will) 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.
Respecting each other’s expectations and boundaries will also ensure that you stay on good terms throughout your FWB relationship and after it’s over. It is totally possible to stay friends with someone after you have hooked up (whether it’s one time or many times) as long as you maintain a mutual respect for one another. It can sometimes take a bit of time to transition from hooking up to being friends again, but keeping the idea of friendship in your head through the hooking up stage will help this transition when the time comes.
Communication is key in every relationship, but it is 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. These conversations don’t come super naturally to most people, so establishing check-ins where you can freely talk about your boundaries and sexual health can help facilitate these important conversations. Oftentimes the most awkward part of these conversations is finding a way to bring these things up in the first place, establishing a time to check-in about these things takes away that weirdness and opens up the important dialogue.
It’s also important that you are able to communicate your sexual needs in a FWB relationship. 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. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need in the bedroom. More often than not, your partner will appreciate the guidance. This also means listening to what your FWB wants and needs in bed.
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12. Don’t be jealous!
Like we mentioned, your FWB will likely be sleeping with or pursuing 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 especially in a FWB situation when you are decidedly not exclusive! It is up to you and you FWB whether you want to know the specifics of each other’s sex lives. It’s important to know if you are the type of person that gets jealous (some people are, some people are not) and discuss your boundaries with this in mind. Creating honest boundaries can often minimize the amount of jealousy partners feel in FWB relationships.
13. Don’t stop dating
Remember that you and your friend likely won’t end up 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. Having a FWB often takes the sexual frustration out of dating because you are getting your sexual needs met elsewhere, allowing you to focus on your emotional connection. Having a FWB can often take the pressure off of dating in the early stages. Even if you do choose to sleep with people you are newly dating, having a reliable sexual partner can make dating more relaxed. Dating can also help prevent you from catching feelings for a FWB because you have other outlets for flirting and emotional connections.
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. In addition to not getting jealous of a FWB, it’s important not to expect to be their number one priority.
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 a great way to explore different types of sex and to get creative. Focus on the fun and carefree part of the relationship and make sure that your needs are being met in the bedroom!
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