Before you go looking for a friends with benefits arrangement, you need to know what you’re getting yourself into. Contrary to what you might think, it is a complicated type of relationship if you don’t lay the proper groundwork. Here are the rules for friends with benefits that you need to follow.
Make it a formal arrangement. Everyone assumes that being friends with benefits will be a fun, breezy option that’s full of great sex and good vibes, but in reality, it’s a minefield if you don’t make honesty and communication a priority. The first mistake that people make is not spelling out the arrangement in the first place. Unless you specifically agree to be friends with benefits with specific parameters, you cannot assume you’re on the same page. Make sure that you are open with each other. If you aren’t, the vibes will be anything but good.
If you have feelings, don’t try it. This may be the most important rule of all. Friends with benefits only works if you can leave your emotions out of the picture. If you’re agreeing to the arrangement just because you know that the other person doesn’t want to be in a relationship with you, you will be miserable (and dishonest) for the entirety of the arrangement. It will crash and burn and both of you will end up feeling cheated. Do not be friends with benefits with someone you have feelings for or someone who you know has feelings for you.
Have a sleepover policy. Sex is the easy part. Everything that happens after sex? Not so simple. How you want to handle the situation is entirely up to the two of you. One of you may feel strongly that spending the night crosses the line and makes things too emotional and intimate, or you might agree that it’s logistically easier if you stay at each other’s places sometimes. If in doubt, err on the side of not sleeping over. Some people find it difficult to separate their emotions when they’re waking up next to someone.
Always use protection. You’re both adults capable of making decisions about your bodies, but even the most carefree no-strings-attached relationship carries risks. Nothing ends the fun as swiftly and decisively as catching a sexually transmitted disease. Use condoms. Play safe. Have fun.
If it’s difficult, you’re not doing it right. The major selling point of being friends with benefits is that it’s fun and easy. Great sex, no emotional attachment, and no commitment. What’s not to like? If you’re in an FWB arrangement and aren’t enjoying it, something is off. Feelings, mental preoccupation, and attempted mind reading are acceptable in actual romantic relationships, but not with friends with benefits. If you’re experiencing these things, you either have feelings for the other person, or you’re one of the many people who struggle to separate emotions from sex. In either case, you should end things asap.
More rules for friends with benefits that are non-negotiable
Decide about seeing other people. This may surprise you, but in some instances, it’s possible to cheat in a friends with benefits situation. A recent study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that among the participant group of 109 college students who were in FWB arrangements, a portion of them had agreements to be exclusive. This emphasizes the previous rule about setting boundaries early on. You might think non-exclusivity is implied, but the other person might expect monogamy unless otherwise discussed.
Do not expect emotional support. One of the benefits of being in a committed romantic relationship is the emotional intimacy. Having someone who cares about you and who you trust is a beautiful thing, and it makes the sex (however amazing) seem like nothing more than a bonus rather than the focus of the relationship. When you opt for a friends with benefits arrangement, however, the sex is the point. Emotion does not play a role, large or small. If you want emotional investment from the other person, ask them to be your girlfriend/boyfriend, not your friend with benefits.
No dates or hanging out. Similarly, if you find yourselves hanging out late at night and not having sex or setting up dinner plans, you’re dating, not being friends with benefits. The best policy is to cut out dates altogether and only see each other if you’re planning to have sex. Otherwise, one or both of you will be confused about your relationship status, and as soon as that happens, the whole enterprise is on shaky ground.
No jealousy. If you decide to be in an open relationship as the vast majority of people in friends with benefits situations do, you need to get over your jealous tendencies, fast. There is no room for jealousy in an open relationship, especially a casual one. If you’re the kind of person who can’t handle being one of many options, you probably aren’t suited to being FWB.
No PDA. Even though your relationship is purely physical, there is a time and a place for everything, and public displays of affection are off-limits. Being lovey-dovey in public is a sign that you are “an item,” which you definitely are not if you are FWB. Holding hands is for couples. Kissing is a declaration of romance. And cuddling at restaurants is a sign that you are physically and emotionally familiar. You don’t have to keep your arrangement a secret, but you should maintain a harsh line between casual sex and overt sentimentality.
Don’t expect the friendship to last. If you decide to be friends with benefits, be prepared to lose the “friends” part of your relationship. Whether or not it’s possible be friends with someone you’re sexually attracted to, it’s much harder to stay friends with someone you’re having sex with. Plenty of people have managed it and continue to be friends to this day, but it is not a guarantee. So ask yourself: is the sex worth it?
Friends with benefits: Does it ever work?
Given all the rules that need to be established before embarking on a friends with benefits arrangement, it’s worth considering whether or not it actually works. It sounds great in theory: casual sex with someone you already like and trust–what could go wrong? But because sex and emotion are not easily separated, it can be tricky. Here’s how to make it work:
Choose the right person. Before anything else, you need to choose the right person. Just because you have a friend you’re attracted to doesn’t mean you can have a successful FWB relationship with them. It’s better to choose someone who isn’t a close friend. You don’t want to jeopardize the friendship and it’s hard to be casually intimate with someone you already share emotional intimacy with.
Keep expectations low. Be honest with yourself: how do you want this to play out? There is no “happily-ever-after” with friends with benefits unless you decide to take things to a romantic level and that, as discussed, is not something you should go into a casual relationship hoping for. If you just want to have easy access to sex with someone you like but aren’t particularly concerned about losing as a friend, you’re in the right headspace.
Know when to let it go. Not everyone is cut out for being in a friends with benefits arrangement. Some of us struggle to keep emotion out of casual sex with complete strangers let alone someone we already know. You may start being friends with benefits with someone only to realize they want more. Or maybe you’re the one to catch feelings. Whatever the issue, don’t be afraid to walk away when something doesn’t feel right. You’re not in a committed relationship. It’s not worth the hassle of sticking it out or trying to make things work.
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