Can We Keep it Casual? 15 Friends With Benefits Rules For Success
By: Abigail Boyd
Updated November 30, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Lauren Guilbeault
The hookup culture is alive and well these days, and many people are seeking out friends with benefits advice to see if that type of situation is right for them.
Sleeping with a friend can seem like an ideal scenario for busy singles-there's physical pleasure without serious commitment, socializing without the ups and downs of a romantic relationship. You can meet every weekend or whenever it works for both of you. However, many people are not wired in a way that is compatible with this type of relationship.
Friends with benefits setup can be exciting and fun-but it can also be messy and lead to heartbreak if both people aren't careful and honest about their expectations. Both people considering a friend with benefits arrangement need to weigh the pros and cons carefully before they jump into bed together.
What Do Friends With Benefits Mean?
The term friends with benefits are thrown around a lot, so it helps to lay out a concrete definition. It's become a very popular method of dating without attachment, especially in the online dating age.
First, let's make it clear what an FWB situation isn't. Friends with benefits should never be seen as a stepping stone toward a committed relationship. Even though relationships do sometimes develop out of what originally started as a casual sex partnership, that should never be viewed as the end goal.
What do friends with benefits do? A friends with benefits situation involves two people with a preexisting friendship sleeping together without any additional commitment. Romance is not involved in the equation, even if you hang out regularly. A friend with benefits is there for sex and fun and little to none of the emotions. You are still both allowed to date whomever you want.
Friends with benefits are different than one-night stands in that there is more time spent together and the "relationship," as it were, is ongoing. Think of it as a step up from casual hook-ups, but below a romantic relationship in terms of intimacy and commitment.
Friends With Benefits Rules
If you decide that an FWB relationship may be right for you, consider the following rules to give it the best shot of being a positive, rewarding experience. Know that you can also put a stop to the situation at any time if you're not comfortable. Keep the lines of communication open for the duration of the relationship.
Make Your Boundaries Clear Before You Hit The Sheets
When it comes to sex, hazy boundaries and unclear rules are a recipe for disaster. A friend with benefits is not the same as a stranger you have a one-night stand with. When you're seeing someone over an extended period and being intimate with one another, you must know exactly what both of you expect out of the situation.
Ideally, you and your FWB partner should sit down and discuss your ground rules before anything happens. What are you both expecting? Just sex, or do you still want to spend time hanging out as friends together? That way, each one of you can set your boundaries without conflict.
Don't Expect It To Become A "Real" Relationship
If you have feelings for someone, but they want a casual FWB situation, do not agree to it unless you want your feelings hurt. While you may think you'll be able to convince them to change their mind over time, that usually is not the case. You may even push them away further if they're looking for something strictly no-strings-attached.
If you know that you're looking for a long-term relationship, FWB fun can be a temporary way of getting your needs met with someone you like but are not serious about. However, don't expect the situation to become anything more than that.
Keep Jealousy At Bay
Part of friends with benefits arrangement is that it's not exclusive. Both you and the other person are allowed to date whomever you want, at any time. Neither of you has any say over what the other person does. You don't have to reveal anything to each other outside of what is going on between the two of you.
Now's the time to be honest with yourself. Has jealousy been a problem for you in past relationships? If so, then it may also rear its head during an FWB situation. If you consider yourself the jealous type, FWB is probably not for you.
Protection Is Essential
Just like with any other sexual situation, protecting yourself against unwanted pregnancy and STIs is non-negotiable. Be honest with one another about your sexual histories. Now is not the time to be shy. A crucial component of a successful FWB relationship is the ability to trust the other person. However, you still need to provide your protection.
Guard Your Emotions…Or Else
You have to be honest with yourself whether you're the type of person who becomes easily emotionally attached. Not everyone can separate feelings and sex, and that's okay. Don't try to talk yourself into the situation or you'll be setting yourself up for failure. For an FWB situation to work, both people need to be open and honest with themselves and each other.
Think Twice If It's A Long-Time Friend
If you've been close friends with someone for a while and you're both single, what could be the harm in getting between the sheets together a few times?
Well, if you value the friendship, you must give it careful consideration and make sure you're both looking for the same thing. There are two main possibilities: it could be an extremely satisfying and fun arrangement, or it could turn sour and break the friendship apart. Sometimes it's possible to go back to being friends without the benefits, but there can also be hurt feelings and unrequited attraction that make that impossible.
Cut Out The Cuddling
Cuddling, especially after sex, causes the release of oxytocin-also known as the "bonding" neurochemical-in the brain. This is a process that happens on a subconscious level. It causes us to start to form an attachment with the person we're affectionate with-which is a no-no when you're attempting a strictly friends with benefits situation.
Hugging and other forms of non-sexual physical touch with someone we're attracted to feel good because of this oxytocin rush. But if you're not careful it can lead to emotions blossoming for your FWB partner.
Don't Be Afraid To Date Someone Else
The whole point of friends with benefits is that there are no strings attached. Just like there's no room for you to be jealous of the other person, the same goes for them. If you meet someone else that you're interested in, don't let your FWB arrangement stop you from pursuing that interest.
Be Honest If You Develop Feelings
It's not fair to yourself or the other person to harbor unspoken feelings and still participate as though you don't. If you develop feelings for the person beyond mere friendship, it's best to lay them out in the open as soon as possible. Sometimes, the other person will reciprocate. But often, it may be best to end the relationship to avoid any hurt feelings or false hope.
Are We More Than Friends With Benefits?
The most important rule of a friend with benefits arrangement is to keep emotions out of it. Still, if you've participated in a friend with benefits relationship with someone for an extended period, even if you follow the FWB rules listed above, there may come a time when you ask yourself this question.
Every once in a while, an FWB situation organically develops into a romantic relationship. The best way to determine if your relationship has blossomed into something more serious is to have an honest conversation with one another.
Signs that he or she likes you more than an FWB include:
- They start casually probing if you're seeing anyone else.
- They give you gifts or runs errands for you on the regular.
- You catch them staring at you, then looking away.
- They make hypothetical comments about you dating them in the future.
- They make every excuse to spend extra time with you.
What If An FWB Situation Doesn't Work Out?
No matter how much we may promise ourselves that we won't get emotionally entangled when we're having sex with someone, sometimes it can't be helped. It's not always possible to prevent developing feelings for another person, especially if you're getting intimate with them regularly. If the other person doesn't reciprocate or is not interested in taking things to the next level relationship-wise, it can be hard to deal with the fallout.
As previously mentioned, these situations are not right for everyone. Many people end up in an FWB situation only to wind up negatively affected. If you have experienced an FWB that ended poorly, it can have painful ramifications that resemble a bad breakup, including lowered self-esteem, negative thinking, and even depression in some cases.
A counselor can help you process the reality of the situation, providing emotional support, clarity, and understanding. With a counselor's guidance, you can transform the situation into a learning experience that can lead to more positive relationships in the future. ReGain.us offers online counseling to assist you in working through past hurts and steering you to your future goals.
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