How To Establish FWB Rules And Set Boundaries
You may have heard the abbreviation "FWB," but what does it mean? An FWB, which stands for "Friend With Benefits," is someone you “hook up” with or have sex with, but they are not your girlfriend, boyfriend, or partner. It's a friendship that crosses the line into physical intimacy without the two of you maintaining a romantic relationship.
A friend-with-benefits relationship can be complicated and tricky to navigate. Your connection can blur the line between friends and lovers. That's why having agreed-upon rules is essential to set your boundaries. It would be best to establish what is and isn't okay in the relationship up-front. That way, you're both on the same emotional page.
Here are some tips that you can use to set appropriate boundaries in an FWB relationship.
Make Sure Your Understanding Is Aligned
With any relationship, it's essential to remain on the same page. One party might believe things are going smoothly, but the other thinks the relationship isn’t working. There are many opportunities for misunderstanding in an FWB dynamic. If the other person feels that you're strictly their FWB, but you have a secret wish that one day it'll be more, that could become a problem.
You may want to be in a relationship with your FWB. Still, you’ve entered the friends-with-benefits dynamic knowing the rules, and the expectation of a relationship further down the road isn’t usually part of it. It would be best to have a thorough conversation outlining your expectations and ground rules (for example, no sleeping over or snuggling). Establishing clear boundaries upfront about your status as friends with benefits is critical to making it work successfully. That way, you can better avoid hurt feelings, and the FWB relationship is less likely to become uncomfortable in the future.
Verify Sexual Consent
Friends-with-benefits relationships can be gratifying, especially if you embrace that it's not a serious partnership. When approached correctly, it’s a lighthearted dynamic where neither judges the other. You can explore your sexuality in an FWB relationship and try new things without strings attached.
There may be times, however, when you prefer to hang out as friends without engaging sexually. Ensure you're keeping an open dialogue about what you both want. Although sex might be a significant part of this relationship, you might not wish to have sex all the time. Remember that it's crucial to give and receive consent every time before being physically intimate with this person.
Talk About Your Sexual Health
It can be awkward to talk about sexual health in an otherwise lighthearted relationship. Still, it’s your right to know if your FWB is sexually active with others besides you and, if so, whether they’re practicing safe sex.
It can be tempting to want to avoid tough conversations such as these. However, it would be best if you had honest dialogues to grow. It's essential to ask your FWB about getting tested for STIs and STDs. Pregnancy is another topic to broach. If you're not planning on having children, it's essential to talk about methods for birth control.
These conversations don't always have to be heavy; you could get tested for STIs and STDs together to make it a little more lighthearted. Even if you're not in a committed romantic partnership, you likely care about each other deeply, but if your FWB tries to cross your boundaries or brush off your concerns related to this topic, you should reevaluate your connection.
It's important to remember that it's human to develop emotional bonds with people and that if you do develop romantic feelings for your FWB, it's natural. Attraction and romantic feelings aren't usually something that we can control.
However, you can monitor your actions when you realize you have those feelings for this person. A conversation is in order if you find that you're becoming attached to a friend with benefits. Things may be changing for you, or they're also evolving for your FWB. The connection could be growing on both ends, or one person could feel differently than the other. The more open the relationship is, the better. Both of you must be self-aware. That way, you can communicate if this situation arises for either of you.
The Friendship Is A Priority
Remember how the FWB began- you were likely friends before you entered a sexual relationship, so if you need to realign, put the friendship first again. Make sure that you reiterate that this is someone you enjoy having in your life; you don't want to lose what you have as friends. Set your friendship together as a priority. Re-establish that your friendship takes precedence; the “benefits” are a bonus.
Tell your FWB what you need from the relationship, and make sure they're telling you what they need. As with any interpersonal relationship, sometimes, your needs will be different. There will be times that you'd like to be sexually open with other people in addition to your FWB, for example. As a result, your FWB relationship will most likely change, and you're back to a friendship-only arrangement. Sometimes, you will be on a different wavelength. As challenging as it can be to talk about, it's necessary to salvage your friendship.
There could be a deal breaker for you that will inevitably change the relationship. For example, you may be uncomfortable continuing the FWB dynamic because you know your FWB is sleeping with others besides you. That is an excellent place to communicate and clarify that you don’t wish to continue your FWB arrangement if they have sex with other people.
When communicating with your FWB, sit down with them one on one. Calmly address your needs and let them know that you want to speak because you care about them and want to ensure that this FWB relationship stays healthy for both of you. If you struggle to set boundaries and are anxious about starting the conversation, write down what you must say beforehand. You can practice role-playing the dialogue with another friend. You can also discuss boundaries and how you'd like to set them in therapy.
When You Develop Feelings For Your FWB
If you develop feelings for your FWB, it’s important to consider the delicate nature of your situation. Communicating your feelings to your FWB is among the first things you should do- but not before you’ve had time to think about what you’ll say and how you’ll approach the conversation. Remember that two relationships are at stake- your friendship and your sexual relationship. If you don’t present your feelings carefully, it could have negative consequences for either or both.
Friends-with-benefits relationships sometimes transform into romantic relationships, and the conversation may also open a dialogue you weren’t expecting about your FWB’s feelings. Maybe they're ready to take your connection to the next level, and if you discuss things, it could lead to that. Regardless, the overall goal of the conversation is transparency about how you feel and the salvation of your friendship/sexual relationship.
How Do You Know If Your FWB Is Developing Feelings?
FWB relationships need rules, and both participants need to follow them. If your partner ignores the rules that you have set, it's a sign that their feelings are changing, for example, asking to stay the night together or displays of affection beyond the norm.
Communicating well is the best way to find out if your FWB is developing romantic feelings. That means not only being honest in asking them, but it also means active listening and paying attention to their nonverbal communication. Also, if your FWB begins calling you more frequently or doing little things for you, like bringing you coffee at work or making you dinner, it may be a sign that they want more than an FWB arrangement.
All relationships have the potential to be confusing or otherwise tricky, but FWB relationships are often incredibly delicate. There are sometimes hurt feelings and difficult conversations associated with an FWB arrangement. Because of their nature, the feelings accompanying such relationships can be challenging to come to terms with.
Many people feel they benefit from an additional source of support when coping with an FWB relationship if it doesn’t work out. Online counseling is an excellent place to discuss anything from difficulties in an FWB relationship to your challenges outside the relationship. You can talk about boundaries in therapy, how to set them, and so much more.
Platforms like ReGain make it easy for people to seek advice from a mental health professional specializing in relationships. You can talk to a ReGain counselor from the comfort of your home or anywhere with an internet connection via text, phone, online messaging, and video chat. ReGain therapists are available to work with your schedule on your time and are open to returning your message should you need help in between sessions.
And research indicates that online therapy is as effective as traditional therapy for treating a wide range of mental health issues, including those related to intimacy and sex. Many researchers suggest that online treatment is not only more accessible and often more cost-efficient than in-person therapy- it’s also typically more discreet.
If you need guidance and support to navigate complex relationships, including those involving FWB, speaking to an experienced online therapist may be the first step.
Below are commonly asked questions on this topic:
How often should you see your FWB?
FWB relationships are all about ground rules. What matters most is what the two of you agree to do.
That said, relationships can grow stronger, develop an emotional connection, and go from being a casual sexual relationship to a traditional relationship. If you both want to keep dating in the friends with benefits relationship style, you should be careful not to spend that much time together intimately. It's okay to spend time in the existing friendship, having fun and enjoying occasional sex. However, chances are if you spend too much time together, you will start developing feelings, and the relationship will change.
Is cuddling allowed in FWB?
For most friends with benefits relationships, that's too much like emotional intimacy. In that case, cuddling might be off limits. You simply need to talk to your friend, decide how you feel about cuddling, and determine whether you both agree it should not be included in the benefits situation.
On the other hand, some people who are friends and have casual sex may not catch feels of romance while cuddling.
The reason this can go either way is that, for some people, cuddling is related to sexual attraction, while for others, it is simply a friendly gesture. Be careful that the two of you don't have different expectations. If you feel that cuddling would require an emotional investment that you are not ready for, but your partner wants to cuddle, you might consider talking to a relationship coach. They can help you navigate FWB relationships and decide whether you both want a casual sexual relationship or not.
Ultimately, what matters is if the sexual chemistry is there and you want to have a casual thing to meet your sexual needs, you need to be very aware of your FWB boundaries. While you both may agree to something, though, some things would make a change in the relationship more likely. Cuddling is one of them.
For many people, that means cuddling is off limits. Yet, it all depends on your expectations and the expectations of the person you're dating
What FWB should not do?
It is best to avoid things that create or intensify romance, including things that combine romantic and physical intimacy. Cuddling is usually one of those things, but there could be others.
For example, anything that is strongly associated with romantic love should be avoided. Some people feel romantic feelings for someone if someone brings them red roses. These red flowers are symbolic of romance, and some people will see them as a romantic gesture. However, if the two of you were never exposed to that idea, then you may not think anything of it at all. Again, it depends on your expectations and beliefs. If it does mean romance to one or both of you, it might be better to buy a different type of gifts, such as a sex toy or something friendly like a funny sign.
Keeping relationships confined to sex and friendship only can be a challenge. It's easy to catch feels when you are together in a way that has traditionally been associated with a full blown relationship. In fact, many people who started out in an FWB situation eventually developed romantic relationships, got married, and spent the rest of their lives together. It does happen, but that doesn't have to be you and your sex partner. If you both prefer FWB relationships right now, you can probably make that happen. Just set your ground rules, stick to sex, and have lots of fun.
How long do FWB usually last?
It's hard to say how long these relationships last. Dating someone and having sex on a casual level doesn't have a specific time limit. It could last for weeks, months, or even years. Often, a friends with benefits relationship ends when one of them feels like they are beginning to feel romantic. Other times, the sexual chemistry fades over time. Or, one of the people dating may decide to have sex in a random hookup that the other partner feels is wrong. Your best bet is to take your sex life as it comes, keep talking, and if things change for you, be honest about it.
How do you know if your FWB is developing feelings?
If your partner ignores the rules that you have set, it's a sign the FWB situation is changing. Before, it was a benefits relationship where sex was the benefit. Now, one of you has different expectations about dating.
FWB relationships need rules, and each person of the two dating as friends needs to follow them. The best way to find out is just to communicate well. That means not only being honest in asking them, but it also means listening to their words and nonverbal communication. If you're not sure, ask again. But if after a conversation between you two friends, if you are still unclear about whether your FWB situation is changing, you can get relationship advice from a local or online therapist.
Should FWB spend the night?
Most people would say that FWB should not spend the night. That is usually good advice, but there may be exceptions. It depends on the rules you agreed to when you were setting expectations and developing your ground rules. Relationships are not all alike. However, in most cases, a sexual relationship will become more than sex if you spend the night cuddling or lying beside each other in close physical contact.
Do friends-with-benefits sleep over?
They do not usually sleep over, no. This is a sexual relationship, so it usually depends on the sleeping arrangements. For example, if each friend is sleeping in a different part of the home, it might work, and you might remain in only a sexual relationship. However, if you do this, you could be putting your FWB friendship at risk. Sleeping over can bring up chance meetings in the middle of the night, and one of you may interpret that as romance.
Dating in an FWB way usually requires you to set expectations that neither of you will sleep over with the other. Ground rules like that can keep you focused on your sex lives and being a friend with each other when you hang out together.
How do I keep my FWB interested?
Successful friends relationships require time spent together, doing things you both enjoy. As for the sex part of dating them, you keep them interested in many ways. Don't try to get them romantic, but suggest sex when you feel the urge. Don't be pushy or cross their boundaries. Both those things are a turnoff to someone whose expectations are that this is casual dating between one friend and another. Remember that the benefits relationship is about the sexual element, not about romance or getting into a deeper relationship. Try to do that in a dishonest way, and your FWB may not appreciate it.
Can friends-with-benefits sleep with other people?
That depends on the expectations you've set between you. One thing to remember, though, is that you and the person you date both have a right to know whether the other person is dating someone else or not. You each don't need to know specifics about the other person, but you do need to know there is someone and that your FWB is having safe sex, if so. The idea that there's a possibility they may be having intimate sexual contact with someone who has an STD is serious enough that you both need to have that discussion. Once you know if there are other sexual partners involved, you can move past that idea and have a nice casual date as you go to get tested for STDs.
What are the rules of being FWB?
How do you know if your FWB likes you?
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