How To Establish FWB Rules And Set Boundaries

Updated March 16, 2023by Regain Editorial Team

Want A Successful FWB Relationship?

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.

Be Self-Aware

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.

Communication

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.

Want A Successful FWB Relationship?

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. 

Takeaway

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. 

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