Having friends with benefits (FWB) seems like the best of both worlds: friends you like to hang out with all the fun of sex but without a relationship’s entanglement. What does FWB mean? Two people know each other in a plutonic way, agreeing to engage in sex with each other without entering into a formal monogamous relationship.
Even though it can seem like the treasure at the end of a rainbow, the reality of having FWB is that it takes work. There are typically some FWB rules that both parties agree to after sitting down and talking about the arrangement.
As with any relationship, communication is key to keeping your FWB arrangement healthy and what you both agree is sex without the entanglement of a relationship.
Not for Everyone
Having friends with benefits is not for everyone. Some people, like demisexuals, for example, cannot separate sex from the emotional components. Other people may not want an arrangement like this because they desire monogamous, long-term relationships. Whatever the reason may be, if you are not comfortable with an FWB situation, don’t ever feel like you need to be in one. FWB is a consensual partnership, with both sides being enthusiastically on board. Otherwise, it can be very unhealthy and possibly abusive. Don’t participate in that which makes you uncomfortable.
Before entering into an FWB arrangement, both parties involved must sit down and establish some baseline rules to follow. These rules are supposed to keep the friendship intact and keep the sex from slipping into a messy pseudo-relationship.
So, rules are discussed and set into place to avoid the awkward question, “are we more than friends with benefits?” Some rules may deal with what happens after sex. Other rules may be about what happens in the friendship. Still, others may cover the frequency of sex. They are all designed to keep the arrangement as is and avoid either person from becoming too attached.
One of the rules that people become friends with benefits set is that it is strictly about sex. No emotions or attachments. Keeping the arrangement strictly about sex frequently means that both parties can see other people without interfering or getting jealous. Keeping the benefits purely physical is supposed to prevent attachment and keep things from progressing into a romantic relationship.
One way people try and keep emotions out of the relationship is not to cuddle. Cuddling may feel great, but oftentimes people fear that it creates an attachment and intimacy that is not conducive to an FWB situation. So most physical touch is limited to sex to avoid artificial intimacy creeping into the arrangement.
Keeping things purely physical can be difficult if you get too familiar with the other person, create a routine, or start playing “house.” So, the rule of no sleeping over keeps the encounters focused on sex rather than relational aspects. When you have to go home after having sex, it reminds you that there is a distance in the arrangement.
Always Use Protection
Using protection is always a good idea when having sex, but especially when you want a family with the person with whom you are sleeping. Since the arrangement is non-monogamous, it is especially important to use protection because you don’t necessarily know who the other person is having sex with.
Pick Your Partner
With all the rules of friends with benefits, one can be left wondering if there is anything other than sex? What about the “friends” part of the equation? The other question is, what happens when the rules get broken? Do you love a sex partner and a friend, or just a sex partner?
Navigating questions like these between people with some history is a much better option than attempting to figure out the answers with a relative stranger. Becoming friends with benefits with someone you don’t know may make navigating the rules and ensuing questions much more difficult. When you don’t know someone well, you don’t know how they will react or the investment they are willing to make in the friendship.
Investing in friendship is crucial to make an FWB arrangement work because you have a relationship outside of sexual relations. If the arrangement is based solely on sex, it can quickly degrade into an unhealthy situation. If, however, the arrangement is based upon an investment that the two of you have made in each other, having a history of friendship can make your arrangement smoother to navigate.
Boundaries and Communication
To have a healthy FWB, you need to have two things: firm boundaries and open communication. Without these two things, misunderstandings, emotional entanglement, and unrealistic expectations.
Boundaries are important because they tell you and the other person you are willing to go in different aspects of the arrangement. Setting up rules is one way to enforce the boundaries. Another way is by regular check-ins to see where you and the other person are emotional. Periodic check-ins also allow you to assess if the arrangement is still working.
Establishing boundaries and rules without communication is impossible. Open and honest communication is essential in any friendship, but especially where you add sex to the equation. It is essential to talk about any emotional attachments that begin to form, any desire for something more than FWB, and any decisions to see someone else, thus ending the arrangement.
What About the Fun?
What does FWB do to keep the arrangement fun? Remember that you are friends first. Before sex became part of your dynamic, you were friends for a reason. You both should pay attention to the health of your friendship.
Go out and do things together. Doing something with each other doesn’t mean you are dating. It merely means that you enjoy hanging out with this person, alone or in a group. Don’t give up on the friendship just because you have introduced sex into the dynamic.
Have a Good Time
It’s ok to go on friend dates. Go out to dinner. See a movie. Grab a coffee or go to a happy hour. Act like normal friends. Don’t let the fact that you are having sex get in the way of enjoying the person with whom you have a developed friendship.
The boundaries and rules you put in place should be there, at least in part, to protect and preserve the friendship. A sexual arrangement should never replace friendship. If it does, you may lose out on the full complexity of the person with whom you had a great friend relationship. Use open and honest communication to keep the dialogue flowing about working, working, changing feelings, and keeping both your boundaries.
Do keep in mind, you can talk to a friend with death benefits. If you spend your time talking about what the arrangement is, redefining the rules, rehashing if you are both ok with this situation, you will kill the desire to continue the arrangement and damage friendship. Have open lines of communication, but don’t overanalyze it.
When It Becomes More than Friends
There may come a time where you both decide that you would like to be more than FWB. This decision should be mutual that the two of you should talk over. Navigating the transition into a monogamous relationship can be tricky. However, you don’t have to do it alone. The licensed online therapists at ReGain are equipped to help your relationship no matter what stage it is in by providing you with skills and tools to build trust and open communication. Relying on a couple’s therapist for help is a great way to get the aid you need to strengthen and grow your relationship.
While transitioning to a monogamous relationship, remember that you are building upon a friendship. With a friendship as a base, you can create a long-term relationship that both of you can find fulfilling and enjoyable.
Friends with Benefits Can be Fun
Establishing a friend with benefits arrangement can be some emotional work; it can also be a rewarding experience for the two of you involved. As long as communication remains open and honest and you remember to build upon the friendship that you’ve already established, there is no reason FWB can’t work for you and that special friend.
Keep it light and comfortable. Don’t get too bogged down in the mechanics of the situation. Establish clear guidelines and boundaries. Also, above all, remember to be friends. The more you rely on your friendship to be the foundation of your arrangement, the better the experience can be overall. Remember to stay friends; do things together. Hang out together sometimes. Get together with mutual friends. Do things that healthy friends would do. Then the benefits of the arrangement can be better for both of you.