Friends with benefits
What exactly are ‘friends-with-benefits’ (FWBs)? The arrangement involves two individuals who have a casual sexual relationship, but aren’t romantically involved. All the complications that come along with committed relationships are replaced by spontaneous hook ups and late night booty calls. There are no obligatory dates, no talks of the future, and no expensive precursors to sex such as dinner or drinks. It’s just mutually beneficial, on-call sex that is less expensive and more ‘personal’ than paying for sex, or (perhaps) participating in a Swinging type scenario.
That isn’t to say the FWB setup is completely devoid of emotion, as it would be in a one night stand. Instead, the focus of a FWB relationship is more on fulfilling one another sexually, and is intended to last as long as both parties continue to desire casual sex without a deeper demonstration of feelings and (perhaps) exclusivity.
The ground rules for how often FWB’s engage in hanky-panky should be agreed upon by both parties early on in the arrangement, in order to create an appropriate amount of space for each to maintain their identifies and not feel smothered. Each couple need to figure out what type of set up suits their sexual needs best, whether it be occasional hook ups, regularly scheduled encounters, or very limited meetings. Creating a healthy amount of distance not only keeps things hot, but makes it more manageable and fun, leaving both with less strings attached.
Why it works - and why it doesn’t
Aside from the purely carnal aspect of FWB sex, part of the allure of having this type of bed buddy is the sense of novelty and excitement that one derives from having only limited or occasional sexual contact with another. FWB’s are great when you’re not emotionally available enough to get involved in a committed romantic relationship, and work especially well when a person has recently gotten out a relationship, is temporarily living outside of an ongoing relationship, or is interested in exploring fantasies with a somewhat regular partner.
Being FWB is also very convenient. This type of fling takes up less time than a traditional romantic arrangement and is meant to work around each other’s separate lives. It’s ideal for having the option of calling on someone familiar and pre-approved whenever the mood for an erotic encounter strikes, and the worst that can happen is that they aren’t around to pick up. Purposefully limiting the extent that FWB’s engage with one another and removing the usual expectations of being boyfriend/girlfriend protects both parties from developing too much attachment, keeping the line between FWB and romantic interest clear.
Having sex - especially when it is consistent - isn’t without its pitfalls. Without a doubt, the biggest risk of this type of friendship is that one of the parties will eventually develop a crush on the other. Many fall into the trap of not disclosing these feelings when they first begin to develop, often out of fear of losing their partner outright, but (unfortunately) withholding the truth generally has a way of making things more complicated. The one who’s crushing becomes confused, resentful, jealous and insecure … which ultimately only serves to damage any underlying friendship.
One of the other major hurdles is getting past socially conditioned attitudes about sex. Being in a relationship that’s purely focused on sex and physical gratification is frowned upon by various cultures, religions and social groups - making those who are considering or already practicing ‘non-committed’ sex to feel guilty or ‘dirty’ about their choice. This can put a lot of pressure on individuals who have a strong desire to carry on physical relationships, but aren’t necessarily equipped to handle the emotional demands of an intimate partner.
Don’t let FWB satiate your relationship appetite to such an extent that it replaces any desire/time/effort involved in seeking and establishing a long-term romantically based relationship (assuming that is what you want).
Who do you choose?
The most important characteristics to look for when selecting a suitable FWB are reasonableness and emotional stability. If you want a successful, perhaps even long-term, bed buddy avoid drama queens and clingy, needy individuals; opt for those individuals who already have an otherwise full life and aren’t waiting around for someone to build theirs around. Make your choices based on the pool of people whom you dated in the past (but might not have gotten too involved with), platonic friends, and ex’s in good standing.
Not many people can handle it, but for those who think they can, here are some simple rules of engagement to keep in your playbook. Some may seem strict, but they’re meant to keep things light and fun over the longer run:
- Communication is key; when your time together triggers sentimentality rather than sexual thirst, remove yourself from the situation or fess up with your feelings … and if they’re not interested in a relationship, save yourself the heartache and find someone whose goals are similar to yours.
- Strictly limit sleepovers; better yet, avoid them altogether.
- Only call for sex and in regard to any other meetings you already had established; there ought to be no ‘dates’ such as post-sex dinners or outings. If you’re actually friends, make sure you draw a clear distinction between sex time and friend time.
- Don’t let this relationship take up too much of your attention. If it does, rein in how often you get with this person.
- Similarly, make sure you stay aware of your own intentions. Don’t have sex under the guise of just being friends with benefits when deep down you’re hoping things will develop into something deeper.
- Always use protection. That way there’s less of a need to keep tabs on whether or not your FWB has other partners – and vice-versa.
When sex gets thrown into the mix, no matter how cool you are, things can have a tendency of getting complicated. Choose your FWBs wisely and, above all else, enjoy the times you have together while they last!