Friends with benefits (FWB) is commonly defined as a sexual relationship between two people where the primary basis of the relationship is sex with no expectations of a romantic relationship or other commitment. The Urban Dictionary defines Friends With Benefits as “a friend in which you are allowed sexual activity but no true relationship is involved. Not a girlfriend or a boyfriend. The benefit is purely sexual. Not to be tied with feelings.” A second definition is“a friend with whom you may occasionally hook up or make out with, etc etc, and may do so without worries about commitment.”
While this sounds straight forward enough on the surface, are things really that simple? What does friends with benefits really mean? Do women and men view friends with benefits differently? Do women really like friends with benefits?
In looking beyond the surface value of the definition, friends with benefits can be a much more complicated interrelationship than the definition implies. Because feelings are involved and every one is unique in terms of what they desire in any relationship and what they are willing to invest in any relationship, friends with benefits can quickly become just as complicated as any other relationship.
A friend is someone that your trust and that trusts you in return. That requires getting to know someone. So friends with benefits requires an existing relationship where that trust has developed. Friends with benefits with strangers is nothing more than a hookup that may or may not evolve into something else. Forcing strangers or someone you hardly know into a friend status forces the relationship into a direction that may not be healthy or positive. If the benefit is sex, then the relationship is automatically complex. Anytime sex is involved, things get complicated, and the dynamics of the relationship can change quickly.
For a beneficial and long-term “friends with benefits” relationship to work, both of you need to know each other, have a common understanding of the relationship and both agree on that understanding, and have safe and effective communication. Even if everything seems to be running smoothly, feelings change and external factors can impact the relationship. There must be a mutual investment in each other’s feeling and well-being, and the willingness to modify the relationship in any way.
Research suggests that men and women do view friends with benefits relationships differently. Men are typically more likely to pursue and suggest “friends with benefits” relationship than women. Men typically pursue more relationships and are more willing to suggest an FWB relationship to people they do not know very well. Women on the other hand, are less likely to initiate an FWB relationship and if they do it would be with someone that they already have established a friendship with.
Once in an FWB relationship, men are more likely to either end the relationship or desire more from the FWB partner, changing the terms of the relationship. Once in a successful FWB relationship, women are more likely to maintain the FWB status and prefer to keep to the agreed-upon terms of the relationship.
Anytime you are sexually involved with someone, emotions build, expectations change and problems can arise quickly. Open and honest communication is the best way to deal with the changing dynamics of the relationship.
FWB relationships do not work for everyone. If you are interested in pursuing one, first develop the friend foundation and then explore the possibility of benefits. Honesty and communication are the keys to maintaining any successful FWB relationship.