Friends With Benefits — Nightmare or Harmless Fun?
If you’re in dating, online or offline, you’ve certainly met people that mention they’re primarily looking for a friend with benefits (FWB). To say I often come across people saying “not looking for anything serious, just a friend with benefit” on dating apps would be a real understatement. Here’s the thing, though - the concept of friends with benefits has lots of issues.
It’s time to get brutally honest: friends with benefits doesn’t work. Or at the very least, the way people understand it doesn’t. Plus, friends with benefits is a bad idea.
Friends with benefits is a lie on top of a bigger lie. It’s a mix of self-delusion, misunderstanding, denial, and half-truths all in one. Once I sat down to try and figure out what it is and how it works, I got a headache just by trying to break down this socially accepted concept that seems innocent.
I attempted to divide it into categories. The first one is people you’re getting to know specifically for hookups. A concept quite simple to grasp, but there’s an unfortunate nuance: a lot of blurred lines come with it. What if you actually become really close, as in, way closer than originally intended? Romantic feelings may arise!
Category number two: people you’ve been friends with long before you wanted to sleep with them, but something changed throughout your acquaintance. This now can go both ways: a one-time thing, or something more consistent. Or let’s say, they’re from a different city, visiting every few months or so. The difficult aspect of this is when your bedtime activities don’t become a part of everyday life and sooner or later develop into a story of inconvenience. An aggravating nuance here lies in the further development of personal happiness for both of you.
Ask anyone what friends with benefits means to them personally: for some, it’s friends first, then benefits. For others, it’s benefits with ‘friends’ used as an excuse or a filler word.
I don’t mind casual situationships where you’re spending time with someone every once in a while, or have a part-time partner you meet up with twice a month when they’re in town for work. I encourage fulfilling, fun, and exciting intimacy for all of us, especially when the right opportunity presents itself. You’re free to practice non-attachment or very-little-attachment as long as you’re both independent and self-aware adults, recognizing what can or cannot be expected from this kind of arrangement, and of course, both consenting to it with enthusiasm.
‘No strings attached’ is a relationship, too. Really? Oh, most definitely
Sounds strange, so let me elaborate further. I feel like the term itself confuses people due to the “no strings” part. If you really think about it, though, and decide to be honest with yourself, you realize that any grown-up interaction comes with strings attached. Let’s call it responsibility. Even in the case of a one-night stand.
Doesn’t casualty still imply that we have to be respectful and mindful towards the other person? Consider their wishes and needs? Or does the ‘non-attachment’ part automatically devalue them as opposed to committed relationships? Of course, we would want both of you to feel comfortable and secure in the situation.
People mentioning FWB in their profile are trying to let you know they’re looking for fun with some sort of closeness involved, but not a full-on relationship. But friendship is not a synonym for a casualty. How is the connection with your F-buddy under the sheets less meaningful than the connection you have with your favorite barista that remembers your order by heart? We can’t have a FWB arrangement without the friendship part, and friendship is, by definition, a relationship. Actually the strongest, safest, most secure relationship there can be. Relationships are what make you go back to your favorite bartender at the local pub, your hairstylist that always cuts your hair too short, even your ex-boss that was mean to you but you’ve somehow grown to understand and respect them.
If you decide a friend with benefits is what you’re looking for, here are a few tips to make the situation comfortable for everyone involved. Although, reading through them made me realize they would apply to any other kind of relationship, too:
- Talk it through beforehand. Set clear terms on your FWB situation. Write it out if you have to, and save a copy for yourself. Make sure you stick to the plan.
- Discuss what you’re going to do if either of you starts to develop feelings. It’s better to make a plan of action for that kind of outcome - and you both have to be okay with that plan. The important thing here is to consider your actions on both sides of your friends with benefits scenario.
- Respect each other’s boundaries and limits. If you’ve been asked to stay out of certain areas of your friend’s life, you have to be okay with that. In case there comes a point when one of you wants to end the relationship, you have to be able to let each other go. No one wants to come off as a needy stalker, right?
- You’re entitled to having your needs met. If you start to feel uncomfortable with how the other person is acting at any point in your friends with benefits situation, you have the right to bring it up to them. It’s easy to feel as if your “less than a relationship” status deprives you of certain demands, but having your needs met is still an important and valid concern.
- Things might get messy. Consider that there’s a high possibility you (or the other person) will start seeing someone else, and your arrangement will run its course. Transitioning back to strictly friendship or cutting ties is up to you. No matter the outcome, you’ll have to be able to not take things to heart, and walk away gracefully if necessary.
Why use Pure to explore the FWB relationship option? Here is an article from our partners that explains it just right.