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Friends with Benefits (FWB) – can they work?

25 September 2014 8 comments

A few years back I was faced with a quandary - I'd broken up with a long term girlfriend and my headspace dictated that I wasn't ready to jump straight back into another committed relationship, however as an energetic guy with a strong libido I needed a sexual outlet other than self loving. I was out at a bar one night discussing the problem with a female friend, who I'd been friends with for a number of years, when the subject of friends with benefits was broached. After many more drinks together that night we ended up in my bed and so began our friends with benefits hookup.

Friends with benefitsFriends with benefits

It all started off great. She would come around to my home a couple of times a week for some fun between the sheets. Usually I'd cook her dinner and she'd leave post sexual romp however sometimes she'd sleep over and sometimes I'd make her breakfast before she left the following morning. One night after dinner about a month or so after we started having sex she looked at me quite seriously and asked where our 'relationship' was heading. I wanted to respond with "this isn't a relationship, it's just sex", however I took the more diplomatic path by light heartedly suggesting our 'relationship' was heading straight back to the bedroom. Apparently this wasn't the right answer. We didn't venture to the bedroom that night and in fact she left not long after dinner. I didn't hear from her for a couple of weeks as she didn't respond to my phone calls and text messages. Where did it go wrong? What started off as commitment and drama free sex with someone who I knew well and was good friends with suddenly became complicated. I was somewhat confused and annoyed given we were simply having no strings attached sex (or so I thought).

Eventually she returned my phone call and we caught up again for dinner and talked our 'situation' through. I was eager to hear where our FWB arrangement was flawed and how it went off the rails. She told me that even though we'd been friends for a few years she'd always had a secret crush on me and that she had become emotionally invested in us since we'd started having sex. I confessed that I too had always thought she was a sweetheart and that I had always been physically attracted to her also. We mutually agreed that we couldn't continue to have just a sexual relationship due to the overhanging emotional attachment. We'd either have to go back to simply being friends without the benefits of sex, which we both agreed was still a great scenario, or we would consider ourselves to be in a 'normal' relationship. We opted for the relationship and agreed that we would not date or have sex with anyone else. Our relationship blossomed and actually lasted a few years. Unfortunately our breakup was a bit tough on both of us. Whilst we still talk from time to time and there are no ill feelings between us, we're simply not as close as we had been prior to having sex with each other. Perhaps we should have stayed friends without the sexual interaction? Sex can complicate things!

Why do we even consider having friends with benefits? I can see why someone who is single and either time poor (maybe they're career focused or they spend a lot of time studying or they're just time poor), or maybe they've just come out of a long term relationship and aren't ready for commitment again, would consider a FWB situation as a viable option to masturbation and lonely nights (we all need affection). Most people need time out after a long term relationship before they start dating again or before they feel the desire to dive head first into another serious relationship.

I don't advocate cheating if you're in a committed relationship so I won't go down the path of exploring why someone in this situation might consider a FWB. There are probably plenty of other reasons someone would consider a FWB however, from my own experience and the feedback I've had it's generally a headspace or time issue that would have someone contemplating whether or not it's an option. In saying that I'm sure there are many happy couples today who started their relationship with their partner as nothing more than a FWB and their situation evolved into a loving and committed relationship.

Maybe a relationship could work best with someone who you've been good friends with for a while? I do see some positives. At least you know and trust them. And you know what sort of person they are (although I don't believe you really know someone until you've lived with them). Surely it's better to get to know a person before you sleep with them? If you have sex with someone on the first date, or not long thereafter, there's a real risk that over time as you get to know them you could conclude they're not the one for you, but as you're in a sexual relationship with them it becomes complicated and more difficult to exit.

If you were about to buy a business you'd conduct due diligence beforehand ie. you'd carry out various checks on the business to allow you to make an informed and calculated decision about whether or not to buy the business. Perhaps the analogy applies to considering a new partner? Rather than jump into bed with them straight away the more you can get to know them beforehand the less potential risk there is of the relationship not working out (theoretically). If this logic was sound then a FWB does make sense assuming however that you consider there may be an opportunity for the relationship to prosper into something more (and you're both on the same page re this possibility).

With a FWB arrangement there is scope for either, or both, of you to be disingenuous. I'm quite sure that not everyone who enters such an arrangement does so with complete honesty in regard to their expectations and exactly what they're seeking. Male friends of mine who've had FWB relationships have complained to me that the women have willingly entered into a no strings attached arrangement with them only to have them start questioning them where the relationship was heading after only the third or fourth sexual encounter (yes I know how that feels). They believe that the women never really wanted to simply be a FWB but always wanted to be in a relationship with them from the outset and were dishonest suggesting all they wanted was no strings attached sex. Maybe the women were leading them on or maybe they began developing an emotional connection at some stage after the sex began. It can be confusing trying to work out exactly what's' going through someone else's head. We'd all hope that honesty would prevail but often it doesn't.

I know men who've entered into multiple FBW arrangements simultaneously (and some women have confessed the same to me). I'm sure that many men fantasise about having a number of women that they could have commitment free sex with without the complications and downsides of being in a monogamous relationship. Perhaps some women fantasise about this scenario too although I doubt it's as much as men do. Men are often hopeless – they'd quite happily stay in a FWB relationship, or multiple FBW relationships simultaneously, long term providing they were getting enough sex. It would give them additional free time to do what they wanted to do when they wanted to do it – like go out with their mates or hit the gym more often. The term romance wouldn't be needed in their vocabulary and life would be easy (and they'd probably save money). Whilst I can see the attraction the reality is they'd be missing the benefits associated with being in a committed relationship with one woman who they love.

Last week I canvassed the opinion of people I know as to whether or not a FWB relationship could work. The overwhelming response from women was that they didn't think they could. A few women told me they'd had successful FWB relationships although they were generally only short term until they found themselves in a monogamous and committed relationship with either their FWB partner or someone else. Most men believed FWB arrangements could work (of course they would) although some acknowledged they were fraught with potential issues that could ultimately lead to the same complications associated with a normal relationship. So what's my opinion?

I believe FWB relationships can work, but only on the following basis:

  1. Honesty must be paramount - both parties have to be honest with each other on what their expectations are and what they're wanting from the arrangement.
  2. Communication needs to be ongoing – it's obvious that at some stage of any FBW relationship things can change. Emotional connections can develop and there is a strong likelihood that over time either or both of you will want more. I think it's important to acknowledge that change in attitude towards each other is probably inevitable and that regular discussion regarding how each party feels about the situation is necessary.
  3. Rules and boundaries need to be defined – these ideally should be qualified upfront to avoid future complications especially given the perceived absence of issues is often one of the main attractions for entering such a relationship in the first instance. Things to be considered include:
    1. exclusivity and variations of it ie. are both of you allowed to have sex with other partners, are you allowed to date other partners on the proviso there is no sex or intimacy,
    2. how often you will see each other for sex (too often means you'll effectively be in a different type of relationship),
    3. will you sleep at each other's home,
    4. should you go on dates like dinner and movies together,
    5. will you catch up like you did before when you were 'normal' friends,
    6. how will you break it off when either of you gets another partner and
    7. confidentiality. There are actually a lot of things you should contemplate and discuss.
  4. Practise safe sex – if you both agree that you won't be sexually exclusive with each other then you need to consider practising sex safe as the risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) is increased.
  5. Acknowledge the risks – whilst there are a number of risks associated with entering into a FWB arrangement I believe the two biggest risks are;
    1. that things won't work out and you'll ruin a great friendship and
    2. that one of you will fall for the other one and will get emotionally hurt when the relationship stalls at the FWB status and either doesn't develop beyond that or it fails miserably.
  6. Acknowledge the lifespan isn't usually long term – in the first few conversations you both have on the topic it may seem like you've hit the jackpot. You'll probably both agree that having great uncommitted sex with a trusted friend simply couldn't get any better. Over time things generally change. Either party will probably develop feelings for the other or will eventually find someone they're crazy about and as a result will not want to continue the FWB gig thereafter. Either way the FWB situation usually can't work for too long (although I'm not sure what a realistic time frame is). Note that I do know people who've been in successful long term FWB relationships.
  7. Acknowledge that jealousy may raise its ugly head – it's human nature to get jealous (there are varying degrees) if your partner (FWB or otherwise) is either dating or having sex with someone else. Even if you've agreed it upfront when you both entered the FWB arrangement the prospect of sharing your 'friend' may not be entirely palatable. It's a difficult but necessary conversation. For a FWB relationship to last long term (if that's the objective) perhaps it's better if both of you date and/or have sex with others as this may minimise the prospect of the emotional connection developing beyond that of a FWB.
  8. I don't advocate a work colleague being a FWB – when the music stops (ie. you stop having sex with each other) then there is usually going to be some awkwardness. Generally you won't be able to work together meaning one will have to get another job. In the unlikely event the FWB situation develops into a committed relationship then this too can be complicated if you're both working in the same office.
  9. Only consider a FWB situation with someone you normally wouldn't fall for – whilst this should be the general 'rule of thumb' I can see how this doesn't always work. Ideally you need to be physically attracted to someone to have sex with them. And you need some chemistry. That means it's potentially a fine line between who you might consider for a FWB versus a committed relationship. Again, things can change over time. Emotions develop and before you know it someone who you never may have considered a possible soulmate may be the one you're constantly thinking about and can't wait to see again. And then it can get complicated!
  10. A FWB may give you scope to explore your sexual horizons – unfortunately some couples in a committed relationship have trouble sharing their sexual fantasies with each other due to fear of judgement, ridicule or embarrassment. Whilst I believe partners should be totally open and honest with each other with respect to sexual fantasies and what they like sexually I can see why this doesn't always happen. It may be that a FWB relationship is a great way for you both to explore taboo topics and live out your fantasies that you wouldn't otherwise consider with a partner. If this is the case then you may as well take full advantage of the situation whilst it lasts!

For the reasons I've outlined above I think friends with benefits can work although I recognise they can't work for everyone and there's certainly potential for the arrangements to become complicated. I'm interested to hear your views as clearly I don't have all the answers.

Delivering passion and pleasure.

Mal

Julzy 25 September 2014 at 7:57 pm
Everybody needs a fwb at some stage of their life.
Anne 25 September 2014 at 10:12 pm
Thinking of starting up a fwb relationship with a younger man on his invitation, I'll let you know how it goes if it goes anywhere
ignatzmax 25 September 2014 at 10:24 pm
I'm in a FWB situation... with my ex. :)
Annie 26 September 2014 at 7:03 am
I'm a woman and I currently have 2 FWBs. It is the perfect situation. Great sex without the drama and complications of a relationship. I couldn't think of anything better!
Daz 26 September 2014 at 3:12 pm
I think deep down everyone who starts a FWB agreement is hoping for more ! Its a safety thing that we label it something like FWB - if it fails we can tell ourselves it wasnt anything special. If we wanted meaningless orgasms we could have a private session with ourselves! We all seek companianship and intimacy with another person. So if you open yourself up ( scuse pun ) to sharing someones bed, know that you are in their lives and sharing something special with them - so dont demean it and lable it anything less. And know that if you treat one another with respect and it blossoms into something more then it was meant to be! Sex is not a benefit - it is an intimate moment we share with someone - open our hearts not just our legs - sex is so much more than the ...end :) have a great long weekend Perthites
FWBforthewin 26 September 2014 at 3:36 pm
I am female and I have had more than a few FWB's last over 7 years. It's certainly can work!
La Fringe Da Minge 28 September 2014 at 1:23 pm
Ive been in a long term FWB or simply fuck buddy relationship with a guy for almost 7yrs. Its not mutually exclusive & Im ok with that. Its long distance due to geography and work commitments. I wish we lived closer to each other so we could hook up on a more regular basis but it works for us. We trust each other completely and explore our fantasies. The next one Im looking forward to exploring is a threesome. It can work. Just because Im a female does not mean Im looking for a commited, monogamous relationship. If I had my way, Id love to start the first female bigamy sect in Australia
buy mailing lists 2 October 2014 at 5:43 pm
So if you open yourself up ( scuse pun ) to sharing someones bed, know that you are in their lives and sharing something special with them - so dont demean it and lable it anything lessmasturbation stories
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