How to Know If You’re Ready to Have a Friend with Benefits
It’s not as easy going as it seems.
If you’ve watched a TV show or movie in the past ten years, you’ve probably been exposed to the concept of “friends with benefits.” The special arrangement is a favorite in romantic comedies and TV shows and all of your fave characters have tried it out (Gossip Girl’s Dan and Vanessa are the rare instance of it working out semi-well). So, should you follow in the footsteps of so many before you and attempt a FWB relationship? And what should you keep in mind as you embark on this journey with your friend? Here’s everything you need to know about friends with benefits before you dive in to a no-strings-attached situation of your own.
Let’s get the most simple part out of the way: what exactly is friends with benefits? While everyone has their own definitions, with the most range coming down to what constitutes a “benefit,” for the most part, the term references a relationship where there’s “some kind of sexual connection where otherwise you don’t have strict attachments,” says Andrea Syrtash, dating and relationship expert and author of “He’s Just Not Your Type and That’s a Good Thing.”
Sometimes, this means that while you are “hooking up” with your FWB, you’re not in a committed relationship, so there’s no emotional attachment. It’s all about the guidelines you set with your FWB ahead of time, regarding monogamy and commitment level, among other things.
Friends with benefits is becoming more and more of a popular choice among young people. According to Dating.com, over 40% of their users between the ages of 18 to 25 prefer more casual relationships. One’s desire to be in a FWB relationship can depend on a lot of different things, from former experiences in relationships, to current environment. While one day an FWB may seem like exactly what you need, the next day you may find yourself yearning for something more serious.
WHAT ARE THE (NON-PHYSICAL) BENEFITS?
So, obviously we know what the “benefits” of a friends with benefits relationship can be, but what are some of the non-physical benefits from the situation?
“A friends with benefits relationship can be good if you’re not in a place where you want a relationship, for many reasons,” says Andrea Syrtash. “You may be getting over a breakup or going through a hard time, or in a city temporarily.” There are a ton of situations which can make you averse to diving into a full blown relationship, so sometimes FWBs is a good alternative.
More permanently, a friends with benefits situation can be great for people who value their freedom. “There’s no need for on-going check-ins, responsibilities or overthinking,” explains Maria Sullivan, dating expert and vice president of Dating.com. “You aren’t bound to any rules and get to experience a taste of what a full relationship would be like with that person.”
WHAT ARE THE DISADVANTAGES?
Of course, friends with benefits never work out on your fave shows for a reason, because there are a lot of disadvantages and it’s really easy for one to completely fail. That’s because, while the idea of FWB is great in theory, whenever there is any sexual intimacy involved, emotions are not far behind, says Andrea Syrtash.
“You have to weigh the cost-benefit when you enter a FWB arrangement,” she says. “If your friend is a longtime friend and you know that he or she is more interested in you than you are in him or her, it may not be worth crossing the line because you may affect the friendship longterm.”
The truth is “any time you get naked with someone it’s vulnerable,” both emotionally and physically, according to Andrea Syrtash. “You’re exposing yourself and also you have to be safe, you have to be practicing safe sex. STDs can be a risk. You just have to know going in that no strings never means no strings. There are always some strings you have to consider.”
Besides the possibility of ruining a friendship or contracting something, you could also get hurt emotionally. “If you choose to go the FWB route, you are making the conscious decision to let go of some of the emotional perks of a relationship,” says Maria Sullivan. “It can take some getting used to if this is your first time in a situation like this. If this is new to you, it may be hard to accept that some thoughtfulness will likely get left behind – meaning, you probably won’t be getting that ‘good morning’ text or flowers.” And while that may be something you think you’re OK with, you really won’t know for sure until you try it out.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I’M READY FOR A FWB RELATIONSHIP?
So, now you may be asking yourself, “how the heck am I supposed to know if I’m ready for this type of relationship or not?” Maria Sullivan has some tips on how to figure out if an FWB is the right move for you.
“Determine first if you have the self-reliance and already-established emotional independence to maintain something more casual,” she says. “Experience being on your own before welcoming a FWB situation. As long as you are able to spend time by yourself without feeling the need to check-in with someone often, this will likely be a positive experience for you. If you’re curious about it, then test it out. Take it as you go, relax and enjoy yourself – and, if it ever gets more complicated than that, you have the right to end it at any time, no strings attached.”