You’ve probably heard of the idea of “friends with benefits”, but you might not be entirely sure what this term means. After all, there are many different possible meanings to having a friend with benefits, and it’s important to get your head around the potential risks and issues with a friends with benefits relationship before you embark on this type of relationship.

Let’s have a look at everything you need to know about friends with benefits (often abbreviated to a FWB relationship). We’ve put together a brief guide, introducing what the term means and some of the most common pitfalls and wrinkles that you might encounter when engaging in a FWB relationship for the first time.

What does “friends with benefits” mean?

In its simplest and most common form, a friends with benefits relationship is a non-exclusive, casual relationship. You’re friends, but sometimes you have sex with each other, no pressure, free from expectations. In practice, a FWB relationship is often not quite that simple, but that’s the meaning most commonly intended when people talk about friends with benefits.

On paper, a friends with benefits relationship looks great for any couple, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. After all, who doesn’t sometimes want to sleep with their friend without having to worry about the pressures of an exclusive relationship?

Unfortunately, there are a lot of potential issues with a FWB relationship. It’s hard to sleep with someone without emotional entanglements forming, and staying “just friends” with someone when you sometimes sleep together is much harder than you might think. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest issues you’re likely to encounter with a friends with benefits relationship, no matter how well prepared or how immune to emotions you might think you are.

The challenges of a friends with benefits relationship

Relationships end. That’s just a fact, and there’s nothing you can do about it. A friends with benefits type relationship is likely to end at some point in the future, and you have to work out what you’re willing to risk here. When a casual relationship ends, you’re probably going to ruin your friendship in the process. Is the sex worth that cost? That’s something you’re going to have to decide for yourself.

There are a number of major reasons that friends with benefits arrangements stop working. One member could catch unrequited feelings for the other. One of them might meet someone else that they want an exclusive relationship with. One or more of you could just fancy something different. There are many other reasons too, but these are the most common ones. When you don’t have the investment and obligation of a committed relationship to help, it’s easy to let things fall apart and not make them right.

Could it be more than a friends with benefits relationship?

Not everything needs a label, but sometimes putting a name on your relationship would make it easier to draw up boundaries and to know when to stop things or how to manage your expectations. No matter whether or not you’re calling your sexual relationship a friends with benefits deal or something different, this casual kind of relationship is enough that you should establish terms in advance, no matter what your partner says. Setting expectations up front with people will help you to get things right and to be clear about what you mean.

If you’re just looking for casual, no strings attached sex, then a one night stand is often safer than a friends with benefits arrangement is. If what you’re looking for is a long term kind of relationship, then friends with benefits could lead to a more committed long term relationship, but it’s not wise to expect longer term success from a FWB arrangement.

How to handle friends with benefits relationships becoming more committed

Friends with benefits relationships can evolve, the casual sex leading to a longer term relationship connection with someone you just expected to regard as a friend you have sex with. Often, people say that they’re just there because they want the sexual side of the relationship, but find an emotional connection may develop over time. You may not be planning on a longer relationship with the person in question, but it may well happen whether you want it to or not.

The best thing to do in this situation is always to be honest. It’s much better to tell the person that you like them than it is to carry on with your friends with benefits arrangement, getting increasingly invested with no clarity over what the future may hold. That goes for everything to do with fwb arrangements – you’ll always want to be honest and draw clear boundaries, or you run the risk of things getting extremely messy extremely quickly.

If you’re good friends with someone, you spend a lot of time together, and you really like the hanging out and the sex, then there’s nothing wrong with feelings. Men, women, whoever. It doesn’t matter what the gender dynamics of your friendship are or what anyone says: if you’re having sex and starting to really feel some serious feelings, talk to that person. They could feel the same, and then you’ve got the start of a beautiful relationship.

Ending friends with benefits relationship situations

Even if it seems great for a while, there’s always a chance of disaster. If you feel like the other person is starting to have more feelings for you than you really want them to, you may want to break it off with them before it gets even messier and more complicated (and no matter how complicated you think they are, people can always be even more complicated than they already are! And that’s not a gendered thing – men, women, and other people are all complex and prone to accidentally developing feelings that you may not know how to deal with!)

Breaking things off with a friend with benefits isn’t easy. It’s just like breaking up with people in a committed relationship, and it may be quite a difficult process, so you’re going to want to take things carefully. Don’t treat your partner like an object you’re getting rid of now it’s less fun. Men and women that you’re not wanting to sleep with any more are still people. Breakups happen, and that’s okay.

Ending any kind of open relationship experience is always going to be easier if the two of you have kept things honest and clear all the way through. It can be easier if it’s a fairly new experience and you’re both just giving it a go, but breaking off a just for fun relationship that’s been going for a while can be very difficult. Be as honest as you can on your part, and don’t leave it too long. It’ll only get harder the longer you screw around.

Never feel obligated

The important thing about friends with benefits relationships is that there are no real obligations. That only works if the two of you are both open and honest about the experience. It’s important that you never feel obligated to turn an arrangement like this into more if you don’t love the other person. Be open, be clear, and make sure everyone is working on the same expectations of commitment. This is usually a difficult thing to balance – there’s a good chance that one partner will want more, while the other will usually not want that commitment. If you’re the second person in that scenario, don’t feel pressured unless you really want to do something for someone you actually love. If you don’t want to be dating, it usually won’t work. It’s that simple.

Conclusion

You may be expecting friends with benefits to be a free, easy option without any of the complications of dating and love, but unfortunately life usually doesn’t work that way. Friends with benefits is still a form of dating, and you need to treat it seriously and cautiously just like any other relationship. You may not mean to get involved with a romantic partner or find a love connection, but occasionally life has different plans. Be honest and up front. It’ll help you to make it right. Trust us.