Where Do You Stand on Friends With Benefits?
Originally Published: October 4, 2017
Revised: October 4, 2017
Friends with benefits come in many different forms. It can be hooking up with an ex or taking a relationship that was never sexual and changing boundaries to allow for sex in certain circumstances. My experience seeing my friends in these relationships has been pretty negative, but given the examples of friends with benefits (or FWB) in movies, on TV and on social media, I asked around to get some other people’s opinions.
A Level of Comfort
It’s not uncommon that young people feel uncomfortable or awkward in early romantic or sexual experiences. Natasha, 19, from Los Angeles, tells me that hooking up with her friend made her more comfortable than she had been when hooking up with her former boyfriend.
“I was close with my friend Brad for like three years. We hooked up at a party once and then a few more times. It took a while for us to really talk about it, but once we did, we decided to give the ‘friends with benefits’ thing a shot.”
…in order for it to work, one needs a specific partner, clear intentions and a certain mindset, where two people are on the same page and willing to set boundaries and communicate.
I ask Natasha if they talked about safer sex, and she says, “It was easier to talk about safe sex and protection with someone who was already my friend. We had gotten past that awkward ‘talking about sex’ phase, so deciding to use protection was easy.”
When I ask how it ended, Natasha tells me Brad met a girl he was interested in. “We stopped for a while…and they eventually got together,” she tells me. “I was never really jealous. We were friends, and I wanted the best for him.”
Overall, Natasha is glad she entered into a FWB relationship. “I wouldn’t have wanted to learn everything I learned with Brad with anyone I was less comfortable with. And now I know what sort of comfort I should look for in a future partner.”
Dealing With Jealousy
Cassidy, 17, from Bryn Mawr, PA, offers up a different story. As soon as I bring up friends with benefits, she launches into a story about her relationship with her ex-friend: “It was awful. I saw the worst version of myself in that relationship.” Cassidy says they had agreed to warn each other if they were seeing other people, in case of jealousy.
“Even though we had talked about it, it was driving me insane not knowing if he was talking to [other] girls. And you don’t want to seem clingy because you don’t want to seem like you’re trying to be the girlfriend,” she tells me. “I looked through his phone when he’d go to the bathroom!” she confesses. “I broke it off. I don’t know if he was talking to other girls, but I just felt crazy.”
The jealousy Cassidy experienced can sometimes be symptomatic of developing feelings for your friend with benefits and having expectations of this friend that aren’t being met.
Another person I talked to, Ryan*, 18, from Chicago, tells me that when he began having sex with his guy friend, “We basically agreed to continue respecting each other as really good friends and let the sex ‘happen.’ The boundaries we set were based on developing romantic feelings, which we were both not ready for.”
It seems Ryan and Cassidy were struggling with similar issues—not being on the same page about romantic feelings and expectations. When entering a FWB relationship, it’s important to consider this and express those feelings and expectations to the other person. Looking back, Ryan says, “I personally advise against it simply because it’s so hard to see where the line starts blurring between friendship and romance, especially when sex is involved.”
A Personal Preference
Natasha and Cassidy seem to be on two different ends of the friends with benefits spectrum. For Natasha, it was a positive way to get comfortable with sex and her body, whereas Cassidy learned she was not suited for it. Ryan also struggled with his FWB relationship and defining the line between sex and something more. It seems like, in order for it to work, one needs a specific partner, clear intentions and a certain mindset, where two people are on the same page and willing to set boundaries and communicate. Relationships are never one-size-fits-all. Although FWB relationships may be fine for some, they certainly don’t work for everyone. And that’s fine.
*Ryan is a pseudonym.
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