The Unofficial Ground Rules of Having a Friend with Benefits
Whether it’s a legit friend or someone you hang out with every so often and fool around with, a friend with benefits scenario can satisfy your sexual needs. It’s more than a one-night stand but less than boyfriend/girlfriend status, yet it fills a need without deep-diving into anything too meaningful.
Sure, the lines can get blurred when it comes to these types of relationships, as sex and love can complicate things. But if you draw clear boundaries, these temporary dynamics (and booty calls!) can be a sexual godsend. If you want to hang out and hook up, there are 10 things to keep in mind.
1. Don’t have unrealistic expectations
If you go into an FWB situation expecting it to become something more, you’re going to wind up disappointed.
“If you and your sex partner agree to this kind of relationship and you then don’t know why they won’t date you, it’s because that was never on the table,” Gigi Engle, a writer and sex educator, explains. “If you’re uncomfortable with casual sex that doesn’t have a chance of developing into a relationship, don’t have friends with benefits.”
The biggest mistake dating coach Marni Kinrys sees men and women making is that they hope—fingers crossed—that an FWB will turn into something more. They think if they can just spend more time with a partner, they’ll eventually see how great and easy-breezy they are and will fall in love.
2. Do capitalize on their benefits
Another FWB mistake Kinrys sees all the time is friends not capitalizing on their benefits. “Both parties have an open, commitment-free, no-judgment-zone relationship where they could do anything they want to or have wanted to,” she explains. “To really capitalize on your friends-with-benefits situation, use that time to explore, try and see what you like.”
Never done it in public? Do it. Never tried toys? Try them. “Try everything you’ve ever wanted so that you are more clear on what you want and how you want it,” she says.
3. Don’t make any assumptions
Assuming what another person feels or wants is dangerous to any relationship.
“If you both go into a sexual relationship with eyes wide open and full communication, then there can be no misunderstandings,” Spike Spencer, dating and relationship speaker, explains. “It is a tightrope you walk if you have been very close for a long time. Misunderstandings can end the entire friendship. If you are more casual, then the stakes aren’t so high. Either way, there should be some serious grown-up open discussion around the subject.”
4. Do practice self-awareness
Stella Harris, certified intimacy educator, sex coach and author of , says a lack of self-awareness can lead to a lack of communication.
“All too often, we think we’re fine with a situation because we haven’t really done our self-work,” Harris explains. “People regularly accept an FWB situation in the hopes that more will develop, and sometimes they don’t even know at first that’s what they’re doing.”
5. Do speak up if feelings develop
If feelings weren’t part of the initial negotiation but develop anyway, Harris says you should say something. “It might mean the end of the FWB arrangement, but it means less hurt down the line,” says Harris. “Maybe the other person feels the same way. You won’t know if you don’t talk about it.”
6. Do put friendship first
An FWB arrangement probably means you’ll go back to being friends when you’re tired of hooking up—or when one of you starts dating someone else, Andrea Amour, founder of UpDate Coaching, explains. “Throughout the FWB period, focus on being a good friend—who’s also good in bed—so it makes transitioning back to being friends seamless,” she adds.
7. Don’t maintain FWB past its expiration date
The whole point of FWB is that it should be fun. “If you’re hooking up and both people are having a good time, keep going,” says Amour. “If it starts being stressful, confusing or not that fun, it’s probably worth high-fiving and transitioning back to a traditional friendship.”
8. Do clarify roles
‘It’s not always sexy to have a ‘what are we doing here?’ talk before you hook up for the first time,” says Amour. “But if you’ve been together a few times—and you want to keep it going—have a five-minute check-in.”
Make sure you’re both on the same page about expectations (Are you hooking up with other people? Are you dating other people? Could it turn into a relationship?). “Otherwise, someone’s probably going to get hurt and your ‘friendship’ could get really awkward, really fast,” Amour notes.
9. Do set ground rules
By definition, an FWB scenario means it’s an open relationship. It’s up to both parties to define what that means. “Does FWB mean you don’t owe an explanation to the other person in regard to who else you’re sleeping with?” asks Rori Sassoon, relationship expert and cofounder of Platinum Poire.
“It’s up to you to say what works for you,” she explains. “This is something you can ask. Having a conversation before you are physically intimate with them minimizes the possibility that one person may be building a connection while the other is thinking it’s just physical.”
10. Do communicate
Communication is key. “If you’re thinking it can be FWB at first and then discover that you’d like to have a monogamous relationship, you should express that you may be interested in that,” says Sassoon. “Setting the stage for a relationship in this way comes with a very likely chance for you to be disappointed if the other person is not open to this.
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