Friends With Benefits: What Does It Mean and Is It Right for You?

"FWB" are non-committal and non-monogamous.


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Are you wondering what “friends with benefits” actually means? Perhaps you’ve heard the term come up in movies and TV shows, or have seen the acronym FWB and were unsure what kind of relationship that was. Maybe you are simply trying to determine if it’s the right situation for you. Whatever the case may be, in order to make a friends-with-benefits relationship work, it’s important to understand what this kind of casual connection truly means and entails.

What Is Friends With Benefits?

A friends-with-benefits (FWB) relationship is one in which two people are physically intimate with one another, yet they’re not committed to each other in any way. People involved in a friends-with-benefits relationship clearly enjoy spending time together, but their relationship isn’t romantic and has no strings attached.

Is a Friends-With-Benefits Relationship Right for You?

If you’re thinking about entering into a friends-with-benefits relationship, there are a few key points that’ll help you determine if a casual connection is truly beneficial for you in every respect.

Why Friends With Benefits Works for Some People

Having no strings attached—as in the lack of emotional commitment, emotional investment, or both formal and informal obligations of a relationship—can be alluring to people for different reasons. People who have a preference for non-monogamous relationships and those who don't have the time for or an interest in the emotional efforts or time commitment of a traditional relationship might prefer a FWB scenario. Someone who has had negative experiences in past relationships and isn't ready to open up emotionally can benefit from the physical benefits of FWB relationships without sacrificing their sense of safety in non-commitment. Individuals that identify as aromantic or have no interest in romantic attraction may also be drawn to these relationships, as would those already in open romantic relationships only seeking to fulfill sexual needs.

When to Avoid Friends-With-Benefits Relationships

Don't agree to a FWB relationship because it’s the only thing that your potential partner is willing to do. In order to avoid heartache in the future, you have to fully understand what you’re signing up for in the present, so that this relationship doesn’t leave you feeling unfulfilled or unimportant. While it’s certainly possible for a FWB relationship to transition into something more over time, you’re likely heading for heartbreak if this is your goal from the outset. And if this casual connection prevents you from pursuing a committed relationship that you see for yourself in the long term, your FWB connection may set you back romantically. 

Tips for a Healthy Friends-With-Benefits Relationship

If you want to be friends with benefits with someone, it’s important that you enter into this kind of relationship with full understanding and acceptance of what this means for both of you. This person isn’t your S.O., and this can have both its advantages as well as disadvantages depending upon your current wants and needs. It’s important to recognize that this person isn’t going to be able to provide you with the emotional support and care that are typically demonstrated by a partner in a committed relationship. That may include more intimate activities, such as crying on their shoulder, attending family events, or going on a formal date. To keep the peace and avoid disappointment, set expectations from the start and keep the conversation open and ongoing to ensure you're both on the same page.

Set Ground Rules and Boundaries

In order for a FWB relationship to work out, it has to fulfill everyone's expectations. You may enjoy being intimate, but these types of relationships can only be successful if you’re both completely content with the arrangement. As with any sexual interaction, keep an open dialogue about what sexual behaviors are accepted and what are off-limits. Mutual consent should never take a backseat regardless of how casual a fling may be. Similarly, if you have a platonic relationship outside the bedroom, you will need to set clear guidelines for how you will interact—if at all—when not between the sheets.

Communicate Thoroughly

When you enter into a FWB relationship, you should discuss the nature of your connection openly and honestly right from the start and continue to have that open line of communication throughout the duration of your relationship. To avoid confusion, hurt feelings, and misread signals, you should be totally forthright and in complete accord with each other about the nature of the relationship and be forthcoming if anything has changed for you.

Agree on Duration

Agreeing on the duration of your FWB relationship from the outset will save you from any painful or awkward moments later on. Come to a mutual decision on the length of this relationship, whether it's for a certain amount of time or set to terminate once one of you finds a long-term connection. Also discuss the possibility of dissolving the relationship without any hard feelings if one of you feels it's just not a good emotional or lifestyle fit. For instance, if your FWB relationship makes you happy in the moment but then later fills you with regret and disappointment, it’s not the right choice for you, and you should be able to have that honest conversation (and exit strategy) with your FWB partner.

Be Clear About Additional Casual Sexual Partners

If you’re thinking about entering a FWB relationship, it’s important to keep in mind that your connection isn’t a monogamous one. In fact, either of you is free to date more people, have other FWB relationships, and/or play the field as much as you’d like. In addition to protecting your physical health, it’s important that you protect your emotional health by understanding that your FWB relationship can end at any time and for any reason. You may agree to discuss other partners with one another or choose to not know the details. Either way, both of you need to set parameters around the use of protection and getting tested regularly for STIs.

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