To me, the idea of “friends with benefits” (or FWB) sounds nightmarish. I barely know the difference between friendly banter and flirting, so how could I ever be able to juggle both simultaneously? Despite the many concerns I have with the concept, many still seem to enjoy having the company of a friend with the relationship of a sexual partner. I’ve tried it out before but always end up feeling anxious about potentially ruining a perfectly good friendship and start to ask myself, “How can people be healthy FWBs?” After a bit of research, I put together a list of pros and cons so you can decide whether FWB might work for you!
For starters, there’s no sense of commitment. A lot of people fear commitment because of the overwhelming pressure of potentially messing up their relationship. There is a lot of emotional investment that goes into a relationship, a skill that many lack. Emotions take time and can frankly be exhausting. The lack of commitment in a FWB relationship can be a relieving feeling for people who struggle with traditional relationship roles.
Another pro of FWB is the satisfaction of physical intimacy. This works for some and not for others, however if you can have sexual relations without attachment, this might be the right fit for you. Physical intimacy is an important factor in a lot of people’s lives, yet they might not be ready to jump into a fully committed relationship. A FWB relationship can be extremely appealing for those not looking for anything serious, yet still craving some sort of intimacy within their lives.
With no emotional pressure, a FWB relationship can open up opportunities for exploration and experimentation in the bedroom. If the relationship is already built on a healthy friendship, this makes it way easier to explore your likes and dislikes without feeling embarrassed. If both parties are willing to consensually explore, this creates a safe environment for trying new things!
On the other hand, FWB relationships are not for everyone and many of them result in heartbreak. This is often due to one of the members gaining some sort of attachment to their partner and the other not feeling the same. Although many claim to like casual sex, it is completely normal to develop feelings after being intimate with someone. Sex is extremely vulnerable and opening up to someone can result in an emotional bond that may not be mutual. Communication is key in these scenarios because the longer you hold on to undisclosed feelings, the more hurt you’ll be in the end.
Very few studies have been done surrounding the new craze of casual hookups, but the ones that have come out have varying results. A research study done by Personal Relationships found that FWB relationships only work out 17% of the time. These studies showed that FWB relationships usually went three different ways: a romantic relationship, a normal friendship, or nothing at all. The research team surveyed 192 people in a FWB relationship to determine the outcome after ten months. At the start of the survey, 48% hoped their FWB relationship would not change, 25% wanted a romantic relationship, 12% wanted a regular friendship, and only 4% wanted to cut ties completely. After the months went by, most who wanted a relationship did not achieve their goal. Only 15% of those who hoped for a serious relationship following FWB got one. However, out of those who simply wanted a regular friendship after their FWB relationships, 59% were successful. Those who did successfully achieve their goal of entering into a serious relationship explained how this was due to the mutual commitment and healthy communication involved in their FWB experience.
In conclusion, the success of FWB relationships are completely dependent on whether or not you think you’re emotionally ready for one. It’s good to remind yourself that even if an FWB situation doesn’t work out, you still gained some life experience and now know what kind of relationship you’re interested in. I believe that no matter how “casual” or “no-strings attached” someone claims their relationship is, there is still emotional work that needs to be invested. Ultimately, whether being friends with benefits is a positive or negative experience completely depends on the expectations of the people involved and their ability to handle the complex emotions of it all.