At some point in your life, you will invariably find yourself presented with a possible “friends with benefits” scenario. This is to say that you will either have a lover who turns into a casual friend (where the ultimate point of any get-together is ending up in the sack) or you will have a friend who turns into a casual lover. The ultimate goal of a FWB situation is to try to maintain your friendship (as close or casual as it is), not get hurt, and get some on the side if either of you finds your bed particularly empty.
One thing that both parties want to avoid is hurting each other’s feelings or letting it get to the point where you have to have a tough conversation. It seems like the perfect scenario: you have someone fun with whom you don’t have to play games or risk rejection in order to get a little action. If you keep it a secret from your other mutual friends, the secrecy of it can be even more exciting. But in order to maintain FWB scenario without it getting messy, there are certain ground rules that you might want to establish. Since you’re just having fun, no one needs to get hurt.
FWB From The Get-Go
One way to launch a potentially successful FWB scenario is to roll a semi-successful dating relationship into a FWB situation. If you go out with someone and you are attracted to one another, but aren’t really looking for the same thing, there is the potential to transform each other into a booty-call. This will only work if neither of you wants a relationship with the other. If one of you is secretly pining for the other and hoping the FWB turns into a relationship, positions needs to be clarified.
Another possible FWB prelude is a one-night stand. Certainly, there are times when one-night stands turn into relationships, but more often than not, they don’t. This does not mean that there needs to be a royal kiss-off in the morning, however. If you actually like each other and are really sexually compatible from the beginning, then maybe you want to exchange numbers and keep the lines of communication open for any possible future rendezvous.
In these two scenarios, there does not have to be many ground rules established. You don’t really have a big emotional responsibility to the other person, other than the common decency you should show to your fellow humans. Protect yourself physically by using a condom, and protect yourself emotionally by being honest with yourself and your FWB partner about any feelings you might have for them. It is very rare for FWB to turn into anything more serious once that routine is established.
If you were friends before you started messing around, then things get a little bit more complex. There are a few more expectations involved simply because you have more at risk, namely a friendship. Chances are that it starts out something like this: you have been friends for years, during which time each of you has been in various other relationships. While there has always been mild flirtation, it is mostly of the safe, never-gonna-happen variety. Then one night, you’re both single, you have a few drinks, you start kissing, and before you know it, you wake up with awkward expressions on your faces. You try to reconstruct the night, both of you blaming the first move on the other person, and agree that this is probably a bad idea because you’re just friends.
If you re lucky, you have that conversation right away so each person can establish their position. You’ll probably both agree not to tell your mutual friends (while you might keep that promise, she will immediately call her best friend and spill the beans), and chalk it up to one drunk night. The problem is that now that you two have done it, that possibility will always linger between two. It is hard to get that libido back in the bag once it’s out.
The next time the two of you are hanging out, also with you in the room will be the big pink elephant of the possibility that you might end up together again. The room will be ripe with sexual tension and there is no way the possibility will not rear its head. The problem is, once you have slept together twice, you won’t be able to chalk it up to one silly night anymore. Now it’s a bona fide option, and you need to discuss the possibilities.
Fooling around with a friend can feel safe and fun. You assume that, as your friend, they are not going to dick you around, and you get the pleasure of connecting sexually with someone you’re genuinely fond of instead of someone you don’t really know or care about.
In order to protect your friendship, there does need to be some ground rules.
- If you find that you have feelings for your friend that extend beyond friendship, then don’t assume that a FWB approach is going to lead to dating. If you want to date your friend, then you should tell her. If you just want to mess around with your friend, then be clear that’s all you want.
- If one of you starts having feelings beyond FWB, you have to be honest. It really sucks when sex destroys a friendship that was awesome without it.
- If one of you starts dating (or even just sleeping with) someone else, you should tell the FWB immediately. It’s not fair to take your friend off-guard by showing up with a new love interest to a mutual friend’s event. If one of you is sleeping with someone else, your FWB deserves to know so you/she can make an informed choice as to whether or not to opt out.
It is difficult, but not impossible, to sustain a FWB relationship for long term. Since the last thing either of you wants to do is destroy a perfectly good friendship, your best option is to be honest with each other and treat each other, first and foremost, as a friend. That means always looking out for each other’s best interests (even if that means admitting you guys aren’t good at keeping friendship and sex separate), and being willing to apologize for hurting your friend’s feelings, even if you don’t totally understand why they are hurt.
As much as we like to think it doesn’t, sex between friends changes things slightly, because it makes both of you a little more vulnerable, and therefore slightly more responsible for taking care of each other’s feelings. If you think that you and your friend can really be honest with each other, however, then you could both be in for a really fun ride!