Friends With Benefits: The Truth About Having A Physically Intimate Relationship With A Friend15 min read

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Lack of clarity is the cause of many relational issues: When we lack clarity of what we want, why we want it, and how we want it, we often find ourselves doing the wrong things and consequently getting undesirable results.

When it comes to the amount of intimacy we want to experience in our lives, having clarity can be the difference between consistently getting hurt and hurting others, or consistently finding happiness and making others happy.

When you mention physical intimacy, the first thought that comes to the mind of most young people is a boyfriend or a girlfriend. But, physical intimacy is not limited to just those.

I’ve been single all my life, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t had intimate relationships in my life. It just means I haven’t gotten those experiences from people who I got committed to. I’ve rather gotten them from friends with benefits. And, perhaps, it is part of the reason I’ve never experienced a single heartbreak in my life. 

What are friends with benefits (FWB)?

Friends with benefits (FWB) is a type of relationship where two people are physically intimate with each other, but they’re not committed to each other like partners are. People involved in a FWB relationship enjoy spending time together but do not have plans of getting married, building a house and raising children together, or any of such things. There simply are no strings attached.

Friends-with-benefits relationships (FWBRs) can be a good idea if you find someone who you admire and who equally admires you, but who, like you, is not willing or ready for the social responsibilities and emotional entanglement of a traditional relationship

However, friends-with-benefits relationships (FWBRs) can also be complicated for the simple reason that we are emotional creatures – we easily get attached, fall in love, and get jealous. Plus, having an overt friend with benefits can also prevent you from having a partner (unless you and your partner agree to an open relationship, or you intend to cheat on them).

Hence, when it comes to FWBRs, having strong boundaries (for the friendship) is even more critical than in a normal friendship. 

When I was still in the University, I had a FWB. She was older than I and we didn’t really share a lot of interests or values. We never went out on a date and didn’t hold hands in public, or act in ways that suggest we had anything going. Everyone knew we were fond of each other, as I was with all my other friends. 

However, when she (allegedly) started seeing someone else, I didn’t feel pained. In fact, I asked her if she was dating the guy and she said no. Our friendship continued, and when we were done with school, we both went our separate ways without any hard feelings. 

There were even instances where friends who thought we were dating (or about to start dating) kept informing me she might be seeing someone else. The truth was that I really didn’t want to possess her. I was happy with our relationship and was okay with stepping aside whenever she was ready to move on.

Some people might argue that what we had was superficial, but that is just not true. We’ve known each other for over 7 years now (which is longer than most people’s relationships ever lasted), and even though we haven’t seen each other for most of that time, we still talk and assist each other from time to time (thanks to the internet). Heck! She is still my very good friend (who I respect and who respects me).

What’s the difference between Friends, Friends with benefits, Fuck buddies, and Partners

Friends, friends with benefits, fuck buddies, and partners are all types of relationships, with different types and levels of intimacy and commitment.

  • Friends are simply people who you enjoy spending time with and who you can rely on for support. You might share common interests, hobbies, or values, but do not have any romantic or sexual feelings for each other. In fact, you may puke at the idea of having anything to do with them.
  • Friends with benefits are friends who on top of being friends, also have a sexual relationship but are not committed to each other. It’s important to mention that physical intimacy or sexual acts are not limited to penetration. Physical intimacy can include oral sex, manual stimulation, kissing, and other forms of intimacy. This was strictly the level of intimacy I had with one of my FWBs.
  • Fuck buddies on the other hand are people who from time to time get together for the sole purpose of sex. They don’t spend much time with each other, don’t rely on each other for support, and may not even share common interests, hobbies, or values. They are not particularly friends. Some fuck buddies may not even know each other’s surname, let alone history, origin, or whereabouts. There is little trust involved.
  • While partners are people who are in a committed romantic relationship. They typically have strong feelings for each other, share similar values, spend a lot of time together, and pull their resources together to live their dream life – which in many cases involves raising good children, building a business, and having new experiences.

Here is a table that summarizes the key differences between friends, friends with benefits, fuck buddies, and partners:

CharacteristicFriendFriends with benefitFuck buddyPartner
Level of CommitmentMediumMediumNoneHigh
Level of intimacyMedium: EmotionalHigh: Physical and emotionalMedium: Strictly PhysicalHigh: Physical and emotional
ExpectationsMediumMediumNoneHigh: Exclusivety, commitment, and sacrifice.
Time spent togetherHighMediumLowHigh
Shared interestsYesMaybeMaybeYes
Shared valuesYesYesMaybeYes
Feelings for each otherNoMaybeNoYes

It is important to note that these are just general descriptions and there is no one-size-fits-all definition for any of these types of relationships. The specific dynamics of each relationship will vary depending on the individual people involved.

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Do friends with benefits fall in love?

Even though most friends-with-benefits relationships don’t last very long, some friends-with-benefits fall in love. In fact, a study found that 60% of men and 44% of women in FWB relationships have developed feelings for their partners. I know this is true because I also did (in two of my FWBRs).

I knew I was beginning to fall in love because I found myself beginning to give and share more than I usually do. At one instance, I got really disappointed to learn another guy had kissed my FWB. Of course, I calmed myself down after a few minutes, talked to her about it, and just shrugged it off. 

However, not everyone can be that self-aware or control their emotions. In general, you can tell when one of you in the FWBR is falling in love when you/they

  • Start becoming more affectionate – by hugging more or holding hands (especially in public).
  • Start doing “unusual” things, like gifting, and cooking for the other person.
  • Start to talk about future plans with the other person in the picture.
  • Get jealous seeing the other person with other people or talking about other people they’re interested in.
  • Start to open up about secrets and personal issues unlike before.
  • Start visiting more often, calling at odd hours, and talking for a longer time.

And so on.

It happened to me on two different occasions, with two different FWBs. When I began to fall in love, I asked them out. But, they turned down my request, stating some reasons why we can’t stay together (other than as we were). But of course, this does not mean it never works. 

In order for a FWBR to last, and for both friends to stick together, both parties must be on the same page about what they’re looking for. And, more importantly, they should be able to communicate that clearly and early enough.

It’s possible for friends with benefits to even lead to marriage, but it’s very rare. In order to take things to the next step, both parties must be willing to change the terms of the relationship. This can be difficult, especially if there are a lot of constraints – such as age gaps, financial difficulties, religious differences, and so on.

What are the disadvantages of friends with benefits?

Here are some of the disadvantages of FWB relationships:

Someone could get hurt, eventually:

If one of you starts dating someone else, or start developing feelings for someone else, it can be hurtful for the other. This is especially true if feelings have already started developing (which is often the case).

You could lose your friendship:

If things go wrong in your FWBR, it’s possible that you could lose your friendship altogether. This is because it hurts when you feel for someone but they do not feel the same, and some people don’t know how to handle pain. Losing a friend can be particularly painful if that friend has been very valuable and dear to you.

It can be difficult to set boundaries:

As you get more and more used to each other, it can become increasingly hard to set and maintain boundaries in friendship (despite FWBRs needing stronger boundaries).

They may be external pressure:

You may often have to explain to friends who know how intimate your two have become that you do not intend to date them. However, the pressure never seems to go away, as it is the cultural norm.

You may experience internal conflicts:

Depending on your cultural and religious background, you may begin to feel internal conflicts about the nature of the relationship (despite it being consensual and healthy). You may question why they won’t go all in with you, or why you don’t want to go all in with them. 

There might be social consequences:

If you have multiple FWBRs, you may begin to worry about how society views you. And, as a matter of fact, it may be difficult to get a partner until you let go of your friend with benefit, or at least go back to just being friends. This is often the reason why most FWBRs are not made public.

All these further stressed the need for self-awareness, honesty, and effective communication for the success and continuation of the friends-with-benefits relationship (or any other relationship really).

But, can friends with benefits be better than relationships?

Friends with benefits can sometimes be more enjoyable than a relationship because there are not many expectations, and everyone feels free to be themselves and do as they please. 

There is no drama, nagging, or endless questioning. You can travel out of the country, or forget to call for weeks without hurting anyone’s feelings. 

You can be blunt, deny their requests, and even give them a piece of your mind without feeling guilty or worrying they will burn your clothes or throw out your property.

Heck! You can get freaky and explore sexual fantasies that might be out of bounds in a committed romantic relationship (e.g. threesome, BDS, and so on).

FWBs can even help each other get a partner.

How to get a friend with benefits:

As we’ve mentioned earlier, friends with benefits are first friends before anything else. I’ve written a post about how to make friends in the past. You can read it up.

Now, if you already have a friend that you want to become a FWB, or you just started being friends but want to quickly turn it into a FWBR, below are some useful steps:

Let them know you think about them in a sexual way: 

If you are nice with people, most of them will be nice to you in return. If you offer friendship – attention, advice, support, etc – most people will offer that in return. But, not everyone will reflect your sexual interest in them, and that is exactly why you must make it clear to this person that you are sexually attracted to them. 

You can do this by flirting – making and holding eye contact, touching them lightly, and complimenting their looks and character. If they reciprocate, then most times, you usually end up in bed after a couple of hours, days, or weeks. 

The key is, to be honest and direct. If you ever get them alone, you should tell them how you feel. It might feel like an earth-shattering event but whether they say yes or no, the world will continue to spin as usual. Sometimes, you can simply remain friends, or just move on.

Let them know you don’t want commitments: 

Assuming they reciprocate, and you two seem to be in sync, it is crucial to communicate as early as possible that you are not ready for commitment. 

I’ve made the mistake of just going with the flow only to end up in an awkward situation where feelings were being hurt. So, perhaps, you can chip in that information during your chat, or at least, moments before the sex. You don’t want to get that awkward question “What are we?”.

Define expectations and set strong boundaries: 

Consider this the finishing touches in your new relationship. Without clear expectations and boundaries, it can be hard to navigate any relationship, especially one as volatile as a FWB. 

Expectations could be, calling and checking up on weekends, being free to stay over at each other’s place, having regular sex, and so on. The boundaries could simply be no holding hands in public, no sharing the affair with others, always using a condom, and so on. 

When to leave friends with benefits?

It is okay to leave any relationship that is not serving you, or that is hurting you, especially if it is one with no commitment in the first place. 

From my experience, there are two main reasons to leave a friend with benefits

  • When they refuse to grow or try to pull you down
  • When you (or they) are ready to move on to a more committed relationship.

Before you became physically intimate, you were first friends. So, if you noticed they start becoming toxic, unhelpful, or harmful to you, it is necessary to talk to them about it, set stronger boundaries, and in worse-case scenarios (i.e. if they refuse to make amends) end the friendship

On the other hand, if you’ve found someone special – who is ready, compatible, and willing to start building that dream life with you – it is okay to let your FWB know that your wonderful relationship has got to change. 

Keep in mind that an exclusive intimate relationship is not defined by sex alone. It is also defined by the emotionally intimate bond that allows for trust and vulnerability between two people. And, with a cross-sex intimate friend still in the picture, that bond may struggle to form or may be jeopardised.

This does not mean you have to be enemies with your FWB, but that you simply have to evolve as you grow in life and as an individual.

Sure, ending the friendship, or simply redefining the relationship might sting a bit, but it is okay. Only babies think change and a little pain is a bad thing.

In a FWBR, the door is always open and you can walk out anytime you wish.

Conclusion: “First, focus on being a friend with benefits”

As I mentioned in the intro, the reason most people get hurt in relationships is that they do not really know what they want. Most times they only follow what they feel. I think this is a very foolish approach.

For example, I feel I lack intimacy in my life, but that doesn’t mean I’ll run after the next lady I see. No. I want intimacy with a bodacious lady who is smart, mannered, hard-working, good at communicating, and also good-looking. But, I also know that to attract and keep such a lady, I will have to fix a lot about myself – starting with my finances and emotional intelligence.

The point is, don’t start proposing love to someone or a friend, when all you have is a sexual urge, and you really do not think you both will amount to much in future. It is best to practise self-control, or simply have the decency to let them know you just want sex.

If you want to have a friend with benefits, first focus on being of immense benefit to yourself first.

If you enjoyed reading this, then you’ll enjoy reading my post on how to make girls beg to be with you forever.

Dick David is a freelance SEO content writer and editor with over 7 years of experience in content writing, digital marketing, and sales. He is the founder of Pawns Digital Agency. Throughout his career, he has authored over 4 books, published hundreds of SEO articles attracting thousands of monthly visitors, ghostwritten numerous works, and edited hundreds of content pieces across various industries. Currently, he works with Robert Taylor Media and has also worked with Tobi Digitals and Branditechture Design Agency, among others.

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