Home Featured Friends with Benefits Can Work. Here’s Why…

Friends with Benefits Can Work. Here’s Why…

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can friends with benefits actually work

If you’re lucky, you’re f*cking someone you adore. You’re in a committed and monogamous relationship with this person and you can see marriage in the near or distant future. But if you’re not “lucky” right now — if you haven’t drunkenly stumbled, or gracefully sashayed into “the one” yet (and I say that with just the slightest snicker), you may be f*cking one of your friends.

The friend-with-benefits is becoming a common (non)romantic situationship and I would argue, it is its own strange, off-brand of auspicious.

As emotionally risky as consistently sleeping with someone you are blatantly disconnected from can be, 20 and 30-somethings are taking this plunge daily, weekly, and monthly in order to fulfill basic sexual desires.

How could a potentially hazardous but sexually fulfilling situationship with a person you kinda-like in a platonic way ever, ever, everrrr be a good thing?

Well, one of several young professionals I spoke to actually said doing a friend helped her maintain a healthy, hormonal balance. And experts say this is a scientifically-proven reality. Safe sex releases hormones, adrenaline and is a good form of exercise.

It increases self-esteem!

…And, apparently, we’re not mature enough to be celibate and wait for a soulmate to come along the way our parents and grandparents did.

Even though we are more interested in achieving personal and career goals before settling down then they were, five and ten years of jump-offs can add up if you’re sharply opposed to long-term celibacy the way our generation seems to be.

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That being said, the “situationship” is not only a reality but a commodity.

Proof of this is in the conversations taking place on boozy Scandal  Thursdays and in shoe-shopping marathons, after bar crawls during March Madness, and Sunday afternoons at the gym.

I’ve had my share of conversations with friends about how finding one of these fellas is more of a challenge than finding a mate. And while that may be a gross exaggeration, cut buddy falls right beneath boyfriend in my book.

A successful f*ck-around– according to the singles, and semi-singles, I spoke to– has to be consistent, considerate, reasonably attractive, reasonably good in bed, trustworthy, interesting, reliable, a friend but someone who doesn’t like you enough to become attached and who you don’t like enough to become attached.

The heart of the success of the friendship-with-benefits is precariously balanced between these platonic emotions and satisfaction with the overall situation. The minute one of those things goes awry, it’s over.

It’s really f*cking easy for all this fun to turn into a devastating and dirty breakup– just like a real relationship– as soon as natural, but unreciprocated feelings start to bubble up.

For an anonymous 27-year-old journalist, the relationship became a ping pong match of unrequited feelings. A young accountant from NYC’s situationship ended with a bottle-throwing blowup.

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Often, drama like this is an occupational hazard–everyone has experienced some version of these stories. Situation-shattering conflict is often unavoidable, regardless of the spoken, or unspoken, rules of the relationship.

Successful friendships-with-benefits, do, in fact, require a level of compassion. You really have to be good friends, for it to work, while simultaneously being so starkly different that it would never work, for real. You have to be able to sit down at IHOP with her after a long night and enjoy her company enough to share a meal, but not a memory. And that’s an almost impossible dynamic to hold on to for any length of time.

After a year of weekly breakfasts, or seven months of scheduled Saturday night booty calls, somebody is almost guaranteed to get attached.

And though Black Hollywood, Steve Harvey and an assortment of other sexperts may try to propagate the load that it’s emotional women who find themselves yearning for men who don’t yearn for them, I know from being on the other side of this conundrum, that’s not the truth.

The same man I interviewed whose situationship made a tearful exit after chucking a bottle at him said that despite an overall disinterest in affection from a cut buddy, (his exact description was that it would make him feel “annoyed” and “guilty”) he would get into a committed relationship with the right woman.

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Others I interviewed were either committed and unwed, open to, or seeking monogamy.

Neither women nor men would turn real love away, even if they were busy knocking boots with a long-term friend.

At least to me, it seems that aside from actually being friends, friends-with-benefits have to be content with the situation. In the relationships that were most successful– the longest of my interviewees’ lasted for nearly a decade– both parties had to be content with the situation.

But how is that possible, when the very basis for a friendship-with-benefits is unhappiness?

How can we maintain successful situationships when we are each so painfully aware we’d rather be doing the real thing with someone else?

…And when there are a slew of unpleasant emotions– like deal-shattering attachment, jealousy, anger and unfulfillment– is it worth it to keep doing this to each other?

I guess I’ll know for sure when it stops working for me.

Celeste

Celeste Little is a New York City journalist, Syracuse University alumna (GO ORANGE!) and the founder of www.ocaelo.com, an arts and culture website for young “metropolitans.” She writes about art, culture, urban issues and loves analyzing relationships — even her own. Follow her on Twitter at @ocaelo.

Comment(25)

  1. There is no rule to say the basis of friends with benefits is unhappiness… If that belief is based on a cheater straying it is especially nonsense.

    Everyone who engages in this type of relationship isn’t necessarily ready for it. Both people have to be in the right frame of mind with the same understanding of their relationship/friend with benefit. Signals need to be firm and consistent. Sending false signals should never happen. If your partner is developing feelings that you don’t share in common and it isn’t what you want then you have to move on and end that relationship.

    Personally, I don’t want to be there true friend, hanging out, talking often, going out to eat, etc… Frankly that’s a recipe for disaster. I feel we’d need to have a certain level of respect, physical attraction, and communicate effectively. I don’t want to know too much as that to me is relationship building. The only building should be of sexual pleasure.

  2. THANK YOU FOR THIS POST!!!!!

    I'm surprised that a Woman has been able to write and say this, though- apparently the amny, many articles Men have written on this seems to "enforce Male Privilege" and Patriarchy and FWB never benefit Women-EVER…….. It's 2014 and as the post Dr. J wrote about Foretting Rules, Common Sense and Respect is the ONLY Way for folks to live without preconceived notions (Politics, Religion, Race, etc).

    1. @ J Crawford, I agree. In fact the rep have been more women writing on the subject. And yes, it has it's purposes for women who decide it to be a nice option for that particular point in their lives. I can think of many convenient scenarios for this: she's in college, busy with career or starting a business, single mom, cougar, separated or recently divorced, etc. My own experience, and that of others I know, is that men are often incapable of handling FWB situations. It seems like when you're not fully in their territorial reach or control, they get nervous and sometimes start wanting more. That is, if she's someone that he would be attracted to for a mate. However, I've been in a FWB situation where I could see myself with him, but I was simply disciplined about it because the timing in my life wasn't right for all of that. I didn't have the full presence and emotional energy for a committed relationship, but I liked his company and who he was as a man, and so I decided that we could just have a real grown folks relationship. He began not wanting to be around me because he wanted more and was falling in love. I was fresh off a divorce, and I chose not to get into another serious commitment without being fully healed from that. So, yes women FWB can definitely serve women,

  3. Of course it can work, that's why people prefer it as opposed to relationships. Not sure if that's necessarily a good thing but different strokes for different folks. No worrying about cheating, the little nuances of going on an actual date, and if you're really good no worrying about feelings on the other end. However, if that feeling of loneliness creeps in and you're really asking yourself, "Why am I still doing this?" "Where's my cuddle buddy at night"? " Why can't I wake up to someone in the morning without feeling he/she has to leave?"then that's something you have to deal with…
    My recent post Kobe At It Again? Somebody Get This Brotha A Onesie

  4. It’s not that FWB can’t work; it’s just that you can’t accept FWB as a replacement for an actual “relationship” you may want with that person. Like the article stated people end up in FWB situations because they’re not patience enough to wait for a relationship. It’s cool if a relationship isn’t something you’re looking for, but if it is FWB is a bad substitute.

    I think in order for the FWB situation to work, both parties have to be actively on the dating scene. They don’t have to be talking to a flock of people, but usually if your FWB is the only person in the picture, and they act pretty decent (more than just coming through a 1 am and leaving by sunrise) nines times out of ten, possible doing activities with each other outside the bedroom, and some of the other qualities mentioned) the person with no options will more than likely catch feelings.

  5. FWB can work, you just have to set ground rules. The issue is that people tend to do activities that facilitate feelings. Then the lines get blurred (as I've written before). You kinda have to treat each other as friends, but not best-friends. Not sharing deep intimate emotions, not having conversations about why they would be the one, not seeing each other on the regular. Set guidelines. Also have other people you can hang out with. A FWB can work, but it can't be treated as a faux romantic relationship.
    My recent post Lessons I learned from cartoons about the importance of dating

  6. There is nothing wrong with FWB, I think the key is knowing when the benefits have run it’s course. Furthermore, like what’s already been stated, though the two people refer to themselves as friends, the “relationship” shouldn’t be treated as a subsitute till the “real” thing comes along. It seems when two people engage in relationship-like activities and behaviors after a certain period of time, that’s when emotional lines get crossed, particularly in a FWB setting.

  7. I think both parties actually knowing what they want in a partner and a relationship makes it easier for FWB to work. Even if you aren’t looking for one “at the moment” knowing what you would want or need makes it easier not to fall for your f-buddy. Basically it makes it easier for you to define them as a definitely non-option for the relationship package.

  8. I am sure FWB can work. But flare ups & complications are inevitable, especially on the female end.

    My issue is this, do older aging women (25 & older) women really expect men to invest in them after x amount of guys know what she is like in bed? Women really believe that? Are men signing up for that?

    Serious question. If you do not plan to have a man for the long-term, this question doesn’t apply to you.

    1. I was 28 years old when I got married, my husband never asked about my past, he just wanted to know if I was going to be down with himfor the future after his first marriage ended badly. He did not "invest" in me, we worked together to go from renting a house to buying two houses, raising his daughter and making a life together.

      Obviously this is a serious issue for you as you have mentioned it several times on this blog. So since you asked the question I am answering it. Men who want "almost virgins" are still out here looking for the "perfect one". But men who want love, companionship and a partner to build a life with are more concerned with mutual respect and shared values. Of course I am from a different generation than you are and I am certain my views are based on actual experience rather than hopes and dreams of what a relationship should be.

  9. I agree with Smilez_920. Particularly, this statement – "It’s cool if a relationship isn’t something you’re looking for, but if it is FWB is a bad substitute."
    The main issue is that for many people, (men & women) fwb is simply a substitute for not being able to find "the one." It's a place-holder if u will, until you find someone more compatible that you want something long-term with.
    Reasons why it doesn't work vary, depending on the person. Many times though, they far out-weigh reasons why it does. For many obvious reasons it works very well for many men. It can work for women as well. Women who are consumed with their careers, women with high-powered and very busy careers, women who are single moms with children who want to focus on raising their kids before getting into a serious relationship, or women who don't want a serious relationship until their kids are grown and out of the house. Those are just a few scenario's.
    My only fwb situation was in college. I was very focused because I (my family) was paying for it out of pocket.
    I was the first person in my family to get a college degree. My cousin tried and got halfway through. She later died of sickle cell anemia in her junior year. So for many reasons college was very important to me and I couldn't afford to let anything deter or distract me from getting my degree. Plus, I didn't want to live in NC once I graduated. I intended to go back home to Philly once I was done school. So I knew it would be pointless to start any type of serious relationship with anyone there, unless it was someone from my hometown. Ironically the guy I was with got attached too soon, too fast and too much. I ended it and reminded him that I was focused on school and had no intentions on staying in NC. He was from NC. I felt very bad about the situation because I knew I hurt him. I should not have started anything with him in the first place. I was wrong in assuming that since he was a guy, he could easily detach and deal with just casual sex. This guy pursued me to seriously date me, and he made that pretty clear. I thought he was bsing and just talking. I later found out he wasn't.
    Moral of my story is this: Ladies don't underestimate men's feelings just because they're men. Their feelings are very real. Just like it's wrong when they mislead us, it's wrong when we mislead them.

    1. Isn't that exactly WHAT FWB is- a Place holder until you are Ready for Commitment &/or Pursuing Career Endeavors that get in the way OF a Relationship??

  10. I don't see anything wrong with fwb situations in and of themselves. I believe successful fwb situations are possible and can work well; but only for certain types of people. I think too many people go into willy nilly, (just like they do all romantic relationships) without having completely open, honest, in-depth conversations, covering all the bases, getting all the questions answsered, and putting Everything, and I mean Everything out on the table. Way too much is left unsaid, and/or unclear. There is too much ambiguity. "Lies begin, and that's when the drama begins."

  11. When did FWB start going out to eat and hanging out? That's when the feelings start to get involved because you're acting like you're dating when you're just smashing. Come over, do the do, leave. Simple and easy. No hugging, no kissing. If you have no intention on every having a relationship with that person it is very unfair and selfish to have them fill the void until you find the one you do want to be in a reltationhip with. Selfish A*s. Everything ain't for everybody but damn it do it right if you're gonna do it.

    1. I mean the word "friend: is in the title. I think for some people FWB is a trendy way to saying dating/kicking with no intentions of going pass that.

      What you’re describing sounds like a booty call. But I know some people do the FWB situation how you described.

    2. LBoogie I think where people get tripped up at is the "Friends" part. Typically this means this person your sleeping with is a friend. Someone you may like as a friend and care about, but just for whatever reason don't want to have a serious relationship with. What people need to pay attention to is the reasons why you don't want a relationship with that person. It may not necessarily be that you don't deem that person relationship material, just that your not in a good position or place in your life for a serious relationship. Maybe you don't want anymore children, and the other person does. Maybe your lifestyle doesn't afford you the necessary time to devote to cultivating a long-term serious relationship with anyone. Let's be real; people aren't having sex with people they can't stand. If nothing else there is some type of chemistry and physical attraction. Even in my situation, had I been willing to live in NC I wouldn't have minded at all being in a relationship with my college fwb. He was fine as hell, on the football team, funny, witty, sexy, got and kept my attention. Honestly, the only thing that came between us and a relationship was me not wanting to lose focus on school and have my grades slip, and not wanting to live in NC at the time.

  12. Yes, Fwb can work if both parties are totally honest with themselves and each other. If both of you make it known that you are not looking for anything serious and that's your honest truth then have at it!! Fwb is not like a fcuk buddy, Fwb can break bread together and spend time with each other OUTSIDE of the bedroom but it shouldn't be consistent though, it should never been done frequently, just like the chex shouldn't this way it helps keep things in perspective.

  13. I think the pic this movie was taken from – "Friends With Benefits" is a pretty good interpretation of how it works in real life. If and when the 2 people have more than sex in common, and at some point are open to seriously dating. More often than not, inevitably your bound to fall for, or at the very least have pretty strong feelings for someone you genuinely like and are sleeping with. Unless your paying for sex with a male or female prostitute, or it's a one nite stand; consistent and regular sex, good conversation, and some common interest, plant the seeds for extra feelings to stir up from one or both parties.
    I mean at what point does the friends with benefits stop? What's the expiration date on these relationships? ijs

  14. After reading the comments, seems like a f*ck buddy would make more sense to pursue (If you're not ready for relationship) than FWB. Seems like there are too many rules and boundaries associated with FWB. "You can go out to eat BUT not too often." "You can talk to your FWB BUT not in too much detail." We are human, if you sexing, eating, talking, etc with your FWB over a period of time, somebody is BOUND to catch some feelings. I'd personally rather just hit my f*ck buddy, get it in and continue with my day. Just my 2 cents.

  15. FWB gives women access to men they can't get with on a relationship basis. That's why it typically works well for men and can become a heartache for a woman. Until they have a realiistic expectation of what man they'd like to be with, women will have to sign up for FWB or f**k buddy scenarios.

  16. Friends with Benefits can work IF women could differentiate between sex and love. The REAL reason why that type of situation doesn't work is because women "catch feelings" and want to change the rules midway in the game.
    A lot of women go into the FWB situations thinking that they can "check my emotions" at the door which is impossible for most women being that we are emotional creatures.
    It takes a strong woman to be down with that type of program and you almost have to have a mentality of a man, to be down with it and NOT catch feelings.
    My recent post Turned Out

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