Friends With Benefits

Friends With Benefits

Rose MacDowell

It's practically a rite of passage into adulthood or life after divorce. We're talking, of course, about having a friend with benefits. Also known as a cuddle buddy, Netflix 'n chill partner, or the charmingly retro bang and hang, a FWB can tide you over until real love comes along. And if you're not interested in commitment, a friend with benefits can fill your needs for sex and company quite nicely, thank you! 

Despite their reputation as meaningless trysts, friendships with benefits can help you transition from one stage of life to another and keep you from leaping into a committed partnership before you're ready. Let's look closer at these unique connections, their pros and cons, and what it really means to be a "friends with benefits." 

Friends With Benefits Meaning

What does friends with benefits mean? The definition is a little different for everyone, but here's the gist: friends with benefits are two (sometimes more!) people who are in a friendly but non-monogamous relationship. There's no commitment in a friends with benefits relationship, and few expectations.

Rules For Friends With Benefits

The word "casual" was practically invented for FWBs, who are free to date other people, end the arrangement, and generally do as they please. But there are a few rules for friends with benefits that can help keep everyone involved healthy and happy:

  • Practice safe sex. It goes without saying, but no matter what kind of sex you're having or with whom, it should be safe. This can be especially true of friends with benefits, who may be having sex with other people and often are not fluid bonded with each other. You might agree to tell each other if you're seeing other people, and other details that could potentially affect your sexual health.  
  • Check your feelings at the door. The word "friends" is key here. Before plunging headfirst into a FWB situation, ask yourself if you can keep your feelings in check. Remember that the "love hormone" oxytocin is released during sex, making it ultra-easy to catch feelings even if you don't want to. Many a friends with benefits arrangement was torn asunder when one partner felt a deeper connection than the other and got hurt. 
  • Be yourself. Just because you and your FWB aren't forever doesn't mean you can't be true to yourself. Express what you think, how you feel, and let your genuine self shine through. A casual relationship can help you have fun and be open about who you are with less concern for the future of the relationship.  
  • Maintain boundaries. Your personal boundaries should be rock solid in any relationship, and a FWB is no exception. Let your FWB know your boundaries from the start, and encourage them to be clear about theirs. Let them know where you stand with particular types of sex, emotional intimacy, and how often you'd like to see them. 
  • Don't be afraid to end it. Friends with benefits arrangements weren't designed to go the distance. When you stop having fun, learning about yourself, or just find you're not as excited to see your FWB, those are cues to be grateful for what you shared and gently cut the cord.

Friends With Benefits Pros and Cons 

Is it good to have a friend with benefits? Only you know what your needs are at this stage of your life, but if you've found this article, you're probably at least in the pondering stage.

All relationships have perks and drawbacks. Let's check out some of the main pros and cons of a FWB arrangement so you can decide if it's a good fit for you. 

Friends with benefits pros:

  • Less time commitment. The typical FWB doesn't expect -- and often doesn't want -- a lot of your time. A night or two a week max is a common schedule, though it may be more or less depending on your sexual needs, how busy you are, and if either of you is seeing someone else. The great part? A FWB will usually understand if you can't see them for a while, or only have time for a quick roll in the hay. 
  • Less guilt. Maybe you just want sex at this stage in your life, or you want it with someone younger and thoroughly unsuitable as a long-term partner (looking at you, women over 40!). A FWB frees you to take care of your needs in an honest way, without needing to show up for a full-fledged emotional relationship.
  • Sexual satisfaction. One possible FWB pro is sexual satisfaction. Newness in itself can be exciting, as can feelings of desire and independence. You might feel safer exploring the far reaches of your sexual self with a friend with benefits, especially if you've found past relationships a bit confining. 

Friends with benefits cons:

  • Feelings. Yup, that word again. Take attraction, add sex, sprinkle in a little fun and a pinch of emotional bonding, and genuine attachment could rear its thorny head. Try as you might, it can be difficult to tamp down your emotions when you're sharing a bed with someone you find physically appealing. This is one of the most common snags in FWB relationships, and it sits firmly atop our list of cons.
  • Lack of fulfillment. Sometimes sex for the sake of sex can feel just plain empty. You may not know you need more emotional depth and commitment until you're in the midst of a FWB situation, which may feel like a poor imitation of a loving relationship. Check in with yourself before and during your friends with benefits arrangement, and make sure it feels like the best choice for you.
  • The potential for chaos. One thing a FWB isn't is predictable. Anything can happen, from falling for someone else to falling out of like to falling in love with each other. There may be hurt feelings, misunderstandings, or a slow fade. You may ghost, or be ghosted. If you value order and routine in your life, you may want to steer clear of friends with benefits and go for a more reliable (long-term?) arrangement with a like-minded lover.