Anyone who’s ever watched a rom-com knows friends-with-benefits (FWB) never ends well. But what does science say?
In a recent study published in the Archives Of Sexual Behaviour, researchers found that the key to a successful FWB was a strong emotional connection.
Looking at a pool of 171 students currently in a FWB relationship – 118 women, 52 men and one person who refused to identify a gender – scientists noticed that participants with a healthy FWB relationship invested in their partners. The reports suggested that acting like a couple actually led to greater satisfaction and less drama.
The study also found that the students who were happiest in their relationships agreed that they “tend to think about how things affect ‘us’ as a couple more than how things affect ‘me as an individual”. They also noted: “It makes me feel good to sacrifice for my FWB partner.”
“When people do that kind of activity, their FWB relationship tends to be better: they tend to have less conflict than other FWB relationships, and a lot of it is that sacrifice that most friends actually do for one another is as true as it is in FWB,” says Jesse Owen, the lead author of the study.
Our take? It sounds like these couples are just in the early stages of a serious relationship…
But if you’re after a FWB arrangement, there are a few important ground rules to follow that will help you avoid heartbreak.
1. Remember it’s friends with benefits
When it comes to organising a friends-with-benefit relationship, the key is to understand that it has to be purely physical. While your intentions may be completely sexual to begin with, there is a chance that things might progress to a more emotional level. According to a study conducted by Dr Ed, featuring 1000 men and women, 52 per cent of men caught feelings compared to only 44 per cent of women.
Previously, Diana Parkinson told Men’s Health, “for ‘friends with benefits’ to work, you need to know how to keep a lid on your emotions without coming across as totally heartless.”
Keep communication strictly sexual. That doesn’t mean sexting all the time, but rather keeping to arranging a time. Avoid trying to build a relationship and learning about the partner involved. This will help keep the emotions away.
If you feel like the other person involved is getting a little needy, it doesn’t hurt to check that they’re on the same page.
2. Are they the right fit?
Consider how the friendship came about, how long you’ve known them and the impact it might have on your social circles.
It’s no secret that if it’s someone close to you who you’ve known for years, your friendship may not survive. With a long-time friend, someone who you know the ins-and-outs of, there’s a strong chance that someone or both might develop feelings – you liked their personality, and now you like what they can do in bed, match made in heaven?
If it’s someone from a work circle or a social circle, this can have other implications. If things don’t go to plan or there’s a falling out, consider the implications. The last thing you want is gossip or not being able to hang out with your mates so you can avoid awkwardness.
The best option? Your mate’s girlfriend’s dog’s previous owner.
3. Wrap it up
It’s casual sex – that means don’t be an idiot.
While it might be a friend who you can trust, it could also be a one-night stand who you’ve arranged to see again late at night.
With FWB, there’s no guaranteed exclusivity, which means they could definitely be off with five other people. Rates of STIs have more than doubled since 2015. It’s a no-brainer, wrap it up.
4. Make sure you don’t get jealous
While it goes without saying, unforuntately, it might well be something you can’t control.
“If you find yourself getting jealous, be honest and tell your FWB partner, and the two of you can talk about whether the FWB relationship is truly working for both of you. If he’s the one who starts getting jealous, for example, and you also realise that you don’t want to get involved more seriously with him, it’s time to consider detaching and letting the benefits side of the relationship go,” clinical psychologist Seth Meyers told Psychology Today.
Another important tip is to make sure you don’t get too comfortable. Expecting sex consistently or considering them a guaranteed score might set you off when it comes to the moment the arrangement end. If you’re getting hurt that they’re shacking up with someone else, it’s probably a sign that you’ve become emotionally attached.