Functional friends-with-benefits relationships are like the Loch Ness of the sex world: rarely seen, anecdotally reported, yet fiercely believed in by some. If you dare to say, “Sex always ruins friendships!” in a crowded room, you will likely be met with shouts of dissent. But there will also be bellows of agreement.
See, when enacted skillfully, between people who are well-suited for this type of arrangement, it can be immensely transformative and fun. But FWBs are also prone to emotional missteps, because we have so few societal scripts for what healthy, non-romantic sex looks like. Our culture is determined to pair love and sex together, but when you manage to safely extricate one from the other, it can be freeing like nothing else!
Here are some tips for making your friendship-with-benefits as healthy and mutually enjoyable as it can be...
Just like a business deal, a sexual partnership works most smoothly when all parties involved know exactly what’s expected of them and what is and is not allowed. Maybe that sounds unromantic, but hey, that’s kinda the whole point of the casual-sex thing!
Maybe you feel stifled when your FWB sleeps over after sex, so you make a rule that they’ll head home when you’re done (after some cuddling, ideally!). Maybe it bums you out to hear about the other people they sleep with, so you request an embargo on those discussions. Maybe there are certain days of the week you want to routinely reserve for each other, out of courtesy and esteem. Maybe you promise to keep each other up-to-date on any health concerns that might affect the other. Whatever your proposed rules are, discuss them civilly and try to come to an agreement that makes both of you happy. And then stick to the rules you’ve set out!
Sex requires communication; if you’re not mature enough to communicate about sex, you’re not mature enough to be having it!
It’s often easier to be honest with a friend (with or without benefits) than with a romantic partner, if just because there’s less at stake and fewer societally-sanctioned rules to follow. So you have no excuse. If there’s something you want to try, or something that’s not working for you, or you’re having new feelings you’re not sure what to do with, talk to your friend about it. FWBs are like plants: they suffer if you keep them in the dark.
This is especially important with regards to romantic feelings. Your FWB deserves to know if you accidentally develop heart-stirrings toward them. This exact snafu is what kills many theretofore functional fuckbuddy relationships. It can be scary to admit to romantic feelings when you’ve explicitly agreed to avoid those very feelings, but it’s ultimately better than hiding your private struggle and suffering through it. You may need to take a break from the “benefits” part of the relationship, or end that part altogether, but it will be worth it for the friendship you’ll hopefully salvage.
The best friends-with-benefits relationships are built on a strong foundation of friendship, as the name suggests. If you don’t really care about each other, you may as well be two strangers who met at a bar, went home, and banged. Nothin’ wrong with that, either – but a huge part of the appeal of having a FWB is the emotional closeness and intimacy of the friendship component!
Try not to let your benefits outweigh your friendship. Continue to do friend-y things, like hanging out and watching movies or going out for drinks, instead of only ever meeting up for sex. That closeness and rapport are what will enable you to continue having fantastic, emotionally engaged sex.
It’s a lower-pressure proposition to ask a friend for a sexual favor than it is to ask a romantic partner; there are fewer strings and implicit obligations in place. This means that you can ask for what you really, really want without needing to feel too weird about it!
That sexual act that your ex found distasteful and never wanted to do? That fantasy you’ve always been too nervous to play out with a romantic partner? That thing you saw in a porn clip one time and have wanted to try ever since? They’re all fair game with a FWB – so long as your friend enthusiastically consents, of course. And in the process of negotiating these activities, you’ll get better at asking for what you want, so that skill will be sharpened by the time you get into your next relationship. It’s a win-win!
One would hope that your FWB is a generous lover toward you, so be that generous lover toward them as well! This doesn’t mean you have to do whatever they ask, of course – but you should aim to be what Dan Savage calls “GGG”: good, giving, and game. That means you’re up for trying new things (within reason), happily put in work to get your partner off, and understand sex isn’t all about you and your needs. Good sex is a two-way street! (Or, in some cases, a three- or four- or eight-way street…)