Friends with benefits?

What does it mean to be friends with benefits? 

Some research show that more than 50% of young people in their twenties have had at least one experience of having a friend with benefits. The reason for this may be the unwillingness to take on the responsibilities and obligations of a relationship, so entering into a more casual relationship is usually easier. 

Marriage and family psychotherapist Sheri Meyers explains the differences between friends with benefits relationship and casual sex. Friendship with benefits includes a friendship in which sex occasionally occurs while having casual sex – there should be no expectations! 

There is usually a great deal of physical attraction, affection, liking, and approval of mutual characteristics between friends with benefits, however the risks of such a relationship exist.  

What does such relationship include? 

FRIENDSHIP – it often happens that friends with benefits were just friends prior to that relationship so the main focus of this relationship should be on maintaining the friendship, not just on sex. 

YOU WERE HIS/HER FIRST CHOICE – since you are not in a real relationship, it is obvious that you were not his/her first choice when choosing a partner. The thought that we were not someone’s first choice is not such a pleasant feeling. 

POSSIBLE DEVELOPMENT OF FEELINGS – it is difficult to imagine that no feelings develop after some time spent together. It is possible that only one person develops feelings and it does not necessarily mean that your partner will feel the same and they may continue to behave casually which can be painful. The possibility that the person you care about may have another relationship in addition to a relationship with you can be very difficult. 

What such relationship does not include? 

FAITHFULNESS / LOYALTY – in friendships with benefits, faithfulness and loyalty are not expected; that is, one person or both may have another partner (unless you agree otherwise). 

CLOSENESS – the advantages of romantic and partner love are the deepening of the relationship and closeness and can lead to a very fulfilling and supportive relationship, but as a rule they are not part of a friends with benefits relationship. 

DEVOTION – the lack of devotion that is characteristic of this relationship can lead to loss of passion and intimacy. Since you are not obligated to account to each other or invest in that relationship in any way, it can happen that the passion and excitement that unites you slowly disappears. 

OPENNESS AND SINCERITY – important characteristics of friendship and partner relationship are openness and sincerity, but in this type of friendship, this is not really expected, so the question arises whether it is a real friendship? If friendship is what binds you in the first place, it is normal to talk about everything, but the sexual behaviour of your partner is still a forbidden topic if you are just friends with benefits. 

What is lacking in friendship with benefits is devotion, faithfulness, and loyalty. In theory, it may sound great and fun because it is optional; however, in practice things are not so clear and simple. As social beings, we strive for closeness and connection. It is normal that we want to be loved and that we want to give love to someone else. 

Research shows that men in such relationships focus more on sex, and women on friendship. Is it possible to have an equal relationship with a friend with benefits in which you both have the same attitude and opinion about that relationship throughout the duration of said relationship? Can you have complete control over whether and when you start to feel something, over wanting something “more”? Can you know if one of you will want to spend more time together, call more often than he / she “should”, want to sleep over or want to meet mutual friends? 

No matter what kind of relationship you choose to have, it is important that you communicate with that person, that you agree on the rules, that you both understand what you are getting into, and that you are protected and act responsibly and with respect towards each other.  


Author: Mia Krpan, mag.psych.