Best friends in love and friends with benefits are NOT the same thing!
If marrying your best friend makes for a happy marriage, does it stand to reason that a "friends with benefits" situation is a good idea when dating? Not so.
A recent study concluded that "only 15% of 'friends with benefits' relationships will actually progress to something serious." The study points to "friends with benefits" relationships as minimal and not long-lasting, as this notion implies that sex is the most important thing in a loving and lasting relationship. But nothing could be further from the truth.
On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 the highest), our thousands of interviews with successfully married couples reveal that the importance of sex to the overall health of marriage only averages 6.2. To us, that reported result is NOT surprising.
If you enter a relationship only for sex, you'll ultimately feel disappointed, because the undeniable truth is that true marital success is about a lot more than good sex.
After a year's time, only 15 percent of couples engaged in "friends with benefits" were able to turn their relationship into something serious. Frankly, the study actually shows that being in a "friends with benefits" relationship has a higher risk of failure after one year than non-friends with benefits relationships have.
According to the study, about "31 percent said they had nothing to do with their former friends with benefits." Further, 28 percent went back to being friends without benefits, while only 26 percent remained friends with benefits.
Let's face it: many are afraid to make commitments when it comes to love and marriage. We live in a disposable world where it is easy to have "one night stands" and avoid committing to those we fall in love with.
Though "friends with benefits" appeals to many men, sex only has a short-term impact on relationships. One night stands and "friends with benefits" rarely have long-lasting love effects on the most successful relationships.
So, here's the million dollar question: How do you get someone in a "friends with benefits" relationship to commit to marriage?
To understand if your significant other is having difficulty with commitment issues, evaluate how he or she is doing in comparison to the five aspects of commitment below:
1. Commitment based on love
Making an "unalterable decision" to love someone for a lifetime requires certainty that the need for escape is not necessary. Noted psychologist Alfred Adler once said, " ... real examples of love and real marriages ... do not allow ... men or women (to) contemplate an escape. In none of the serious and important tasks of life do we arrange such a 'getaway.'" Someone who wants a successful marriage cannot promise a lifetime of commitment to someone they purport to love, while plotting an escape at the same time.
2. A relationship that feels safe
You must feel safe to make a lifelong commitment to love. As Maslow's hierarchy of needs demonstrates, the need for safety is just above the physiological needs. You must feel safe before meeting the need for love and belonging. In other words, before a person commits to love someone for a lifetime, he or she has to feel safe in the relationship. Building a high level of trust in the relationship will help in producing the feeling of safety.
3. An absence of doubt
If you wait until you have no doubt about the relationship, you will never commit to love someone for a lifetime. One of our favorite quotes is by the famous psychologist Rollo May. When we were in graduate school studying counseling, we received exposure to him and we love most of what he has written. He says, "The relationship between commitment and doubt is by no means an antagonistic one. Commitment is healthiest when it is not without doubt but in spite of doubt."
4. Living into your relationship with courage and strength
"Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage," said Lao Tzu, a Chinese philosopher. We think he has it right. It is not enough to feel deeply loved, as you must reciprocate profound love before you can make a lifetime commitment. Having strength without courage is much like the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz—only when he committed to being courageous could he use his strength effectively. Successful relationships require courage and strength.
5. Your spouse is your best friend
Friedrich Nietzsche once said, "Unhappy marriages are not caused by a lack of love, but by a lack of friendship." Nothing truer has ever been spoken about successful marriage. You see, the person you commit to must, first and foremost, be your best friend. You cannot make a lifetime commitment to someone you only love. We make lifetime commitments to those we consider our best friends. When we ask successfully married couples who their best friend is, they always say it is their spouse.
In the final analysis, a "friends with benefits" relationship rarely leads to a long-lasting relationship.
There are other much more important things that matter in a "commitment to love." While sex is important, it will NOT sustain or enhance the most happy and successful marriages and relationships. Think long-term and sustainable relationship, rather than short-term gratification.
By Dr. Charles and Dr. Elizabeth Schmitz: America's #1 Love and Marriage Experts. Discover what happily married women know about what makes a man marriage material and learn other revealing truths in How to Marry the Right Guy. For more tips to enhance your relationship get the best-selling and multiple-award winning book Building a Love that Lasts.