The common definition of "friends with benefits" is a sexual relationship with someone to whom you do not have any emotional ties or commitment. While there are valid reasons why you may engage in this type of partnership, there are also many why you may reconsider. Let's dig a bit deeper into this topic so you can make an educated decision.
Some of the reasons why you might get into a friends with benefits relationship:
- You're busy and don't have the time or desire to invest in a committed relationship.
- You're coming out of a breakup and need time to work through your emotions but still want to have sex.
- You have feelings for a friend and think if you offer to have non-committal sex with them, your affections will be returned.
Friends with benefits relationships may give you a sense of connection, significance and certainty, but this method of getting your needs met can be superficial and short-lived, and it can leave you feeling worse about yourself. FWB is often used to avoid the true feelings and vulnerability of real relationships. It sounds like a fun proposition where no one gets hurt, but it's not.
For one thing, it's confusing and if you start out as friends with this person, a lot of lines are going to get crossed. For instance, if you were friends, you both have shared your thoughts and feelings with each other and feel comfortable talking about most things. This is one reason why it seems you would make good FWB partners. However, since you are going to be having sex without emotions, how do you draw the line between sharing and not being vulnerable? Even the topics you discussed candidly before may be uncomfortable with the change in your friendship. Do you get to have your regular friend times anymore since there is more physical desire when you see each other? When you get together, are you always going to end up in bed?
This will also be a problem if your "friend" moves on and starts a serious relationship with someone else. Of course, it's fine for men and women in relationships to have healthy friendships with people of the opposite sex, but that gets complicated if you've been friends with benefits with someone who is now just a friend. No matter how unattached you and your "friend" have been in bed, the new romantic partner knows you know much more about their guy or gal than they do and you are a threat to their relationship.
Not to mention that you may not be able to turn your feelings off as easy as you think you can -- particularly if you are a woman. There is a chemical reaction (oxytocin) that happens in women after sex that leaves them feeling happy, relaxed and connected to their partner. So to consciously decide that you are not going to be connected to the person you are having sex with can confuse you and can damage your self-esteem. You may feel like you are not good enough for a real relationship and that you will never have the kind of emotional support you are looking for. The effort I've seen in girlfriends justifying a friends with benefits partnership could have been better invested in building their personal confidence and seeking a powerful, committed relationship. None of their friendships survived the FWB situation in the end.
For instance, one of my clients thought she and her friend were only seeing each other for sex while they were both single. They never talked about boundaries because this was unfamiliar territory for her and she looked to him for guidance. After all, he was her friend. When she found out he had three other friends with benefits and she didn't know how many more each of them had, she felt like she'd been exposed to STDs and anything else the group may have shared. She ended up feeling stupid and vulnerable and the friendship ended immediately.
So my advice? Think carefully before you enter a friends with benefits relationship. Imagine the possible outcomes and make sure you are comfortable with them. Honor your intuition by trusting it to tell you want is best for you and honor your decision either way.
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