This Is How 'Friends With Benefits' Usually Ends, Says Study

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woman with hat smiling getting piggyback ride from man

Having a "friends with benefits" relationship has become almost commonplace in today's society.

It's a way to express your desires without any strings attached (sometimes). You already get along so well as friends, so why not engage in something that’s mutually satisfying and fun for the both of you, right?

This concept may send your sweet old grandma running to the church to send some prayers your way because it's rather taboo to many people. 

RELATED: What Does FWB Mean? A Simple Guide To The Meaning & Definition This Slang Term Stands For

A relationship is often viewed as something meant to be committed and monogamous. One person meets another, sparks fly, romance blossoms, and wedding bells are audible in the distance.

But times have changed, and not everyone is getting some this way anymore. (Sorry, grandma.)

Those who are not in support of the whole "friends with benefits" thing do have a point about how friends with benefits usually ends. There are pros and cons to having a friend with benefits, but it seems the negatives may outweigh the positive aspects that exist. 

A lot of people would warn you against pursuing this because someone usually gets hurt. It's never the intention on either end for somebody to take a hit, but it's hard to avoid.

Why do FWB relationships end? 

Friends with benefits relationships usually end when one person catches feelings that aren't reciprocated. But other reasons can include a lack of respect or boundaries, waning interest in the fling, or another opportunity coming along for a serious relationship.

It can be almost impossible not to get personal feelings entangled when getting intimate with another person, even if it was established from the start that the relationship would be strictly physical. 

A big part of intimacy is mental because you have to at least be attracted to the other person and enjoy their company in order to have a good experience. So, when emotions and attraction get mixed in the same pot, things get messy.

But psychotherapist Paula Kirsch explains that FWB relationships actually have worked out well for some young women, saying, "I have heard more than one twenty-something female client report benefiting from being friends with benefits. They often say that they previously have only had unsatisfying, awkward, bad, or coerced sex. Finding a trusted friend that they were comfortable with opening up an opportunity for them to explore their sexuality and sometimes even find healing."

For some people, the arrangement works perfectly; for others, the spark fades. One person may enter into a casual relationship in the hopes of taking things to the next level over time. But not only is this not guaranteed, but if and when the relationship doesn't head in that direction, there can be serious casualties to the friendship.

What prevents FWB relationships from turning into real relationships?

Is it impossible to turn mutual physical satisfaction into a full-blown partnership? People do it, but it's pretty uncommon. Try as you may to deny it, this is a simple fact, but is it really that simple? 

There are some signs that you can look for like possibly an increased case of communication from either texting or calling. 

According to the director of clinical research programs at Felnett Health Research Foundation, Damian J. Sendler, Ph.D, if the rate at which you've been getting text messages from your fling started to increase, that's a signal that you could be moving towards a real relationship. Communication is key. 

Another important indicator of a possible transition into a real relationship is if the two of you actually spend time together besides hooking up. Hanging out outside of just having sex is a big sign that your friend genuinely enjoys your company, and not just for sex. 

Counselor and therapist Audrey Tait says there are a few reasons why a FWB relationship can't turn into a real relationship: "Friends with benefits may be prevented from becoming a real relationship if one of the persons is already in a committed relationship or is not interested in committing to a relationship."

If you feel deeply for this person and are getting intimate emotionally, that could be another sign that this is more than just a casual thing. The two of you maybe are sharing each other's feelings without knowing it, including knowing about one another's lives, friends and family.

According to Kirsch, if you have a friends with benefits partner that you can trust and open up to over time, there might be some hope for it to turn into a real relationship. "[Some of my clients] were able to figure out what felt good and what worked for them sexually. It may be that they learned to relax. These relationships seem to run their natural course, ending with life transitions. I've seen one or two evolve into actual lasting relationships," she said.

Despite this, can you be friends with benefits with someone you have feelings for, particularly if you like them before you get involved physically? Well, you should always value your emotions and feelings over everything else, and it can be hard to keep sleeping with a casual friend or acquaintance you have romantic feelings for when they don't feel the same.

If you start to get more attached to your FWB and they aren't reciprocating, it's best to stop what you're doing and end it there before your feelings get hurt. Another thing to keep in mind is whether or not your FWB has a sex addiction or is using you for sex.

"You need to be aware that your friends with benefits may be a sex addiction. You need to protect yourself to make sure you do not get emotionally hurt, a sexually transmitted disease, or, if you are a woman, that you end up pregnant with no support,” Tait advises.

RELATED: 11 Rules For Keeping A Friends With Benefits Situation Casual (And Avoid Getting Hurt)

How do friends with benefits relationships usually end?

Science has finally given an answer for how friends with benefits usually end.

In a 2020 longitudinal study of friends with benefits relationships, researchers had 191 people complete two online surveys that were one year apart.

The participants were 70 percent female, 74 percent white, and 72 percent heterosexual. The average age of all of them was 30. Each participant knew their friend with benefits for about three years on average before the study.

The first survey had people answer what they want to get out of the casual relationship, their satisfaction, and how much communication they have about the relationship's "boundaries."

After a year, the second survey focused on figuring out how these relationships had changed.

The results showed that within that year window, 25 percent were still friends with benefits, 15 percent of people took the relationship to a romantic level, 28 percent got rid of the benefits and stuck with being friends, and 31 percent cut off all ties. Yikes.

Only 15 percent of those who wanted things to become romantic were successful. So, it looks like the chances of keeping your friendship in the end of FWB is more likely than hoping it turns into a real love connection.

How long should FWB relationships last? 

The study actually found that some relationships were able to attain longer than others.

The most successful were those who wanted to go back to being friends, with 60 percent saying they were just friends after the first time. However, 40 percent of people were still friends with benefits after the second time hooking up.

What are the chances of friends with benefits ending up together? It's very rare to end up being romantic partners, as 15 percent of people in the study were successfully able to change their FWB status to a real relationship. 

Those who were able to end up in a romantic relationship reported to have more communication about setting ground rules the first time they hooked up, and it was the opposite for those who didn't have that communication, as they didn't last as a real relationship.  

Some FWB relationships are doomed to have an end; however, sometimes it doesn't have to do with time. Friends with benefits can last from weeks to months to years — it's all about how you and your "friend" feel, and the moment you feel like something is not right, that may be a sign it's time to end it. 

RELATED: 12 Definite Signs Your Friend With Benefits Is Catching Major Feelings For You

Nicole Weaver is a Senior Writer at Showbiz Cheat Sheet and reports for New York Magazine and Teen Vogue. Follow her on Twitter for more.