What Does Being 'Friends With Benefits' Really Mean?

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While you’ve most likely heard people talk about their “friends with benefits,” or “FWB” for short, you may not clearly understand the meaning of being friends with benefits.

The term for this specific kind of relationship can get confusing because, like these situations themselves, the definition of being friends with benefits often differs depending on who you ask.

What does friends with benefits mean?

In general, a friends with benefits situation is much different than a committed relationship. It’s a situation where two friends or acquaintances have a strictly sexual relationship, with no strings attached consensual, casual sex.

Essentially, a friends with benefits relationship means sex without commitment, emotional connection, or, sometimes, respect for one another.

The term is used quite often with people in their twenties looking to explore their sexuality without having to be responsible for any other person’s feelings. These types of relationships have little to do with friendship.

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Does being friends with benefits mean something different to a guy?

Well, the scenario usually goes like this: the man wants to have sex with a woman but doesn’t want a commitment, nor does he even want to take her out on a date; he just calls her on the phone when he wants to see her.

For the woman, she has gotten used to this dynamic or thinks it’s somehow acceptable. But really, women hold the cards in this FWB relationship.

Is being friends with benefits a good thing or a bad thing?

The evolution of friends with benefits can become a rift between men and women, instead of the wonderful sexual experience.

That’s not to say that men and women can’t hook up or have a sexual relationship without the strings attached; however, both partners need to ensure respect is at the forefront of this arrangement.

If you let a man have sex with you where there’s no respect involved, and you think it will lead to something more, you couldn’t be more wrong.

Being friends with benefits can be a good thing if the woman respects herself and sets boundaries. Women are, and always will be, the one inviting the man to enter her. Breaking this down to basic biology, a man still wants to pursue a woman, so if a woman is smart about having a great lover, she will allow him to pursue her.

She will demand the respect of a man and set the boundaries of the sexual experience, expecting him to be a good lover and treat her well; in return, she will also be a good lover, and understand that there are no strings attached.

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Can a friend with benefits become a relationship?

If, during your arrangement, one or both of you begins to develop feelings for each other, it ultimately complicates the situation. Is it possible to change your FWB arrangement to something more meaningful?

Men are biologically programmed to pursue a woman and have sex with her, removing emotion from the equation altogether; in a friends with benefits relationship, men don’t develop feelings for their sexual partner in this way.

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Women, on the other hand, usually experience emotions after sex that make them feel connected to their partner, thus complicating things. Denying these emotions can leave women feeling confused, questioning the legitimacy of this casual relationship.

Trying to get more out of your FWB may have harsh consequences, especially if you began as friends. Be sure to think through the situation carefully, and weigh the pros and cons of what is best for you.

How To Know If A Friends With Benefits Relationship Is Right For You

Those interested in having a friend with benefits, whether male or female, should fully understand their true wants and needs.

This relationship is the right decision for you if you are able to completely remove emotions from the arrangement, have mutual respect for your sexual partner, are able to set strong boundaries about the type of treatment you will tolerate, and aren’t interested in a long-term relationship.

All of those factors are necessary to protect you from emotional damage.

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Dr. Dawn Michael is an international certified clinical sexologist and relationship expert. She's the co-owner of The Sexual Health and Wellness Center in Southern California. Visit her website or follow her on Twitter for more.