5 Rules for a Successful Friends with Benefits Situation

This article is part of TNGG’s Annual Sex Week.  Read more Sex Week articles. 

I have a pretty typical millennial life. I’m in the early stage of my career, work 60-80 hours a week, stay in shape, have an active social life, and try to read a novel occasionally.

On top of all that, due to work, I’ll probably be moving to another major city in the next five months. All of this means I have neither  time nor the ability for the long-term commitment of a relationship. And I’m happy with this – I love my life. I have had some great loves and will again in the future, but I am so busy with work and friends that I cherish time alone. I rarely feel lonely or as if I’m missing something. Except when it comes to sex.

And I’m not alone. We are pushing back committed relationships. So while some occupy this gap with one night stands, others come to the lovely idea of Friends With Benefits (FWB). Hollywood would have us think these relationships are fraught with problems and destined to become relationships or implode (i.e. recent rom-coms Friends with Benefits or No String Attached). But it doesn’t have to be that way: here are the five basic rules to making sure you and your “friend” have a functional and fun experience.

Set Expectations:
The best way to guarantee a FWB relationship will go as planned is to express your desires/expectations up front and honestly. Only want to meet up one day a week? Say so. Want to be monogamous, tell her. (On a separate note it is quite possible to be in a monogamous FWB relationship, people often chose this when both are too busy to be seeing other people as well as for health reasons. And it’s a good way reduce drama/jealousy.) In this situation there’s no guarantee you will get what you want without asking for it. And a FWB situation can easily go wrong if one person wants and pushes for a relationship when the other has different expectations.

Established expectations will go a long way in cutting out the drama.

The Rules Do Not Apply:
We have a lot of rules and games for normal relationships. Don’t tell him what you want straight up. Keep her guessing. Don’t text him often. Don’t call her for days. Whether or not you believe in those for a normal relationship, none of the same rules apply for a FWB situation.

All of these games are established in our minds to tease someone in, to act disinterested and like they’re chasing you. And the more you play that with someone you’re not trying to cultivate feelings with, the more feelings they are going to develop.

Don’t Talk About It:
We’re all human here, and when something good/fun is going on in our lives, we like to share it. And I’m not saying you shouldn’t mention it to your friends, that’s your call. But try to avoid long conversations about your FWB relationship. The more this happens the more you overthink it, read into it, and the more likely you are to start developing feelings.

No Cuddling:
I know that for some people, cuddling is a key part of a relationship. But here’s the problem with cuddling: it releases a hormone called oxytocin. Oxytocin is a hormone released during sex, childbirth and cuddling that leads to bonding. Pair bonding in sexual relationships and parental bonding in parent/child relationships is very similar chemically to “love.” Ever get a warm fuzzy feeling while holding a baby? That’s oxytocin.

You already have some release of oxytocin during sex, but your body releases much more during cuddling. So if you want to avoid these chemically induced feelings of coupleship in both you and your partner, avoid the cuddlies.

No Drugs:
Finally, avoid doing hard drugs together. Studies have shown that many mind altering drugs such as MDMA and Ecstasy release large amounts of oxytocin and seratonin, both of which can lead to pair bonding. So if you’re trying to avoid that “uh oh, I think I might be falling for her” moment, avoid the pills and powders.

Have you had a successful friends with benefits situation? What made it work or not work?


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