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Friends With Benefits – Can It Work For You?

Written by: Nigel Beckles, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


We live in an era where a committed relationship can often be very difficult to find and even harder to keep. As a result, many people opt for a casual relationship or ‘Friends With Benefits’ (FWB) arrangement where they have recreational sex but little else. The FWB concept has been around for a very long time, but the term has become very popular over the last few decades.

happy young couple enjoying a piggyback ride on the beach

"What exactly does that expression mean, 'Friends With Benefits'? "Does he provide her with health insurance?" Chuck Lorre American TV Writer, Director & Producer

The idea is that two adults can agree to ‘no strings attached’ consenting sex without any problems, provided both parties are clear about what they are doing and no one is being misled. The general rules are that both parties agree to have sex without either person becoming emotionally involved or having any expectations for the future. There is a mutual understanding that it’s a sexual agreement for a limited period of time without any consequences, and some people believe this arrangement can even help prepare you for your next serious relationship. FWB arrangements can be mutually enjoyable, suit your needs for a period of time, and not necessarily be motivated by trying to avoid commitment. Having sex without any emotional attachments can be a very tempting idea, especially when it’s widely accepted that a good sex session is a great way to relieve stress! In a nutshell, FWB suggests a person can have sex with someone at their convenience with no strings attached, have a lot of fun sexually, and no one gets hurt, so it appears to be a win-win deal! Enjoying sex is nothing to be ashamed of, and sex clearly does not have to be confined within a marriage or committed relationship.

Casual Sex - Benefits can include:

  • Having someone available for sex at your mutual convenience

  • The chance to experiment sexually

  • Having sex with a known person rather than a series of one-night stands

  • Enjoying sex without commitment

  • In theory, when the arrangement no longer suits you, it can be quite easy to move on, provided your emotions have not become too involved

In terms of heterosexual relationships, men can often have sex without any emotional content. Generally, a woman who has regular sex with a man who isn’t her ‘official’ partner usually develops feelings for him at some point and begins hoping for something more. Having sex with a man in the hopes that this will persuade him to commit to a relationship is usually futile and often causes a woman to feel used, bitter, resentful, or even angry. Casual sex can be great fun, provided you protect your emotional and physical health and are confident you are not motivated by any underlying issues. A Friends With Benefits agreement usually means your ‘partner’ considers you great fun for their sexual convenience but not good enough for a genuine committed relationship.

The Risks of Casual Sex

Before you decide to enter into a ‘sex with no strings’ agreement, there are a few important points to consider:

  • If you tend to be jealous, strongly associate sex with love, or get emotionally attached to partners after having great sex, FWB is probably not for you

  • Friendships with Benefits are not always exclusive. Even if exclusivity has been agreed upon, there are no guarantees the agreement will be honoured

  • FWB sex often confuses the boundaries of friendships; many do not survive after the sexual arrangement comes to an end

  • FWB becomes a serious risk if one party develops romantic feelings

  • A person can become unhappy and develop feelings of being used because of a lack of commitment

  • Feeling guilty about having sex outside of an official relationship

Casual sex agreements usually work out much better for men who tend to adhere to the arrangement and are far less likely to become emotionally involved. Men tend to compartmentalise their lives, so sex can be an expression of love, strictly for pleasure, or even used as a stress reliever. I've been in several "Friends With Benefits" situations and always made it clear that it was all about the sex. Most of the women I was involved with tried to persuade me to commit to a relationship, but that was not what I had ‘signed up’ for. The reality is that for the majority of women, having sex is usually a physical and emotional act. I have spoken to many women about their Friend With Benefits experiences, and the vast majority have told me that agreeing to this type of arrangement has often been the most disappointing and unfulfilling choice they have ever made.

Reviewing Your Expectations

If you’re serious about finding a committed relationship, you should expect:

  • To be treated with respect

  • A potential partner who is available (not dating or physically/emotionally involved with another woman)

  • If single, there is the hope of meeting a potential partner who wants a stable, long-term relationship

  • When dating, this stage is not going to continue indefinitely and will lead to a serious or committed relationship

  • To have confidence a potential partner will be faithful and honest

It is critical to be completely honest with yourself about the type of relationship you desire and to stick to your plan. For heterosexual women involved in a FWB, it’s not unusual for them to want more, but according to the available research, trying to elevate this type of sexual arrangement to full relationship status is very unlikely to succeed. Females are generally much more emotional than men, but some women may deceive themselves into thinking they can handle this type of situation. The reality is that a man who is getting convenient, no-questions-asked sex is going to continue the arrangement for as long as possible! The anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that while many women make sexual agreements in good faith, they can often struggle to play by the agreed ‘rules.' If a woman decides to end a FWB relationship because she wants more than just sex but the man refuses to consider a committed relationship, she is asserting control. Being truly single means regaining emotional independence, which provides opportunities to explore genuine relationship options instead of wasting time with a 'sex buddy'. The majority of women usually prefer sexual activity within a committed, stable relationship.

"Commitment is inherent in any genuinely loving relationship." ‒ M. Scott Peck (1936-2005), Psychiatrist and Author

In the movie ‘Friends With Benefits’ (2011) a young man and woman who are platonic friends decide to have sex without becoming an official couple, but soon discover that becoming sexually involved leads to serious complications. If you decide to enter into a FWB arrangement, set very clear boundaries from the start and stick to them. Decide to indulge yourself for a limited period of time, and make sure you end the arrangement within a couple of months. Whether it’s casual sex or a FWB deal, practising safe sex is absolutely essential. The motivation for agreeing to some sexual fun makes the concept and activity very popular, but the reality can be very harsh if it results in an unplanned pregnancy or a serious sexual infection. Falling in love with someone after having regular casual sex with them can be a very painful experience when it becomes clear they are not prepared to provide genuine love and emotional fulfilment. Many men will take whatever is on offer sexually and then leave the arrangement at their convenience. A FWB arrangement often leaves many women feeling unfulfilled, uncomfortable, or emotionally conflicted. Regardless of gender, when a person begins to deny their true relationship expectations and desires, they eventually end up compromising themselves. Generally, everyone deserves so much more than just being available for mutually convenient sex.

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Nigel Beckles, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Nigel Beckles is an Author, Certified Relationship Specialist & Coach, holds a Dealing With Narcissism Diploma and Psychology of Relationships Diploma. He is an Educator, Online Adviser and Workshop Facilitator. Nigel is a contributor to the award-winning documentary ‘Looking for Love’ available on DVD and online. He is also the creator of the podcast 'Interesting Conversations with Interesting People' featuring Interviews with Award-Winning Authors, Therapists & Relationship Life Coaches. All Podcasts Available @ Website: his work involves guiding men and women through difficult relationship issues.



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