Navigating a “Friends with Benefits” Relationship

This blog post was written by Recovery Help Now’s, Vanessa Blaxland, MFTi.

“Friends with benefit” (FWB) relationships are a common experience for many young adults. With more than 50% of young adults reporting having been involved in a “friends with benefits” relationship, one can see how popular this type of relationship has become (Puentes, Knox, & Zusman, 2008). A “friends with benefits” relationship is defined as non-romantic friends who also have a sexual relationship. The FWB phenomenon has even sparked movies around the subject such as “Friends with Benefits” and “No Strings Attached”. With this intimate relationship trend becoming more popular, what should you keep in mind when involved in a “friends with benefits” relationship?

Well, first lets talk about the “benefits”. Some of the positives of having a FWB relationship are it may be a good fit for your life situation, it can allow you to gain confidence and experience, hooking up with a friend can provide comfort and trust while still having freedom and control, and of course….easy access to sex (Weaver,MacKeigan, & MacDonald, 2011). This all sounds great, right? Sure, as long as you and your “friend” are on the same page. However, this is where it gets tricky and problems can arise. Studies show that men and women tend to differ in approaches and attitudes regarding “friends with benefits” relationships (Lehmiller, VanderDrift, & Kelly, 2011, McGinty, Know, & Zusman, 2007). Men tend to be more motivated to start a FWB relationship for the “benefits” or sex, while emotional connection is a stronger motivation for women. Men also seem to want the relationship to stay the same over time, whereas women are more likely to hope the relationship will change into some thing more or go back to a standard friendship. These differences between men and women lead us to the negatives of a “friends with benefits” relationship, that include getting hurt, ruining the friendship, and things becoming awkward and messy.

With so much to gain and lose, how do you navigate a relationship like this? First evaluate, evaluate your motivations and expectations for the relationship. Are they the same as your partner’s? Are your expectations and needs being met? Next communicate. Communicate honestly with your “friend” what you want out of the relationship. Continue to let them know what your desires and expectations for the relationship are even when you notice they may be changing or different than your friend with benefits. And lastly, make yourself a priority in the relationship. After evaluating your FWB relationship make yourself enough of a priority to do what is best for you, whether that be continuing the relationship or finding a better situation for yourself.

Have you recently had a bad break up? Or are you in a difficult and confusing relationship? Group therapy, such as the Young Adult’s Group, can be a great place to learn how to have a real intimate relationship. Maybe you’re in a situation such as this (link to friends with benefits blog). So if you’re struggling with a personal relationship I invite you to contact RHN to learn more about joining a group!

Elana Clark-Faler
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