FWB 101: a beginner's guide to having friends with benefits
Friends with benefits. FWB. It's a catchy, catch-all relationship description for the type of arrangement that many don't consider a relationship. But can heartstrings ever really be replaced with no-strings attached? Can we commit to not commit? Or are we all a little too human not to get in our own way in both matters of the heart, and of the poom poom? You know those two are intimately connected, right? Just a wild guess: maybe that’s why it's so hard. I mean, if the best sex happens when you feel a connection (does anyone wanna argue with this?), how doable is it to resist any lurking connection as we hump one another into oblivion?
Since we all know you're going to try this out regardless of what I say, and you probably already have, consider conducting yourself by these 8 non-relationship rules:
1. Communicate (And Keep Communicating)
Although some more incendiary types would say that FWB arrangements work best when both people prefer to suppress their emotions (ha!), I'm a pretty big advocate of communication. Pretty basic for any relationship, no?
Don't pretend this is not a relationship. It's just not the kind you're avoiding. It's no shocker that people have different understandings of FWB. According to a 2014 study, many people avoid discussing their FWB relationship (even if they wanna) in order to, well…come off as casual.
Talk about it, for goddess’ sake.
In case you missed the memo, there’s no relationship under the orb we call sun that doesn’t require some form of communication in order to be sustained. Just because this isn't the kind of union that's supposed to lead to getting hitched, mutual respect is still, and always will be, key, and a great way to achieve that is by being honest. Talk about your evolving desires, and of course, what you want and need in bed. Whatever you do, do not skimp on that.
2. Know That One Of You May Catch Feelings
There’s a lot to sex, including science. One can only stave off a rush of oxytocin for so long when it comes to reaping your benefits.
Sometimes referred to as "the love hormone," this is the chemical produced by your brain that increases when you touch, hug, kiss, and orgasm. Women usually have higher levels of it than men, but no one is exempt from the possibility of catching feelings.
I think the best way to cope with this possible outcome is to understand that the likelihood of one of you falling prey to feelings is a reality, and know how to leave if it gets weird, regardless of which end you’re on. Is it really so bad to feel something? As long as you respect your own desires, no.
3. Pactice Safe Sex
Barrier methods (condoms, dental dams, gloves) combined with other contraception methods where necessary are crucial for preventing both STIs and unwanted pregnancy— which both happen to be anything but fun, casual, or sexy. It’s simple: protect your body, and theirs. Wear a condom. It’ll make protecting your heart that much easier. And our hearts need all the love and protection they can get.
4. Set Boundaries
Think of yourself as someone in need of training. Sorta like a dog. But more like a human.
This means monitoring behaviours like romantic thoughts, and relationship-y behaviours including but not limited to: cuddling, leaving your toothbrush or clothing in your ‘friend’s’ home, public displays of affection, introducing him to friends, going on actual dates with one another, clingy or jealous feelings—the list goes on.
Keep that shit in check. If you choose your special ‘friend’ wisely, this may all be possible. Which brings me to my next point.
5. Don't Try This With An Actual Friend
This one’s controversial. I do believe it should be acknowledged that there is a pretty big difference between the kind of FWB that arises from an actual, pre-existing friendship, and the kind that might be more accurately termed “acquaintances with benefits.”
While I believe that the latter is a better idea, some would argue it’s better to do the FWB thing with a pre-existing friend because the bond is stronger and more likely to survive, blah, blah, blah. I don’t know. To me it seems as though the fallout would be way worse. But then again, my closest friend in the world also happens to be someone I was once infatuated with and eventually slept with—once we were already close friends. Nothing really persisted with us, though, and it did make shit weird for a while. I think every individual case must be treated like a totally unique snowflake.
6. If You Want More, Say So
Sometimes true love starts with a FWB relationship. Don’t you know, there are no rules that can’t be broken? Maybe you slowly but surely fall in love with one another’s quirks, charms, and orgasm faces. One thing’s for sure, though: life as we know it has an expiry date. So don’t hesitate to express what you truly want. Because if it works out, that’s the stuff of legends. And if it doesn’t, it’ll build character.
7. Date Other People
This’ll help you remember you’re not actually dating your FWB. It’s important to stay open to manifesting the kind of relationship you actually want. Assuming FWB isn’t it for you. If it is, I say power to you. Successfully keeping your options open plays out on an energetic level and is way easier said than done. But you can do it. There are so many apps for that.
8. Be Prepared For It To End
While it won’t necessarily end (see #6), it likely will. And many would say FWB arrangements work best with an expiry date. You know, short shelf life. Although it’s difficult to manage one’s expectations, that’s really what we’re talking about here. Go in with your eyes open, and stay grounded throughout the entire ride. That way, if it stops, you’ll be well-positioned to walk away in one piece.