Grace McGettigan on how to navigate what should be a fun experience without getting hurt, and what to do when it gets more serious…
Have you ever been on a girls’ night out, actively seeking a decent looking bloke to ruffle your feathers before the sun comes up? I have. You scope out the guys at the bar, make eye-contact on the dance floor, but in the end, the lights come on and you’re left standing idle. For some, finding the ride is easy. For others, it helps to have a Plan B. We’ve all been there at some point. Sending the “You out? x” text at 2am can only mean one thing, as does the follow-up, “I’m horny x” message. You’re in the mood, and your night won’t be complete without some um, antics.
Enter your friend with benefits. He’s someone you’ve known for a while now, and after hooking up a number of times post-parties, you both go your separate ways happy in the knowledge that it won’t lead to anything more. “It’s just for fun”, you both established as he buttoned up his jeans and you smoothed out your tousled hair on that first, passionate night. But now, you’ve come to expect sex from him, and when he doesn’t reply to your message you can’t help but feel rejected. Suddenly the realisation sets in that you’re a little *too* invested in this guy. So can it work out? Possibly. The only way to know for sure is to suss out the facts from the myths, apply them to your current sitch, and decide if you’re headed for a dead end…
It’s likely that f*ck buddies will eventually go their separate ways – with one usually finding love with another partner and the other left alone, feeling a little bit hard done by. But it *is* possible to turn the situation into a committed, romantic relationship. Shawna Scott, owner and founder of SexSiopa.ie, Ireland’s award winning health-focused sex shop, knows the suss when it comes to all things sexual, and she tells me, “While having friends who you have sex with can make that friendship a little more complex, that doesn’t necessarily mean it has to end in disaster. Oftentimes the two people may want to take the relationship further, or the sexual side will fizzle out and they’ll become just regular friends.”
In a study carried out by Harvard Psychologist, Justin Lehmiller, it was found that 15 per cent of the (almost) 200 people surveyed entered into a loving relationship with their friend with benefits within 12 months. Few of the other participants ended in disaster either. Twenty eight per cent of them had managed to go back to being ‘just friends’, while 26 per cent of those surveyed were still doing the FWB thing a full year later. Sadly, the rest did end badly, with 31 per cent saying say no longer had anything to do with their f*ck buddy one year on… But hey – you win some, you lose some and in this instance, the stats are fairly inspiring.
Not necessarily true. Rebekah, 24, has been with her boyfriend for almost three years now and she says they started off as nothing more than FWBs in a situation that’s mega relatable. “We were in college together”, she tells me, “And we had sex after one of our first ever class nights out. Everyone else had sort of left already, so we had another drink together and then I went back to his house. We fell asleep once we were finished fooling around, and the awkwardness of the next morning didn’t really last long because he said he wasn’t looking for anything serious, which was perfect because neither was I. We carried on as FWBs for about five months before feelings crept in, and we’ve been madly in love ever since. He has full respect for me, and I for him”. That being said, only do what you feel comfortable doing, and don’t let anyone judge you for making those choices. If you feel disrespected in any way, get yourself outta there ASAP Rocky.
“Why wouldn’t you?” Shawna asks, “The first part of that title is ‘friend’. While you don’t have to be in an emotionally committed relationship with someone to have fun, sexy times with them, it’s important that you treat each other with respect and kindness. There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of intimacy, and it can actually be quite helpful if you’re having a bad day to have a friend you can vent to and help you relax sexually or non-sexually.”
It can be difficult at times to know where the boundary is, though, which Aisling, 29, knows only too well. “I’ve got a FWB who I’ve been hooking up with for a couple of months. There’s been times where we’d be lying in bed and he’d say something personal about his family life, and I’d feel obliged to offer advice. But it’s awkward, because I don’t want him to open up too much to the point that he sees me as a girlfriend… I’ve been keeping schtum about almost everything in my life bar work – because that’s how I met him and he’s already a part of that world. I think you need to find your boundary, and be really careful not to cross it.”
Part of the fun of having a friend with benefits is the secrecy. Rebekah says, “My family and friends are infuriatingly nosy, and I loved being able to sneak around with Stephen without them asking to meet him and wondering if he’s marriage material. My mum is notorious for running ahead, picturing her future grandkids even if I’ve only been on one date and it’s SO annoying. Those first five months were our own guilty (though not so guilty) pleasure, and it would’ve made things too ‘official’ or something if I’d told everyone who he was.” But Shawna adds, “It depends how open you are with your friends and family, but I would tell at least one close friend about your FB or FWB for safety reasons. If keeping the sexual side of your relationship a secret is necessary or perhaps is part of the turn-on, there’s no problem introducing them to your circle just as a friend.”
Wrong, wrong, wrong. “That’s simply not true,” Shawna explains, “Jealousy can strike in any type of relationship set-up, not just monogamous ones.” The root of jealousy is ‘lack’ – it’s the want for something that somebody else has, so if you want to have sex with your FWB and he’s with someone else, you’re naturally going to feel a pang of it even though you’re not technically his girlfriend. Shawna notes, “It’s important when it does happen to have a think about why you’re jealous, and maybe sit down somewhere outside of the bedroom and have an open conversation about your feelings. Perhaps you want something more from the relationship, or maybe adjustments need to be made to your arrangement. It’s always best to talk these things through than let them stew in your brain.”
In a 2013 study carried out by psychologist, Seth Schwartz at the University of Miami, it was found that people who engage in casual sex have much lower self-esteem and increased unhappiness in their lives compared to those who don’t. It seems the lack of intimacy between them and their fuck buddy made them feel vulnerable, as well as a sense of sexual regret and self-directed anger. In a relationship, there’s a stronger connection to the person you’re sleeping with, and as such, you’re more likely to feel happy and satisfied afterwards. Though, Shawna tells me, “This is a case of ‘different strokes for different folks.’ Sex with a FB is certainly different from sex in a relationship in terms of dynamics, and both are incredibly hot in their own ways. Some people might prefer the intensity of a relationship where the primary focus is on the sex you’re having with that person, but that can change at different points in our lives. The hottest thing about being human is that we’re not ‘one-size-fits-all’.”
This article first appeared in the September issue of the mag. Our October issue is on shelves now!