Is Friends With Benefits Ever A Good Idea?

An ever-alluring relationship conundrum.

 

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No Strings Attached, Love & Other Drugs, and the cleverly titles Friends With Benefits: Not only are they three films that are ideal to throw on and turn your brain off to, but they are just three of many that focus on the infamous idea of friends with benefits.

Even though it may not be at the forefront of our minds, movies and TV often shape the way we think about relationships. So it may not be a complete surprise that friends with benefits are more popular in real life than you initially thought. In a survey conducted by online health consulting website DrEd.com, 57 percent of 100 people who participated in the survey stated that they had in fact been part of an unofficial romantic relationship, or FWB.

In theory, it sounds like the perfect situation. You’re sleeping with someone you like, but don’t feel the added pressure of constantly asking yourself where this is going, if it will all work out, what will happen if it doesn’t, and what the relationship will be in the future. But just like anything else in life, everything is good until it suddenly turns complicated,

Any new relationship can raise questions, but friends with benefits can often come loaded with queries. Is it best to leave feelings out of the equation? How do you end things once you feel it has run its course? Can you go back to being friends with no benefits? But the most loaded question of all: Can a friends with benefits relationship work, or is it a recipe for disaster? An ongoing friendship teamed with all the physical elements of a traditional relationship sounds idyllic for many, so what could possibly go wrong?

According to dating and relationship coach Annie Lavin, it can work, but only under certain circumstances. “It only ‘works’ if this is the type of relationship you’re looking for. It is important for you to know yourself well enough to know what your personal boundaries are in every relationship.”

What it comes to f*ck buddies (for lack of a better phrase), does this mean that boundaries must be set in place before the casual relationship (or non-relationship) begins? According to many sources, the short answer is simply yes. For example, you should both agree beforehand not to expect the situation to turn into a monogamous relationship, not to fall in love, no cuddling – you know, the generic FWB rules we see on the big screen.

Speaking to STELLAR, Holly*, 30, shared her story of having an unofficial romantic relationship, and how having boundaries and rules set in place didn’t benefit either of them in the long run. “I don’t know if you’d call my friends with benefits situation a success or a disaster, I suppose in one way, it was the best outcome. In another way, the whole friends with benefits thing didn’t work out for us at all.

“I hadn’t been too long out of a relationship, and the man in question had never really been in a relationship. We thought the whole friends with benefits thing would work perfectly for us, and it did, for a little less than three months. There was no drama, no fights, no awkwardness. We had certain rules and stuck to them for the most part – for example, not keeping secrets from each other that may affect our FWB scenario. Once we had enjoyed a couple of months of this, long story short, we made things official. It turned out that we broke every single rule we had in place.

“But now, almost seven years later, we’re still together and only delighted with ourselves. So yeah, I guess you could say that it worked out perfectly, but not exactly in the way that friends with benefits are supposed to.”

Holly’s version of events is usually what we expect from a rom-com depicting a no-strings-attached relationship, in that it all works out as a happily-ever-after love story. But as we know, life isn’t one big rom-com for the majority of us( unfortunately), so what is there to keep in mind?

If this is the kind of relationship you think may slot nicely into your life right now, Annie says there is one important thing to remember. “There are pros and cons to every relationship, but the best question to ask yourself is what are the advantages and disadvantages for me in this relationship.”

Continuing, Annie gives an example of what to ask yourself when entering a relationship of this sort, “Does this relationship fill my needs? And if the answer is no but you still like the person, be brave enough to ask why you are not walking away, in the direction of what you truly want and need.”

Michelle, 28, seconds Annie’s view that the advantages and disadvantages should be outweighed before partaking in this kind of casual relationship. “Over the past 15 years or so, I’ve tried [friends with benefits] twice. I didn’t exactly want a relationship, but I missed the fun elements of having someone there. Although each time, it was literally a recipe for disaster.

“I felt each time as if I was in a relationship. It was the standard ‘catching feelings’ rom-com story, but only one-sided. I quickly realised that it was working perfectly for the other person, but it only made me feel as if nothing was falling into place. It wasn’t filling the void that I thought it would, and the disadvantages soon outweighed the advantages. Sure, there was the casual sex aspect, but everything else felt like I was in a one-sided monogamous relationship.

“I was getting hurt over and over again. Eventually, later than I should have, I decided that casual sex with the same person just wasn’t for me, I never heard of it working in real life, even in films it doesn’t work out.”

Vanessa, 34, disagrees. In fact, breaking all of the urban relationship myth rules, she ended up marrying ger FWB – something neither of them expected or even wanted when they started out. “At first, I truly just wanted to have sex with him. He was gorgeous, but I was just out of a long term relationship so I wanted to keep things very casual. But we just had this connection that went beyond the physical. He started lingering after we had sex, and we’d just talk and talk.

“It became obvious after a few weeks that our chemistry wasn’t just about sex, so I asked him what he thought about it all, and he asked me on an official date. Seven years later and we’ve been married for nearly four of them, and I thank my lucky stars I found him!”

But if it doesn’t work out so neatly, it begs the question – can you return to being friends once your friends with benefits relationship has outrun itself? For many, this is a big part of the deciding factor. The key here – like any form of relationship, romantic, friendly or otherwise – is honestly and communication.

In Michelle’s experience, it’s not possible to remain pals with an FWB. “We didn’t stay friends. Both times, I was lied to and felt as if I was being made a fool of. For me, that would have felt like I was in a friendship with an ex-boyfriend, which is not something that I could do.”

It’s apparent that it doesn’t play out just like Mila Junis and Justin Timberlake every time, unfortunately. In theory, FWB seems to be the ideal situation, particularly if you’re on the lookout for something casual. But as Annie explains, it’s important to work out exactly what the pros and cons are for you and you alone, and don’t go about romanticising good sex.

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