In theory, having a ‘friend with benefits’ sounds like a great idea. You can enjoy regular sex with someone you trust, but you won’t need to wrestle with any of the complicated issues that often characterize more committed relationships. However, if poorly managed, a friendship with benefits can turn into a painful experience that ruins a previously valued bond. Here’s how to avoid the major pitfalls and make your arrangement work.
1) Prioritize communication
Being friends with benefits will only be enjoyable if the two of you are able to communicate clearly and consistently. It’s vital to be explicit about your needs and feelings so that you can come to a guilt-free agreement and be clear on what you’re interested in pursuing. A relationship based on benefits also must be one in which you feel free to discuss your wants and needs to keep it exciting, so be wary of entering into a friends-with-benefits arrangement with someone who struggles to talk candidly about sexuality.
2) Manage expectations
You need to be sure that you understand each other’s expectations and have a process in place for dealing with unexpected feelings or a desire to end the arrangement. It’s also good to compare expectations regarding how much you’ll communicate, how often you’ll be seeing each other, how much you’ll share information about your personal lives, and how you’ll be approaching important safety issues like contraception.
3) Maintain boundaries
A decent level of self-knowledge is required if you’re going to have a friend with benefits, as you need to be aware of what might make you unhappy. In particular, you need to protect yourself from emotional pain. For example, some people might want to reduce the chances of forming a deeper attachment by agreeing to meet only once a week, and most friends with benefits commit to acting like mere friends in public (ruling out activities like kissing or holding hands in the street). You may also want to discuss whether you’ll ever spend the night together.
4) Be honest
Honesty is always the best policy in a friends with benefits scenario. It’s important to be up front if you’re seeing other people and to be transparent about your reasons for ending the arrangement if it is no longer working for you. Both parties should also agree that they will be honest if deeper feelings begin to develop, so that these feelings can be discussed and you can decide whether to continue or change the way you’re approaching the friendship. While you cannot fully control your emotional responses to another person, you can control the maturity with which you deal with those responses.
5) Have fun
Most importantly, do your best to enjoy your situation! Many people would love the freedom to have great sex with no strings attached, so focus on having a great time. Experiment with new ideas, and keep the relationship light. If you’re not having fun, the arrangement loses its worth.