If you haven’t heard, friends with benefits (FWBs) are the new hip thing. Cosmo, Glamour and Buzzfeed all offer endless advice on how to treat your FWB, how to decide on acceptable versus off-limits behavior and how to avoid being overly friendly-clingy-needy-emotional.
From author to author, the advice changes drastically, with each new source contradicting information in the others. This week, because I love a good challenge, I’ll add my voice to the vast webs of material on this subject. Spoiler alert: the tl;dr version of the article is that communication is key.
There are several ways to go about obtaining your very own FWB. You can use the tried-and-true method of dating sites to find a hot single in your area. Be clear about what you’re looking for on your profile and use common sense about meeting up with potential partners. Do not go meet a stranger in the middle of a cornfield without telling any of your friends where you’re going. Do meet your person in a public place (at least for initial contact) and let people know where you’re going and when they should expect to hear from you to confirm you haven’t been murdered. If you’re too old-fashioned for the Internet, never fear; there’s plenty of fish in the sea for hooking (up) in person. If you’re not a new-party-every-weekend person, you can start with your closest circle of friends and work outward. I would recommend ruling out your inner circle of BFFs, just because sex can make things messy and drama happens no matter how long you’ve been out of high school. Start scoping out your friends’ friends and see if you can spot any single (or non-monogamous) hotties. The best part about friends’ friends is that you’ve already automatically got a personal reference plus an “in.” The third and bravest option is to pick a sexy stranger you’ve seen in Café Mac and figure out an opportunity to get closer to them. You’ve got to have a specific type of personality for this to be a realistic option, but if you want to try it out, more power to you.
Once you’ve made initial contact and established mutual interest, the fun part begins! If you know you’re not a person who excels at saying “no” (which is a skill you’ve gotta get better at by practicing!), make sure you lay out some ground rules for the first meeting. This is especially important for internet dates and/or if you don’t know someone who can vouch for the character of the person you’re meeting; you don’t want to be in a situation where violence escalates because you’re exercising your free-will to come and go as you please (pun intended). Clearly state what you’re comfortable with for the first meeting, the second meeting, etc. If you’re using the first date to assess whether you like the taste of their mouth before proceeding, honesty is the best policy. From there, the lines of communication need to be gaping wide open for the remainder of the relationship. You need to put your big-kid pants on and communicate your needs, wants, boundaries, desires, kinks, feelings and complaints like a mature adult. Open, clear and honest communication is the only way FWB relationships (and relationships in general!) function successfully.
Here’s where the Cosmo advice really gets gratuitous – what happens if you start gasp feeling things for your FWB? Despite the drama of the Cosmo advice columns, catching feelings for your FWB is totally and completely normal. Sex releases a slew of mushy-gushy hormones, including the “love hormone” oxytocin, which explains all those emotions you might be feeling for your partner(s). Even beyond the flood of hormones, sex is a messy, intimate, weird, hilarious, awkward, primal behavior that can draw people closer together even when you’ve both agreed to keep things non-romantic. The most important step at this point is to be honest; tell your FWB what you’re feeling before the emotions grow to a love that may remain forever unrequited. Your partner has a right to know your emotions so they can decide whether or not to continue the sexual relationship. Conversely, you have the right to decide to end the sexual relationship at any time, particularly if the other person starts to take things more seriously than you’re comfortable with.
I’ll close with a paragraph of advice that doesn’t fit in elsewhere but is as valuable as the more meaty content above. FWBs are almost-inherently non-monogamous, so use condoms and other barrier methods to prevent STIs (even if you’re using other types of birth control). Clearly communicate “emotional” boundaries as well as sexual ones, e.g. will you sleep over at each other’s places? Will you meet each other’s friends? Will you hang out together outside of sexual rendezvous? Do not agree to an FWB relationship with someone you’re trying to reel in as a romantic partner; it’s deceitful and unfair. Avoid coworkers and roommates/housemates as potential FWBs as a general rule. Treating your FWB with respect is not being overly-emotional or pseudo-romantic, it’s just being a decent human being.
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