Can friends with benefits work?
In recent years, through movies like “No Strings Attached” and “Friends with Benefits”, this concept of two friends physically have a relationship but not emotionally committing has gained more attention.
- My first response to when I had this discussion with my friend, is why?
Here’s out the conversation went.
Me: Why do you want to enter into a friends with benefits relationship? If you have the physical attraction to someone and are their friend, why don’t you want to add the emotional and commitment elements?
My friend: I want the ability to hook up with other people.
My friend: I don’t know, I just like having the option and it’s fun.
Again, I’m not going to judge people on lifestyle choices. If having the option to hook up with multiple people is fun for you, then do you.
I just think you have to evaluate how much is the mindset I have on a topic learned through media/society and how much is actually based on my own desires?
In our society, being a “player” (a guy who gets a lot of girls) is cool from movies, tv shows, and songs.
Ask yourself — do you really want that? Or does society make that cool so you want to as a result of that?
There’s a funny interview of the great NFL quarterback Roger Staubach. The media member asks Staubach something to the effect of, “You’re this all-American guy, is that an image hard to uphold?” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YqLWQ0oHhBE)
Roger quips back and says something to the effect of, “You asked Joe Namath last week about sex. Listen, I enjoy sex as much as Joe Namath does. I just do it with one girl.”
I remember watching this clip on NFL’s “A Football Life” (documentary series on great NFL players) on Staubach, and saying to myself, this is the first time, I’ve heard this line of reasoning said out loud in the media. I’ve heard so many lines about how it’s cool to go to the club and pick up different girls, I’ve never heard how beautiful it is to have fun with the 1 girl you’re committed too. Hip hop, culture, rap songs — all mostly promote being a “player” and being a ladies man.
All this is to say — make sure when you say you want to have options and all that — that it’s actually intrinsic motivation from yourself and not extrinsic based on the way you grew up. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in adult life, unlearning is a big part of being an adult.
2. Stop avoiding feelings
A second common answer I hear on why people want friends with benefits is they say I don’t want the weight/commitment of a relationship.
Most of the time the response is something like, “Oh, I don’t want to deal with the commitment and burden of that.”
Sometimes, I’ll buy this answer, sometimes I won’t.
I think in a lot of these situations it doesn’t have to due with commitment, it has to do with emotions.
Our generation gets into fewer relationships because we’re afraid of catching feelings because we’re afraid of all the negatives that come with feelings — possibly being dependent/clingy to someone, trust issues that might come, maybe eventually going through a breakup.
To all of you who don’t want to let your guard down, I get it. It’s hard to trust someone. It’s hard to let someone in. It’s not always fun having feelings and being irrational.
That being said, avoiding feelings isn’t a way to live life. To find a great partner and to find great love, you have to trust someone and you have to give them your love. All the benefits of a great relationship and great love come with the risk of heartbreak. That’s just the way it is.
In every risk, you take there’s possible rewards and possible heartaches. The rewards could be you could end up in a beautiful long-term relationship and marry the person, the heartaches, are you could have a tough emotional breakup.
If you’ve now reflected and said, yes I want to do a friends with benefits relationship not because of society’s effect on how we look at “players” and not because I don’t want to feel, I’ll say okay, fine.
Here’s where I think friends with benefits make sense:
a) If you’re unsure where the two of you will be geographically
b) You’re at a place in your life where you don’t want to emotionally commit
Who qualifies in a:
Seniors in college. Someone in graduate school or medical school. A working professional looking for a new job.
If you’re in a situation where you literally could be moving cross country next year, then yes, I think it’s okay to get in FWB relationship because at that point, getting into an emotionally committed relationship might make things hard.
Who qualifies in b:
If you’ve just broken up from a long-term relationship and you have another friend who also had similar timing of breaking up from a long-term relationship, for me, it’s okay for you to enter into a FWB relationship.
Both of you are still healing so it makes sense why you don’t want any emotional commitments.
4. In terms of how to make sure it doesn’t get messy, here’s my advice.
Much like any other good relationship, it’s about communication.
If the communication is clear from the beginning, no drama or fights should happen.
Have ground rules on what’s acceptable and what’s not — in terms of texting, in terms of seeing other people, in terms of telling other people about the relationship, in terms of ending the FWB relationship, every single variable you can think of that would make you upset.
People hate to have these communications because it’s tough, but I’ll tell you, if you truly care about your friend and maintaining friendship no matter what, you should definitely have this conversation in the beginning before you start doing anything so you minimize any possibilities of someone getting hurt or upset.
Those are my thoughts on friends with benefits. Let me know what you thought.
Are there other scenarios where you think Friends with Benefits is appropriate that I didn’t mention? Did any of you have any reaction to questioning motivation — intrinsic and extrinsic? Let me know!