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How To Make Your Friends With Benefits Situation Last

A healthy “friends with benefits” situation is the white whale of sex and dating. Typically, one or both parties catch feelings and then the whole thing falls apart. But it doesn’t have to be like that! It’s a tricky—but possible—balance. My most successful FWB, a cinematographer I used to live near whom I hooked up with off-and-on for about two years, summed it up best in a text: “Basically the ideal FWB relationship is one where people need to fuck, live close to each other, enjoy smoking weed together and have a genuine interest in the happenings of the other person but are still too wrapped up in themselves to worry about the other person. LOL.”

LOL, indeed.

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of what makes a FWB work, you should have a screening process for the kind of person you want to rope in. Try to pick a person whom you’re attracted to but don’t share a billion mutual friends with—Tinder has made hooking up with people in your friend group inexcusable. Then look deep inside yourself and make sure you don’t expect or want this situationship to bloom into a relationship on any level. Lightheartedness is crucial. Next, do a little introspection about what you want or need from this arrangement. Ask your pound pal to do the same, then discuss. Making sure you’re on the same, casual page from the jump is critical.

Even after you’re both clear on the boundaries of your fledgling situationship, there are still more rules: Just as in a relationship you have to actively maintain intimacy, in a FWB-ship you have to keep working to maintain boundaries. An exclusive sexual relationship that starts to involve emotional validation and hardlined expectations is kind of like an unpaid internship—and no one’s got time for that.

Even if neither of you is sleeping with other people, and even if you’ve both been honest about the last time you were tested and the results of said test, going rubber-free still feels especially relationship-y. In an FWB scenario, skipping the jimmy hat says, “We care about each other as more than friends.” You’re in dangerous waters.

Having a hot person handy for company parties and various happy hours is hella tempting, but resist. Introducing this person—as cool as they may actually be—to various other folks in your regular orbit crosses a line. Not that you can’t take your FWB pal out in public, but non-bedroom hangs should be limited to the occasional breakfast date. Otherwise, you’re dating.

You wouldn’t hire someone to clean your gutters and then instead have them fix your printer. Thus, don’t let FWBs venture into new territory by staying over without some banging (or even just heavy petting). That breeds a different kind of intimacy, which breeds new expectations.

Seriously, don’t do sex with people with colds. It may feel kind and right to bring along soup or something, but you simply cannot. Any kindness you do for your sex friend when they’re ill will be perceived as a signal that you want something more, so plug up the geyser of empathy within and stick to a quick “Feel better soon!” text. Similarly, if you’re the sick one, you’re not allowed to request kombucha delivery or dog-walking services from your FWB. Sorry. That’s what Instacart and Rover are for.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? WRONG. FWBs traditionally work good as hell until they hit a wall, and you’ll want to nip it in the bud before that. The key is to end things before they stop being fun, which can be especially tough to gauge when you're getting, like, orgasms. A good rule of thumb is five weeks—just long enough to really master one another's G-spots but not so long you start to internalize their roommate’s work schedule.

Then, for both your sakes: GET OUT OF THERE.

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