by Brenda Adair
There are advantages and disadvantages of a friends with benefits arrangement, otherwise known as a “casual relationship”. You may be in a situation where you are considering starting this arrangement with someone—either a new or long-lasting (no pun intended!) friend. If this is the case, this article will talk you through some of the things that you should be aware of before you make this decision!
A successful friends with benefits arrangement usually requires a clear and mutual understanding between both participants of every aspect of the arrangement. Talk to each other about what you are each expecting from it and what you want to avoid. From here you can set a list of “ground rules” for the arrangement that should be agreed upon and followed by both of you.
These ground rules can range from practical considerations such as where and when you will meet each other, to more serious things like whether your arrangement will be secret or known about by others. You should also discuss what your personal and sexual boundaries are and each agree not to cross them.
It is also usually best to agree on what will happen in the event of one or both of you developing deeper feelings—regular sex can often create emotional bonds, and developing attachment is a common occurrence in casual relationships. If you start to feel a romantic attachment towards him or think that he probably likes you as more than a friend, keeping things “casual” may be difficult or even emotionally destructive.
An unavoidable conversation that needs to be had is that of safe sex. It is important to practice safe sex, even if each of you is only engaging in sexual activity with the other. It is recommended to use at least one form of contraception (e.g. condoms, the contraceptive pill, or a contraceptive implant) to avoid pregnancy or sexually-transmitted infections.
Whether or not each of you is permitted to sleep with other people outside of the arrangement should be decided and agreed upon in the ground rules. Keeping your arrangement “exclusive” can be more straightforward when it comes to safe sex—if either or both of you has multiple sexual partners, the need for getting tested becomes much more frequent!
The most important thing in any relationship, whether it is a sexual relationship, a romantic relationship, a friendship, or some combination of these, is for it to be emotionally healthy. This means that neither person should feel taken advantage of or unhappy. Communication is vital in order to avoid this—if either of you has any doubts or issues it is important that they feel comfortable voicing them.
Often the word “friend” in “friends with benefits” is neglected. Even if you are not in a committed romantic relationship with each other, they should still want the best for you and you for them. If you are not capable of being honest and open with each other, you probably shouldn’t be sleeping with each other. A successful and healthy casual relationship requires an emotional maturity on both sides.
While having a friend with benefits should never be damaging to your mental wellbeing or sense of self-worth, it is also not a cure for problems like low self-esteem or loneliness. If you are simply seeking this arrangement to avoid being lonely, it is worth questioning if being single is really so bad.
Becoming friends with benefits does have the potential to complicate friendships, and not necessarily in a good way. If you can avoid the pitfalls, it can be a fun and healthy experience that benefits both of you!
However, if feelings of romantic attachment arise on either side, either before or during this arrangement, a casual relationship will probably not be viable for long—you may have to choose between being romantic partners and ending any form of relationship.
Whatever you decide to do, it is always important to be completely honest about your feelings, your needs, and your boundaries.
Brenda is a relationships and lifestyle writer, coffee enthusiast, and a lover of new experiences. You’ll usually find her in a coffee shop with her laptop and a flat white scribbling down an article or searching for the next travel destination. She is a contributing author at GoDates, and several other online publications.