friends with benefits rules

Even if you are single and not looking for a committed relationship, chances are you still crave sex and physical intimacy sometimes. One popular solution to this is a “friends with benefits” situation. Having a friend with benefits can be an ideal arrangement for many people, but it is not for everyone. If you are considering starting a “friends with benefits” relationship but aren’t sure if you should go ahead, there are a few friends with benefits rules that are worth knowing.

What is a friend with benefits?

Before we list the rules you should follow, let’s explore what a friends with benefits relationship is. Because “friends with benefits” is a subjective term and doesn’t have an “official” definition, different people can have varying ideas of this kind of relationship.

The most common definition is that a friend with benefits is a friend you also have sex (or any level of physical intimacy) with. Unlike dating or a romantic relationship, this arrangement doesn’t include romantic attachment or commitment towards one another. Friends with benefits relationship is also known as FWB, a casual relationship, a situationship, or even a booty call.

The “benefits” are sexual, but what about the “friend” part? Again, this is where different people’s definitions can vary. For some, FWB includes every aspect of a non-physical friendship (e.g., hanging out, socializing with other friends, or even living together!) with the physical element attached. For others, each person may have little to nothing to do with their FWB outside of the bedroom. In fact, many even set this as a ground-rule.

The essential friends with benefits rules to have in mind

girl taking guy by hand

There isn’t just one way to make FWBs work. However, although the specifics of friends with benefits arrangements vary, most people with experience suggest some rules—or at least guidelines—to follow.

1. Choose someone reliable and emotionally stable

Choosing the right friend with benefits is extremely important for a successful and enjoyable FWB relationship. You need to make sure that the two of you are compatible, not just sexually but also in other areas.

Of course, you don’t have to have everything in common—you’re not looking for a serious partner after all. However, you should make sure that they are emotionally stable, laid-back, and reliable enough to make your arrangement work. If you don’t want to choose someone you already know, looking on dating or hookup apps can narrow down the search to people looking for the same thing as you. When choosing a friend with benefits, the most important thing is that they respect you—as you would expect from any other friend.

When choosing a friend with benefits, the most important thing is that they respect you—as you would expect from any other friend. Click To Tweet

2. Be transparent about what you want

One thing that neither person in this arrangement should do is lie about what they want. When someone pretends—or allows the other person to believe—that they are interested in something more serious and emotional, this is manipulative. The opposite is also true; pretending that you really only want a casual relationship hoping that things will develop further can be just as harmful.

If you know what you want, make sure this is clear and understood by the other person. If you are not sure yet and are interested in starting out casual and seeing what happens, you should be honest about this. Some FWB relationships are based on definite boundaries between fun and feelings that can’t be crossed, while others have nothing ruled out. Whichever you choose, you both have to understand and be in agreement.

3. Set the ground rules

Once you have discussed what each of you wants and expects from this arrangement, it is time to lay down some ground rules. Ground rules may sound like the opposite of fun and an absolute mood-killer. Still, an FWB relationship without agreed-upon rules will likely end in drama or hurt feelings. If you keep the lines and boundaries clear, you can avoid misunderstandings more easily.

Setting the rules before you get physically intimate is usually the best decision, so why not get it out of the way sooner rather than later? If you aren’t sure what specific rules to put in place, keep reading this list for some ideas. Whatever friends with benefits rules you decide on, make sure you both stick to them.

4. Mutual consent is vital

guy hugging girl from behind

Mutual consent applies to any intimate encounter, whether it is a one-night stand, friends with benefits relationship, or a “real” relationship. Both people involved (or everyone involved) should always be consenting and feel comfortable.

If you doubt whether or not the other person really wants to take things further, it is best to stop and wait until they show enthusiasm. When someone really wants to get intimate with you, you will probably be able to tell—this goes for girls and guys!

5. Don’t forget contraception

As well as consent, safe sex should be part of your ground rules. At least one form of contraception should always be used; after all, you probably don’t want to have children with your FWB!

Contraception is not the only aspect of safe sex. Protection from sexually transmitted diseases is also essential in friends with benefits relationship. If you have agreed that you are open to having casual sex with other people, using condoms and having regular STD tests is especially important. Even if you are only sleeping with each other and no one else, using protection is still recommended.

If you doubt whether or not the other person really wants to take things further, it is best to stop and wait until they show enthusiasm. Click To Tweet

6. Learn their sexual likes and dislikes

When you are in a serious relationship, learning your partner’s turn-ons and turn-offs is very important to remain sexually compatible. You may think that this isn’t as necessary for sex without commitment, but learning what each other likes and dislikes is essential if your encounters are regular and recurring.

While some sexual preferences may become apparent over time, it is best to express them upfront. For example, if blindfolds and bondage are necessary for you to enjoy the bedroom activities, the other person should know. On the other hand, you should also make sure they know any activities you dislike or are uncomfortable with.

7. Put effort in but don’t change yourself

If you think that a friends with benefits relationship means you don’t have to put in any effort, you are probably best off not starting one. While this type of arrangement doesn’t require the same level of work that dating someone does, this isn’t an excuse to be completely lazy.

While you shouldn’t change everything about yourself to please the other person (you shouldn’t do this in serious relationships either!), try to keep on top of basic grooming and hygiene. Your encounters will also be more fun and sexy if you aim to please each other between the sheets. If you don’t want to make any effort, you should probably avoid any sexual relationship.

8. Communicate with each other

young couple in bed legs up

While it is best to keep a certain degree of distance from your friend with benefits to maintain your independence, communication is important. Although you shouldn’t feel obliged to text every day, you should probably have each other’s numbers and be able to answer text messages when convenient.

Being contactable is not the only thing to consider. You should also make sure that you are honest in your communications and that both of you feel like you can talk to each other when needed. Not to mention, friends with benefits often need to reschedule meetings at short notice.

9. Don’t hook up too often

It can be exhilarating to find a new friend with benefits, especially if you have been lonely or sexually unsatisfied for a while. However, once you find someone you “click” with sexually, it is easy to overdo it and spend too much time together. If a brief, intense fling is what you are after, this might not be a problem. However, if you are looking for an arrangement that lasts a little longer, hooking up too frequently can cause complicated feelings that make it problematic.

Some may suggest no more than once a week, while others believe twice or more a week is still manageable. Ultimately, the more you hook up with someone, the greater the chances of one or both of you developing feelings or attachment. Some friends with benefits even advise that you never spend the night together and instead go back to your separate beds to sleep.

It can be exhilarating to find a new friend with benefits, especially if you have been lonely or sexually unsatisfied for a while. Click To Tweet

10. Don’t use it for emotional validation

Those who rely on relationships for their personal validation are most likely to get hurt. This applies to all kinds of relationships, and FWB is no exception to this rule. Make sure that you are happy enough in yourself and your life before starting an FWB relationship.

If you are not sure why you want friends with benefits situation, think to yourself: “Do I just want someone to make me feel desired? Do I want company and attention because I’m scared of being alone?” If the answer to any of these is “yes,” you should consider addressing these problems first. There should be only one reason to have a friend with benefits—because it’s fun!

11. Keep your expectations low

An FWB relationship is for sexual exploration and pleasure. When it comes to emotional attachment, you should probably be getting this elsewhere. Getting attached to your friend with benefits can make things really complicated. If you are attracted to a person emotionally as well as physically, they are probably not the right person for this type of arrangement. One thing you should never do is start a sexual relationship with someone solely as a way to make them fall in love with you.

As well as keeping your emotional expectations low, you may also want to keep your physical expectations low—at least at the beginning. While many friends with benefits have mind-blowing sex, casual sex usually doesn’t measure up to sex with a long-term partner who has time to learn what you like.

12. Agree on what each of you can do separately

young woman with tattoos on her back

Some of the friends with benefits arrangements are exclusive, while others are not. Allowing your FWB to sleep with someone else may be a wrong move if you are prone to jealousy. In this case, casual relationships may not be best for you.

Many friends with benefits allow each other to hook up with, pursue, or even date other people. In many of these situations, each person agrees to let the other know if and when they do so. Not only can this build trust, but it can also help people know when to get tested for STDs. So whether you decide to be exclusive, “no strings attached,” or somewhere in between, you should both agree and stick to it.

13. Keep your options open

When you are in exclusive friends with benefits relationship, this doesn’t mean you can’t keep your options open. Even if you think you don’t want a relationship, you may change your mind if you happen to meet the right person.

When you just want to “play the field” and explore your sexuality, it can be liberating to know you can flirt with or even have sex with anyone else. Of course, if you and your FWB have agreed on it, there is nothing wrong with pursuing this; just be honest with everyone involved.

Even if you think you don't want a relationship, you may change your mind if you happen to meet the right person. Click To Tweet

14. Remember you aren’t a couple

It sounds obvious, but many people can forget that a friend with benefits isn’t your partner—especially if you spend a lot of time together. When you find yourself staying the night, sharing breakfast, or doing other couples’ activities, you may be in dangerous territory. Feeling obliged to send multiple texts a day is also best avoided.

Even if you are not using the word “date,” when you are going out for drinks, meals, or engaging in activities together where people might assume you’re a couple, things can get too intense. But, of course, if both of you were open to this possibility from the start and enjoy spending time with each other, seeing if things lead to more may be no problem.

15. Be wary of introducing them to family or friends

One surefire way to get your new FWB mistaken for your partner is by introducing them to your family. There’s nothing worse than that awkward conversation and having to explain to your parents that you’re “just friends” with the guy you brought to the family barbecue. The same can go for your other friends; not only can they think you are a couple, but they can also get attached to your FWB, which can be messy when it is time for you to part ways.

Of course, things are not always simple. Many people get into friends with benefits situation with someone they had known for ages. In this case, avoiding other friends and family may be impossible or can even make things weirder!

16. Don’t let yourself get jealous

couple in bed with phones

All of us can get jealous at times. If jealousy is under control, it doesn’t necessarily have to make friends with benefits arrangements impossible. However, it is best avoided or kept as minimal as possible. If you find yourself getting jealous when your FWB has intimate encounters or even just spends time with other people, it may be time to end things. After all, the relationship is supposed to be fun—if it brings more drama or hurt feelings than enjoyment, it is time to move on.

When you do get jealous, think about why it happens. Jealousy can often be down to insecurity. This is particularly likely if you started this relationship as a means of emotional validation. Another possibility is that you’ve caught the dreaded feelings for your friend—in this case, you should either break things off or talk things over and see if they feel the same.

17. Make sure that a clean break is possible

The majority of friends with benefits relationships were never intended to be long-term. Therefore, both of you must be aware that this arrangement will end when one of you meets someone else, has other life commitments, or when things stop being fun.

Whatever the cause for the end of friends with benefits relationship—whether you become a couple or never see one another again—make sure that you finish it on a good note. Generally speaking, the more strings attached, the more potential for a messy breakup.

The majority of friends with benefits relationships were never intended to be long-term. Click To Tweet

18. Know when to end things

Being aware that a friends with benefits relationship will end is one thing, but you should also know when to end it. There are plenty of signs it is time to move on. For example, if one of you betrays the other’s trust, if life circumstances change, or if one or both of you have started “catching feelings” or are worried that they will.

When it’s time to end things, be honest. Unless your FWB has mistreated you or made you feel unsafe, you should avoid ghosting them. Even a purely physical relationship requires maturity and mutual respect. You should also decide if you want to entirely cut contact or continue a friendship without the extra “benefits.”

Is friends with benefits arrangement right for you?

A friends with benefits relationship is not ideal for everyone. Suppose you are prone to insecurity, becoming easily emotionally attached to people, and struggle with jealousy or fear of rejection. In that case, you should consider very carefully whether an FWB relationship is right for you. You should also avoid getting into this situation with someone you have romantic feelings for. When you want to date someone who only wants a casual relationship, getting into it can hurt you more than avoiding that person altogether. Don’t turn a crush into an FWB in the hopes they will fall in love with you.

When you already trust someone as a friend and feel comfortable with them, it could make an FWB situation easier and simpler to arrange. However, it may also jeopardize your existing friendship if things go wrong. There is often a balance to be struck with familiarity—a complete stranger may not be an ideal FWB, but your best friend may not be either.

Friends with benefits relationship can be fun and fulfilling. It can even teach you about yourself and your expectations towards your partner. FWB isn’t just a way to have regular sex—it can be an illuminating experience that brings confidence and self-empowerment.

Andy is a storyteller who loves good books and good jokes. In the rare moments he isn't writing, you can find him jogging in the park or perfecting barbeque ribs.

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