Friends with benefits is a contentious topic in the dating world. Some people love it, some people hate it, but just what does friends with benefits mean? It’s probably best to start with the dictionary definition and work back from there:

Friend with benefits

Noun (Used as a euphemism) A friend with whom one has sex without a romantic relationship or commitment. Abbreviations: FWB.

So, do you have a significant other or a FWB? Well, the main difference is the romantic element. If you’re going round to theirs at night, haven’t met any of their friends or they don’t want to be affectionate with you, then you probably have a friend with benefits.

But what does that mean and how do I know what to do if I am in a friends with benefits relationship, I hear you cry. Cry no further! Here are five rules to live by when you find yourself in a friends with benefits situationship (that’s a way of describing any non-romantic but sexual relationship).

Rule Number 1: Be Comfortable

Not dating in an official capacity means that you’re free to dictate the rules on your own terms. Being open about what you are comfortable with and aren’t helps you to make sure that you get what you want from your arrangement. Of course, finding a compromise is key, and making sure that the person you’re interacting with is comfortable too is crucial to healthy friends with benefits dating.

  • For example:

“I appreciate you. I hope that we can appreciate each other together with respect.”

“How can I help make your life easier?”

Rule Number 2: Talk It Out

Lay out your own friends with benefits rules. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks if you’re happy with what you’re doing and the person you’re engaging with is comfortable and happy too. Tune out outside influences and talk about your situation. This is a major pitfall for most people who are setting out on a friends with benefits adventure; most have a tendency to let things be, but talking and setting out on a clear and consensual journey means that you’ll both get what you want. Talking is the main step in avoiding getting your (and someone else’s) feelings hurt.

  • For example:

“I’m really happy with where we are right now. I’d like to hang out with you and stay friends with benefits. To me, that means we can have sex with each other but without all the commitment. How do you feel about that?”

“I’ve noticed that we are seeing each other a lot. I like you, but I don’t think I’m ready for a romantic relationship right now. I was wondering if you’d like to be friends with benefits instead. I completely understand if that’s not for you though!”

Rule Number 3: Be Honest

The Georgians were head over heels for lonely hearts adverts, while the first ’90s speed-daters were actually the congregation of a Beverly Hills rabbi who had been implored to help them find spouses. The moral of these historical tales? They were clear about how serious they were from the start and thought the “let’s see where this goes” line was a complete waste of their time.

You don’t have to want to be with everyone forever. Dating is a journey, and sometimes being friends with benefits is a mutually enjoyable and rewarding experience, so own it! Tell the person what you want in no uncertain terms, but be sensitive to their feelings and ask them how they feel too, instead of forcing them into an awkward and uncomfortable situation.

  • For example:

“I’m just looking for a friends with benefits relationship right now. How do you feel about that?”

“I think it’s important that we talk about non-monogamous relationships. I’ve been thinking that we should stay friends with benefits and be able to see other people. It doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate you – I’m just not looking for anything serious at the moment. Is that okay with you?”

Rule Number 4: Be Considerate

Remember that you’re friends! Be kind to each other and treat each other like the pals you are. Society has built up sexual relationships to be taken seriously, and the patriarchy convinces women (especially heterosexual ones) that they shouldn’t take pleasure into their own hands on their own terms, but that’s something we all have to work on unlearning. Exploring your sexuality with a friend can be a hugely important and significant step in your dating journey, so be considerate of them and expect them to be considerate of you. Being friends with benefits means that you can be honest, have a laugh and, most importantly, have fun.

  • For example:

“This is something I’ve always wanted to try, but I’ve never felt comfortable talking about it before. Do you think we could explore it a bit more?”

“What’s something you feel weird or uncomfortable about trying? I’d love to see if we could experience something new and exciting together.”

Rule Number 5: Do What Is Best for You

It’s convenient to be friends with benefits; you can’t be accused of using one another and you’ve come to an agreement of exactly how far you want things to go. But things don’t always stay that way. Spending a lot of time with one person can cause the dreaded feelings to surface, so remember to do what’s best for you. If you or the other person is getting too attached, it might be time to call it quits. Don’t let things get to the point where someone is being hurt. Listen and be considerate always. Above all, know when it’s time to leave.

For example:

“I feel like I want more from you. This friends with benefits relationship isn’t working for me anymore. How do you feel about it now?”

“Are you okay with how things are going? I’ve been sensing that you might want more from me, and I think it’s important that we talk about it.”

Stay Safe and Happy Dating!

The most important part of being friends with benefits is to have fun and be respected and respectful. Never hurt anyone’s feelings or intentionally lead them on. Always search for enthusiastic consent and always enjoy yourself!