Friends with benefits: What does it mean?

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A friends with benefits relationship can be tricky to define. It’s somewhere between a dating relationship and a friendship.

Usually, friends with benefits (a.k.a. FWB) means that people who know each other engage in intimate/sexual activity without really dating each other. It’s different from hooking up, which tends to be a one-time thing with someone new.

How is friends with benefits different from dating?

Generally, when you’re dating someone, you have special feelings for them. In friends with benefits scenarios, you’re just friends — friends who hang out and sometimes have sex/be intimate with each other. People who are friends with benefits may be free to date other people. The physical stuff they do is usually “no strings attached”— they’re not necessarily committed to each other.

Why do people want to be friends with benefits?

There are different reasons why friends with benefits may work for some people. For example:

  • It can feel safe/fun to explore your sexuality with a trusted friend.
  • Friends with benefits can be an alternative for people who don’t want the commitment of a dating relationship.
  • People who have strong romantic feelings for a friend may hope that a friends with benefits relationship will evolve into a dating relationship.

What else do I need to know about friends with benefits?

Being intimate with someone is supposed to feel good. It should also be enjoyable for everyone who participates.

In some friends with benefits relationships, people may have different expectations. Or in some cases, their expectations may change over time. For example, one person may want a more serious long-term relationship, while another person may want to stay friends with benefits. When people want different things, they may feel confused, disappointed or angry. It’s also possible the friendship may change or even end.

If you’re thinking about having a friends with benefits relationship, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What are my needs/wants/expectations in a friends with benefits relationship?
  • Will my friendship change if it becomes a friends with benefits relationship?
  • How may I feel if my relationship with my friend changes/ends?
  • How may I feel if my friend starts a relationship with someone else?
  • How will I take care of myself in a friends with benefits relationship (e.g. how will I protect myself against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancy (if applicable))?
  • How will I talk to my partner(s) about things like sexual health and consent?

The choice to enter a friends with benefits relationship is completely up to you. If you have questions about sex and relationships, you can always reach out to someone you trust (e.g. a parent/caregiver, counsellor, sexual health clinic, etc.).