3 Things To Know About Being Friends With Benefits

Being in this type of relationship is different for different people.

Female friends talking in yard at social gathering

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Perhaps you have a friend you've always secretly found attractive—and you end up casually hooking up with that person. Labels may be a thing of the past. But in that situation, you still may fall into the category of being friends with benefits.

The idea of friends with benefits entails the above situation but without any romantic ties, according to a study published in 2021 in the Journal of Counseling Sexology & Sexual Wellness. But being friends with benefits can be healthy if you're careful about it, Holly Richmond, PhD, a certified sex therapist in New York, told Health.

In fact, for some people, friends-with-benefits relationships work even better than more traditional monogamous relationships, explained Richmond. For example, starting a casual relationship with clearly defined guidelines could be wise if you're at a point where you don't have time to date seriously.

Here's what you should know about some of the ins and outs of being friends with benefits.

Communication Is Crucial

As with all relationships, communication is key to keeping things calm in a friends-with-benefits situation. If you're uncomfortable being overly communicative with your friend, you should rethink things. 

"I absolutely have a lot of clients where [being] friends with benefits have worked beautifully," said Richmond. "But [that's] only because they have communicated well, and both targets have been on the same page."

So, people need to understand what the other is hoping (or not hoping) to get out of the relationship. Per one study published in 2018 in the journal Sexuality & Culture, any differences concerning the relationship and mutual commitment can make for a negative experience.

It might seem obvious, but if one person is only in it because they think the arrangement will eventually turn into something more serious, while the other has absolutely no intention of that happening, that's a problem.

According to Richmond, asking the following questions is important: 

  • Are we seeing other people
  • Do we have to tell each other if we go out with someone else? 
  • What about if we sleep with another person? 
  • How often should we expect to talk—every day or less frequently? 
  • Are we telling our friends that we're hooking up? 

The more answers you have up front, the less you'll have to guess or worry about later.

Guidelines Are Also Important

Few friends-with-benefits relationships look the same, per an article published in 2021 in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior.

For example, some relationships are purely physical, while others are more emotional. That's why you must set guidelines specific to your situation. And then, communicate openly and consistently, especially if your feelings start to change, noted Richmond.

Unlike most traditional relationships, you can discuss if and when your friends-with-benefits setup will need to end before it even begins. It may seem strange, but establishing that beforehand will help ensure you're on the same page when it's time to part ways, added Richmond.

It may be when one person begins seeing someone else seriously. Or one of you may feel like you're starting to have feelings for the other.

Regardless, a telltale sign that it's time to break it off is that the relationship no longer meets your needs. Do you want a more emotionally supportive partner? Or one you can show off in public and isn't seeing anyone else? If you answer yes to any of these, it's time for a sit-down. 

"'Yes' is a fine answer," said Richmond. "But that has to lead to a conversation with the other person involved in the situation."

Coming to that conclusion and having the end-it conversation takes some emotional maturity. Per the American Psychological Association (APA), emotional maturity is elevated emotional control and expression at a suitable level.

But again, you should seriously consider your needs and wants from a friends-with-benefits relationship before you get into one in the first place. You'll need to know if you would be able to part ways if necessary.

A Quick Review

Being friends with benefits isn't always a bad idea. But as most people know from experience, they aren't simple. 

Even when you go into them with set guidelines, the boundaries can get blurred. It's natural to have feelings for the people with who you establish an intimate relationship. 

If that happens, and you wish your "friend" were more than a friend, then you owe it to yourself to speak up about those feelings.

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4 Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Letcher A, Carmona J, Ramsay-Seaner K, Hoffman MS. Motivations, expectations, ideal outcomes, and satisfaction in friends with benefits relationships among rural youthJCSSW. 2022:58-69. doi:10.34296/03021050

  2. Jovanovic J, Williams JC. Gender, sexual agency, and friends with benefits relationshipsSexuality & Culture. 2018;22(2):555-576. doi: 10.1007/s12119-017-9483-1

  3. Norris AL, Carey KB, Guthrie KM, et al. Partner Type and Young Women's Sexual Behavior: A Qualitative InquiryArch Sex Behav. 2021;50(1):359-372. doi:10.1007/s10508-020-01780-1

  4. American Psychological Association. APA dictionary of psychology.

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