Being friends with benefits can be great. I’ve had some who ended up being a bigger deal than I anticipated – even joked that my snake is a love-child from a former FWB. I’ve had some who I completely forgot about until trying to recollect all the people I’ve slept with. (Usually to prove a point that there haven’t been very many, but… There are quite a few names on the list, if I’m being completely honest – and a few blank spaces whose names I honestly can’t remember.)
But staying friends with someone once the benefits aren’t there anymore is something else entirely. I’ve had a few friends who were almost something casual, and we’ve been able to laugh things off as if we never professed our undying lust for one another. (It’s easy to laugh it off when that undying lust actually does die.) I’m not so great with hookup culture, so usually if I’m involved in something casual, it’s try to prove a point… And I usually fail. Miserably.
For me, it’s easier to not let get things to the point of casual sex in the first place, but since I’m so obsessively in control of as many facets of my life as possible, there are some rules I follow to make sure that the casual fling goes without a hitch, and doesn’t make me hate the other person by the time we’re done.
1. Be honest about your intentions.
If it’s casual, you don’t need to be 100% honest about what you do for work, if you don’t want. (Although I fully support the idea of owning your job and making it worthwhile to you, I do understand that not everyone has the same blessings of fulfilling jobs as I have.) You don’t even have to tell her your real name, to be honest. But you should never lie about what you’re looking for. Hookup culture and romantic culture both have their own places, and to pretend you want one when you really want the other is manipulative and unfair.
Not only are you not likely to get what you really want, you’re also highly likely to hurt this woman’s feelings, if she thinks you want something serious and you don’t. Or, you’re likely to hurt your own feelings if you say you’re into casual and you’d rather have a wifey type. You can’t expect the other person to read your mind, so if you want your needs fulfilled (hint: we all do), speak up. Otherwise, you have no one to blame but yourself.
2. Set a deadline.
Chances are, you know how long it usually takes you to find out if you’re attached to someone. So, you should mentally schedule a “check-up” at that point, to see where things stand. If you wanted to keep things casual, but you’re starting to develop feelings, this is when you should take a step back to preserve your feelings. If you wanted something more serious, you’ll need time to evaluate if it’s going anywhere – and if it’s not, it’s best not to waste any more time.
It’s also important that you discuss this with her, too, as there is a chance that her intentions may have changed in this time, or that her time might be longer or shorter than yours. On average, it takes around a month to decide how you really feel about someone, and after that it’s a matter of cultivating things in the direction you want. This means that, after a month, you should probably be able to tell if you want to keep seeing her casually, if you want to be more committed with her, or if you want to go your separate ways and just stay friends.
3. Don’t overdo it.
If you really want to keep things casual, you can’t let your initial infatuation bring you to spend all your time with her. Any more than once a week and you’ll probably start to develop your feelings more than you wanted – which isn’t always a bad thing, but could result in creating a serious relationship that’s actually just built around sex and those warm, fuzzy after-sex feelings. If you’ve got a free week, it could be worth it to squeeze in a second encounter in a single week, but if you want things to stay casual, it can help to seek out other people too.
It makes sense that you’ll grow more attached to someone the more time you spend with them – or, conversely, you could become less attracted to them, and not even want to have sex with them anymore. Neither one of these is particularly bad, in itself, but it can definitely make a difference in your long-term plans if you were expecting to keep things casual.
4. Don’t expect monogamy.
If you want to be exclusive, that’s fine – ask for that. But that’s not what casual flings are about. You should not only be expecting her to have someone else, but you should also encourage her to see someone else – and you’ll want to do the same for yourself. It will minimize the chances of pain and attachment, as long as you’re following the same rules with all of your partners, and (naturally) being safe about things.
If you have a hard time with the idea of non-exclusive “situationships”, the casual hookup culture is probably not meant for you, and that’s okay. Personally, I find that I have a very different approach to my “real relationships” than I do with my “casual relationships”. As long as you’re with me when you’re with me, and you’re not my girlfriend, so to speak, we’re good. Once we throw a title on things, though, I won’t tolerate cheating. It’s important to understand the difference.
5. Be safe, every single time.
It should go without saying, but unfortunately, not everyone follows this rule yet. There is no 100% fool-proof way to avoid sexually transmitted diseases. But, it’s generally considered okay if you are monogamous, have been tested at least six months after you started having sex with your most recent partner, and have been consistently using protection properly since then. That seems like a lot to remember, so it’s definitely safer to think of it this way.
No matter how “uncomfortable” a dental dam or condom might be, it’s not as uncomfortable as herpes, syphilis, or HIV – guaranteed.
6. Don’t forget to communicate.
It’s absolutely possible for your feelings to change along the way, and it’s absolutely necessary for you to communicate when and if these changes happen. Again, she can’t read your mind, and – especially if she’s shy – she might be hesitant to share with you if she develops feelings of her own. If you both develop feelings, there’s really no good reason why you shouldn’t pursue those feelings. But if you’re both keeping them quiet, you’re both going to be in a really confusing place.
Often we can let ourselves believe that communication isn’t as important, because it’s not anything serious, but that’s really not the case. You should never expect another human to know what you’re not saying, and if you’re having sex with the person, it’s even more important. Don’t forget to talk about something other than sex when it’s appropriate.
7. Do not kiss and tell – seriously.
Discretion is one of the keys in a casual relationship, and while the two of you should be totally open with each other about all the “important details”, no one else needs to know what happens behind closed doors – except for your other partners. They deserve to know the basic information about who else you’re seeing. Beyond that, though, it’s nobody’s business.
Your friends can know that you’ve got a fling or two going, but they shouldn’t know her name, what she does for work, or any of that. It’s not their business. Realistically, your sexual partners don’t need to know too much about each other, either. They don’t need names, they need numbers. They don’t need any way to identify the other person (or people), just in case jealousy crops up – you don’t want to be the one who handed over the information that started a physical altercation, do you?
8. Remember that you should be friends with your FWBs.
This is probably one of the most important things: You should be friends with your friends-with-benefits. I mean, it’s right there in the name. If this is someone you can’t even stand the idea of hanging out with, wouldn’t it be better to just have a one-night-stand and be done with her? Truly, the easiest way to stay friendly with your FWBs when the benefits are gone is to put the emphasis on the friendship.
I know there are plenty of people out there who think that casual sex will ruin a friendship. I am not one of those people. Sex can only ruin a friendship if someone isn’t being honest about their feelings, or if someone takes advantage of the other’s vulnerability – neither of which is implied by casual sex. Destroy the notion that you can’t be friends with the people you sleep with! It makes the sex better anyway!