Whether it’s online dating or out in the physical world, there are a lot of people looking for and trying to establish a friend with benefits arrangement, or "FWB".
The problem is, when you're entering a new arrangement, calling it an FWB is confusing because it doesn't reflect the complicated nature of what you're trying to create with someone you barely know.
The sex part of any new connection can be easy to fall into, of course. But what about the "friends" part? A friend is typically someone you trust and who trusts you—a relationship that develops through shared history, experiences, situations, circumstances, compatibility, or mutual interests. When you're looking for an FWB from the start, you're forcing a new potential relationship into a box that doesn't fit, with a label that misrepresents it. Since it takes time to cultivate a friendship, it logically follows that it takes time and dedication to cultivate a friendship with benefits.
Because the benefit is sex! Any time sex is involved, it complicates matters even when both people maintain communication and mutual respect. For an FWB arrangement to work, you have to know each other, at least somewhat, and have a sense of who both of you are with and to each other, and what feelings the emotional and sexual dynamic evokes in you.
Regardless of how the relationship is labelled, when you’re sexually involved with someone you already care deeply for, emotions build, as does trust, intimacy, connection, and familiarity. And, no matter what the arrangement, it can still get tricky. Check in to make sure that your friend is still your friend and that it's not getting more challenging to maintain the current state of your relationship, or is in any way off-putting for you or for them.
Because sex is involved, problems can become magnified. What if you or the person you're sleeping with is actually feeling strung along? What if the title “FWB” is just a way of keeping the intimacy going, and meanwhile you or your partner are hoping the sex will lead to deeper love and a committed relationship? What if either of you is afraid to bring up complications because you don’t want to jeopardize the friendship?
When you ask to be FWBs with someone you don't know, or barely know, or before you’ve developed a connection, you’re putting stress and expectations on a relationship that hasn’t even formed yet. There are many flaws in this formula, the greatest of which is that it has the potential to cheapen what you call a friend.
The Solution: Not labelling a new arrangement, situation, or relationship takes some of the pressure off, sets up more room to get to know each other as friends and keeps the communication lines open. The good news is that developing an investment in the "friends" part solidifies the foundation for friendship, and can also enhance the benefits.
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