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Can You Really Have a "Friend With Benefits" Relationship Without Falling in Love?

Updated on September 27, 2015
No feelings, just sensations. Right.
No feelings, just sensations. Right.

Have You Ever Had This KInd of "Friend"?

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A Modern Trend: Relationships of Convenience

More and more people awaken every day to the idea of having an on-going physical relationship without the complicated romantic entanglement. In theory, it's all the fun without any of the responsibility, or any of the feelings that come between lovers. But is that really possible for most people?

It used to be that you'd meet someone at a club or bar, have a one-night stand, and that would be the end of it. An emerging practice in our modern times, however, is for people to get together for a longer stretch and have non-committal sex on the regular. They might actually be more or less platonic friends at first, meeting at work or through mutual friends, but for one reason or another, their relationship evolves into one of regular erotic encounters.

This is not dating. They're not interested in being exclusive or in changing their Facebook relationship statuses. In fact, oftentimes even the people around them may be totally oblivious to the fact that they've been getting it on. It's a completely casual set-up, approached merely to attain physical satisfaction.

It's all fun and games until...

What could possibly go wrong with such a convenient plan? Well, that's exactly the problem: there usually isn't much of a plan. If most people took a moment to set the expectations ahead of time and discuss their feelings--as much of as turn-off as that may be--human relationships, including a "friend's with benefits" arrangement, would be less confusing. And of course there's a very big factor to consider: no matter how much you establish that it's definitely "no strings attached" ahead of time, what are the chances that both people's hearts and brains are going to get the memo?

The problem is that it's very hard not to develop feelings for someone when there's a physical relationship. For most human beings, our brains our wired to use sex as a bonding ritual at least to some extent. All the hormones that are released during the encounter that make us feel all those positive feelings are going to be associated with our partner sooner or later. Even if we never act on these romantic feelings, for many of us, at least some semblance of more-than-friends fondness will pop up and have to be dealt with.

Sadness, depression, all those emo states of being.
Sadness, depression, all those emo states of being.

There is also a more devious version of this scenario: suppose the arrangement is one-sided. It's perfectly reasonable to expect that many times one person actually has romantic feelings for the other, and agrees to the "friends with benefits" situation because *something*--even if it's not a committed relationship--is better than nothing from the person they are keen on. A physical relationship will surely only strengthen these person's feels, and if their partner is still uninterested in anything but their casual encounters, the gap between the extent of their feelings for each other will only widen more and more, until it possibly leads to a messy case of unrequited love. Quite the opposite to the "drama-free" intentions originally behind such a scenario.

Some Preventative Measures

If you are still willing to brave all these risks for a taste of your friend's forbidden fruit, then maybe it would be worth your while to observe certain precautions:

  • Avoid displays of love, especially in public, like holding hands or kissing tenderly or other mushy stuff.
  • Don't spend time alone together unless it's for the purpose of getting it on.
  • Don't buy any presents for your partner or accept any from him/her, especially if it's something romantic in nature like flowers or chocolates.
  • Avoid spending holidays together that may have romantic expectations, such as Valentine's Day.
  • Talk about your other love interests openly, just as you would with any other friend. (Of course this doesn't mean filling up all your time together with inane babble about other people, since that's annoying and disrespectful of another's time, but you should be able to talk about this in a normal way, no differently than how you would with a non-FOB friend. If you feel guilty doing this, then guess what? You're probably more than friends.)

If they get too close, create some distance--though not necessarily like this.
If they get too close, create some distance--though not necessarily like this.

So if you go for it...

Understand that if you choose to pursue such a relationship, your friendship may be altered beyond repair at some point, because there's a high chance feelings may somehow get involved. If you are fine with risking it, especially if you wouldn't be too devastated losing the person's friendship, then it may be worth your while to pursue something that could please the both of you on a casual basis.


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