Highlights reel (TL;DR)
- How to ask someone to be friends with benefits? Be honest and vulnerable about your feelings.
- Friends-with-benefits (FWB) can be an empowering arrangement to meet your needs and express yourself sexually.
- Take a cue from the non-monogamy community and create clear relationship agreements.
It’s no surprise that there are a lot of questions about what to expect from a friends-with-benefits (FWB) relationship. If you’ve never been in this type of relationship before, you might wonder how to ask someone to be friends with benefits.
You’re not alone in your confusion. There’s no clear-cut definition of a FWB relationship.
Let’s get into it.
What does it mean to be a friend with benefits?
Friends-with-benefits (FWB) is a term that describes something between a casual hookup and a committed relationship. People sometimes use the phrases “friends-with-benefits,” “no strings attached,” and “fuck buddies” to mean the same thing.
While you probably hear the expression “friends-with-benefits” a lot, it’s pretty vague. When is someone a friend and not an acquaintance? What are these so-called benefits?
That said, you probably have a mental picture of what it means to be in a FWB relationship based on what you’ve seen in pop culture. When I think of the term, I’m pulled back to the early 2010s when f-buddy romances were all the rage.
We often use the word “platonic” to refer to friendship, a relationship that’s intimate but not sexual. What does it mean to separate our friends from our sexual partners? Is this heteronormative nonsense? Like how straight women often use the term “girl crush” to talk about a desirable woman, as if these feelings have to be distinguished from so-called “real” crushes on a man.
When discussing FWB, are we just talking about casual sex that isn’t a one-night stand with a stranger?
Read on to get the low-down.
How to ask someone to be friends with benefits
Because friends-with-benefits is a blurry term, it can be beneficial to assess what you truly want from a FWB arrangement and take time to talk about it with your f-buddy.
When done with self-awareness and honesty, a FWB relationship can work incredibly well. It can be an empowering way to meet your needs when you’re not necessarily looking for a committed emotional connection. One of the biggest benefits of FWB is that you can practice being direct with your wants and needs.
So how do you go ahead and initiate a FWB arrangement? Be direct. Knowing what you want and asking for it is sexy. Use “I-statements,” meaning speak from your perspective.
Feel free to use this as a template: “I’ve been feeling ___, I have the capacity for ___, I’m wondering if you ____?”
Here’s an example: I’ve been feeling attracted to you. I have the capacity for a casual sexual relationship, and I’m wondering if you would be interested.
If reading that made your palms sweaty, you’re not alone. It can be challenging to be vulnerable and put yourself out there to ask for what you want. The good news is that vulnerability is often at the core of most things worth trying.
How do you establish friends-with-benefits rules?
A trap I sometimes see people fall into is assuming that a friends-with-benefits arrangement is easier than a committed relationship. It’s important to remember that it can be hard for many people to separate emotional and sexual intimacy. Making a FWB arrangement work requires the self-awareness and maturity to share your needs and to set boundaries.
It can also be difficult to deviate from a social norm for relationships with implied rules and expectations. There’s no default expectation around how often to call and see each other or what boundaries to set. This means you have to create your own or risk being disappointed by mismatched expectations.
Take a cue from non-monogamist folks
As a sex and relationship therapist, I work with various clients. Some are single, some are in relationships, some identify as monogamous, and others as non-monogamous.
I encourage people in all relationship dynamics to clearly discuss their arrangement together. Whether you identify as monogamous or non-monogamous, we can learn a lot from the non-monogamous community on how to effectively approach FWB arrangements.
Many people who practice non-monogamy create explicit relationship agreements together. Agreements can include things like:
- how often to text or call
- whether you have sleepovers
- whether you cuddle after sex
- how to respond if someone “catches feelings” or wants something more
The final word
Ultimately, a friends-with-benefits relationship is about pleasure, connection, and fun.
Taking the time to get clear on your desires, communicate, and listen to your f-buddy will help lay the foundation for a satisfying and respectful relationship.
When done with intention and awareness, FWB can be a wonderful way to learn more about yourself as a sexual person in a safe and supportive environment.
Erin Davidson, MA, RCC, CST
Erin Davidson (she/her) is a Registered Clinical Counsellor and Certified Sex Therapist working in private practice in Vancouver, British Columbia. She is a firm believer in the healing power of pleasure and being kinder to ourselves. Erin is the author of two books Break Through the Breakup and Thriving in Non-Monogamy. She is most proud of her new fluffball Marv who recently graduated top of his class in puppy preschool.