Expert Insights

How to Be Friends with Benefits: Laying the Ground Rules

Highlight reel (TL;DR)

  • Being friends with benefits (FWB) with someone can be an empowering way to meet your needs and express yourself sexually.
  • When initiating this type of arrangement, be honest and vulnerable about your feelings.
  • Take a cue from the non-monogamy community and create clear relationship agreements.

What does it mean to be friends 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. 

The expression “friends with benefits” is pretty vague, though. When is someone a friend and not an acquaintance? What are these so-called benefits?

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

But what does it mean to separate our friends from our sexual partners? Are we just talking about casual sex that isn’t a one-night stand with a stranger?

It’s no surprise that there are a lot of questions about what to expect from this type of relationship. You may wonder, how do you start a friends with benefits arrangement? Can you go on dates with your f-buddy? Or, what happens if you fall in love?

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 helpful to assess what you truly want from a FWB arrangement and take time to talk about it with your f-buddy. 

A FWB relationship can work incredibly well if you approach it with self-awareness and honesty. It can be an empowering way to meet your needs when you’re not necessarily looking for a committed emotional connection. 

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 you should speak from your perspective. 

Feel free to use the following as a template: 

  • I’ve been feeling ___ 
  • I have the capacity for ___ 
  • I’m wondering if you ____?

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 the above sentence made your palms sweaty, you’re not alone. It can be challenging to be vulnerable and 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?

People often assume a friends with benefits arrangement is easier than a committed relationship. But it can be hard for many people to separate emotional and sexual intimacy. Successful FWB arrangements require the self-awareness and maturity to share your needs and to set boundaries. 

There’s also no default expectation of how often to call and see each other or what boundaries to set. 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
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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.