Sex & Relationships

Are There Any Real Benefits to 'Friends with Benefits'?

Having 'friends with benefits' can be fun. But it can also destroy friendships and stand in the way of real relationships.
Not long ago, I met a guy that reminded me of that sexy NPR storyteller Ira Glass. Instantly, I fell in nerd-love with this doppelganger. After dating for a while, though, we realized we had only one thing in common: sex. So we decided to be friends with benefits. According to a Michigan State University study, sixty-percent of college co-eds have been involved in an FWB relationship, and plenty of my thirty-something girlfriends were doing it to stay satisfied, so I figured I'd give the laid back, no-romantic-attachments approach to getting laid a whirl. A year later, faux-Ira and I still hang out and hump. After our most recent rendezvous last weekend, I began to wonder what I'm doing. What are the real benefits to friends with benefits? Sure, now I have an in-case-of-sexual-emergency-hit-Glass-lookalike. At the same time, I've started to realize my situation is causing me to question the meaning of friendship, challenging my chances at romances, and wobbling my emotional stability.

When Friend Is a Four Letter Word

Ironically, booty-call buddies devalue the closeness of camaraderie while raising the stakes on romance. The cornerstone of friendship is open communication, and becoming a friend with benefits actually shuts down those open lines. Let's face it, if the only thing you're doing together is having sex, it isn't the same thing as sharing who you are. According to "Friends With Benefits, And Stress Too," casual sex actually adds anxiety to a budding connection. Sometimes, an FWB is really a way of avoiding a real relationship. I know I retreated to friends with benefits status before I even had a chance to get rejected in the boyfriend battle. Over-analyzing every little detail of a relationship under the guise of girl talk is bad, but acting like you don't care about having a relationship at all isn't much better.

Whatever Happened to Wining and Dining?

These days, dating has gotten as casual as sex. We've replaced courtship with text messaging and online social networking. Consequently, our relationships are as disposable as our technology. With an FWB, there's not much wooing or chasing. And romance? Forget about it. Wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am isn't a relationship. A relationship is honest-to-goodness, face-to-face commitment. Isn't the slow seduction part the most exciting part of a relationship? Friends with benefits jump to conclusions -- the conclusion of the possibility of a real relationship, in most cases. One-night-stands are one thing, but if you're a repeat FWB offender, let's call a spade a spade. You're dating, but by any relationship standards, those are pretty superficial relationships you're having.

Riding the Highs and Lows

Being addicted to FWBs isn't just socially confusing. Mother Nature's messing with your head, too. Biologically speaking, sex is a drug. Or at least it feels that way for women, thanks to oxytocin, the hormonal transmitter that makes you feel happy, relaxed, and bonded to your partner after sex. In an FWB, your mind may be telling you no about a guy, but your body may be telling you yes. It's confusing. Men don't get this bonding hormone in the same dosage, or, in some cases, at all. Oftentimes, as much as we women tell ourselves we're not attached to these dudes we do, the fact of the matter is that it's not something we can totally control. Part of how you feel about him is a side effect of sex. If you're not careful, casual sex can actually cause depression.

Why do we keep falling into the friends with benefits trap? Ten-percent of the time, an FWB turns into more, but in the meantime all we're getting is less. Why do we settle for coach when we could go first-class?