Friends With Benefits: What do Experienced Individuals and Studies Conclude?

As the hot duo in Friends with Benefits, Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis, were twirling it up all intensely on our tv screens, much light has been brought up to the notion of FWBRs (friends with benefits relationships).

Sailing was smooth amongst JT and Mila  until the semi-end of the movie and complexity stirs up: the two both have developed strong emotional feelings. They conflict with trying to maintain their former no strings attached sex relationship and fighting off those deep emotions that are overtaking them.

So…the question is: Do FWBRs really work? What do experienced individuals and studies conclude about this casual relationship? What’s the one thing that’s vital to sustaining a healthy FWBR?

FWBRs are vaguely defined sexual relationships between two friends who are not emotionally intimate nor committed to one another. It’s defined as the exes who still sleep together occasionally, to the close friends who engage in some playful sex, to the pair who are barely friends and merely sex one another up. Social scientists aren’t too familiar with FWBRs and how they’re formed, maintained and cut off; these relationships are difficult to observe and study as the definition is so blurred. However, a few researchers were driven enough to conduct studies and have concluded the following results:

FWBRs is highly common: half of the college student population currently or previously have engaged in a FWBRs and a survey found that 47% of single people have had a FWBRs in the past.

I’m not anti-FWBRs. If two people can be completely honest with each other and are well-aware of the relationship boundaries, then all the power to them. But I will say that this form of friendship is incredibly difficult to sustain.

Sex is such an extremely intimate activity between two individuals. You’re allowing yourself to be seen in your most vulnerable state, both physical and emotionally. For that matter, there has to be some level of trust and comfort-both emotional feelings.

The most common reason why friends with benefits doesn’t work out is because of a lack of communication. Can we hang out and grab lunch? Can I sleepover? Should we cuddle afterward? Can we talk about our daily lives? Or is it just that we sex it up, then quickly leave without any form of dialogue exchanged? (Numerous of my friends have engaged in FWBRs and have/had the same concerns).

Kendra Knight, a communications professor of DePaul University, interviewed 25 students with FWBRs at a large university in America. This study was qualitative (description based)-she wasn’t trying to conduct much statistical/quantitative data but rather, get insight into these students’ experiences. She noticed a pattern of these relationships failing and she was determined to conclude why. Her study concluded that both parties have agreed that communication is vital but, yet again, there was never an open line of communication developed.

Her interview revealed four main reasons:

  • Having a conversation about laying the boundaries for their FWBs defeats the purpose of the relationship in the first place. Doing so “constitutes effort or relational work that is expected to be absent from FWBs.” Aka isn’t this suppose to be an all play, no work type of relationship?
  • These students were afraid of seeming clingy and insecure if they opened up a conversation about their FWBRs. One interviewee said she wanted to “kind of protect myself, [so] that if it did really go wrong then at least no one could say anything more than ‘oh they’re just not hooking up anymore.”
  • Talking about it shows our emotions…and we’re not suppose to come off as emtoinal in a FWBR, right? Many subjects reported experiencing jealously “when their FWB partner was talking, flirting or interacting with other partners.” No talk was brought up as they weren’t sure they were allowed to feel jealous, anyway.
  • When one partner wants to talk, the other commonly doesn’t welcome it. A lot of students said when they tried to speak up, the other partner shut them down due to not wanting things to get complex.

All in all, communication is key in a friends with benefits situation. Both of you need to inform each other what is and isn’t acceptable.. FWBRs can go smooth sailing if both parties are on the same page.

Have you ever been in a FWBRs or know anyone who is currently in one? What’s your take?



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