A complex relationship that has become commonplace in today’s society is the “friends with benefits” (FWB) relationship, where two friends engage in casual sexual activity without the formal commitment typical of a romantic relationship. The most popular blog we’ve written is how to avoid FWB problems by following 12 Rules for Friends With Benefits (FWB). That doesn’t mean we think it is a good idea because a study that followed several hundred FWB relationships concluded that the majority of people were not happy two years later. Did they feel like their time was wasted? Probably so and here’s what they learned
Lessons Learned: The Hidden Cost of Friends with Benefits
The study’s findings underscore a crucial point: the human heart and mind cannot be neatly compartmentalized. The division of sex from emotional intimacy is a challenging, often unsuccessful undertaking. The implicit emotional investment in FWB relationships often surpasses the expected boundaries, leading to emotional upheaval.
While the ‘benefits’ of this relationship format might seem alluring, they often come with hidden emotional costs and potential time wastage. The emotional drain and time spent on navigating these relationships can potentially be channeled into building meaningful relationships or individual personal growth. The perceived ‘freedom’ in FWB relationships can quickly turn into an emotional roller coaster that consumes more time and energy than anticipated.
Before embarking on an FWB Journey, consider these 5 factors:
1. Are You Ready for the Emotional Complications?
Despite the casual nature of FWB relationships, humans naturally tend to form emotional bonds when consistently intimate with someone. These bonds can cause emotional distress, as one or both individuals may start developing feelings that aren’t reciprocated. People often spent more time managing the complications than enjoying the relationship.
2. Is Only One of You Hoping for More?
A significant percentage of people in FWB relationships really want more, even though they understand that it goes against the concept of what they agreed to. If one person is investing time and emotional energy in the hope that it might become a long-term, committed relationship, they are likely wasting their time, as these relationships rarely evolve in that way.
3. Are You Okay with Damaging Your Friendship?
There is a risk that the friendship underlying the FWB relationship can be negatively affected or even completely ruined due to the complications that often arise. If this happens, the time spent building and maintaining that friendship could be seen as wasted.
4. How Lengthy of a Distraction Can You Afford to Take?
Being in an FWB relationship can create a distraction from seeking and building a committed relationship. Time spent in an FWB relationship may be perceived as a waste if it delays or impedes the opportunity to form a more meaningful romantic relationship. Did you miss the perfect person while you were just messing around?
5. Do You Have The Emotional Energy To Ride it Out?
FWB relationships often require a lot of emotional energy to maintain, especially when trying to manage jealousy and prevent emotional attachment. This energy may be seen as wasted, as it could be invested into more emotionally satisfying, stable relationships that develop into a long term great thing for you!
A Summary of the Study
The study was called “A longitudinal examination of Friends with Benefits Relationships”, you have to pay to read it but you can see the questionnaire and results spreadsheet here.
This 2 year study of 191 people found that individuals involved in FWB relationships experience increased levels of emotional stress and confusion. While the relationships usually start with clear mutual agreements and rules, these boundaries often become blurred over time, leading to misunderstandings and emotional turmoil. Participants reported feelings of jealousy, anxiety, and uncertainty about the status and future of their relationship.
Furthermore, the study revealed that a significant portion of time spent in an FWB relationship is used navigating these emotional complexities rather than enjoying the benefits of the arrangement. The ongoing adjustments, silent renegotiations, and emotional management involved often constitute an emotional drain and a colossal waste of time.
Another fascinating finding was that these relationships seldom evolve into committed partnerships. This debunks the popular belief that FWB relationships might be stepping stones to serious romantic partnerships. Individuals who invest their time in FWB relationships in hopes of it transitioning into a more committed relationship often end up disappointed, leading to further emotional stress and a perceived waste of time.
What are the Benefits of a Real Committed Relationship?
Consider these points which could make a committed relationship potentially more rewarding and satisfying than a FWB situation:
Emotional Depth and Intimacy:
Committed relationships offer emotional depth and intimacy that FWB arrangements often lack. Partners in a committed relationship typically share their feelings, hopes, fears, and dreams, fostering deep emotional connections. These emotional bonds can lead to a profound sense of understanding, love, and fulfillment.
Stability and Security:
A significant advantage of committed relationships is the sense of stability and security they provide. Partners can rely on each other for emotional support, companionship, and help in times of need. This stability is often missing in FWB relationships, which are typically less reliable and more volatile.
Real relationships often facilitate personal growth, as partners challenge each other, offer feedback, and encourage each other’s personal and professional development. The more casual nature of FWB relationships usually doesn’t provide the same opportunities for personal growth.
Committed relationships often involve shared experiences that go beyond physical intimacy, including travel, shared hobbies, and life milestones. These experiences can strengthen bonds and create a shared history, deepening the connection between partners.
In a committed relationship, partners can make future plans together, including career decisions, financial planning, or family expansion. This forward-thinking approach is rarely a part of FWB relationships, which are more focused on the present.
Lastly, committed relationships are typically recognized and supported by society, friends, and family, leading to a sense of belonging and shared community. FWB relationships, due to their casual and often private nature, don’t usually offer this level of social validation and support.
Relationship Help in the Denver Area
FWB relationships may suit some individuals at certain times of their lives, but committed relationships offer a depth of emotional connection, stability, personal growth, and social recognition that FWB relationships don’t have. It’s important to remember that different types of relationships serve different purposes and needs, and what’s ‘better’ can depend on personal circumstances, values, and goals.
If you are experiencing relationship issues, we invite you to call us at 720-551-4553 for a free 20-minute phone consultation with a therapy specialist or click here to learn more about our Counseling Services.
Self Care Impact Counseling envisions a new age of counseling for adolescents, adults, couples & groups that makes a REAL difference with core values of GROWTH | BALANCE | COMPASSION | INNER HARMONY.