Why Friends with Benefits (FWB) is a Waste of Time

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.  This type of relationship is pretty common these days. But a study that looked at a few hundred of these relationships found that most people weren’t happy two years later. Did they feel like they wasted their time? Probably. Here’s what they learned: while FWB relationships can seem fun and simple at first, they often don’t bring long-term satisfaction. The lack of clear expectations and emotional confusion can make it tricky to maintain. In the end, this shows how important it is to talk openly and understand what you’re getting into before starting any kind of relationship.

Lessons Learned: The Hidden Cost of Friends with Benefits

In today’s fast-paced and often emotionally detached society, Friends with Benefits (FWB) relationships have surfaced as a seemingly convenient alternative to traditional romantic commitments. Many enter these arrangements under the belief that they can enjoy the physical benefits of a relationship without the emotional complexities. However, the psychological reality of these relationships often paints a different picture.

In Relationship Counseling sessions, We’ve witnessed firsthand how FWB relationships, while appearing simple, can lead to significant emotional entanglements. For example, consider the case of “Anna” and “Mark” (names changed for confidentiality), who decided on an FWB arrangement thinking it would satisfy their need for closeness without the strings of a committed relationship. Initially, their interactions were straightforward and unencumbered. However, as time passed, Mark began to develop deeper feelings, which he confessed during one of our sessions. This unreciprocated emotional investment led to a great deal of distress for both, complicating what was meant to be a simple arrangement.

Another common scenario involved “Beth,” who entered into an FWB relationship under the impression it would be a temporary and fun diversion. However, she found herself spending more time managing feelings of jealousy and confusion than actually enjoying the relationship. During our Relationship Counseling sessions, it became evident that the emotional drain was far outweighing any fleeting benefits she initially perceived.

These anecdotes underscore a crucial lesson about the human heart and mind: they 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 and, ultimately, feelings of time wasted.

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.
Personal Growth: 
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.
Shared Experiences: 
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.
Future Planning: 
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.
Social Recognition: 
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.