Can Friends Survive Friends w/Benefits?

Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis in "Friends with Benefits"

Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis in “Friends with Benefits”

Sometimes friendships between women and men turn into “friends with benefits.”

Not surprising, really.

Friendships between men and women often start when one of the two – usually the guy – is hoping for sex.

Or sex is wanted without the baggage that relationships can bring, and FWB seems more inviting than hookups with strangers — especially for girls who want to avoid being called sluts.

Still, many fret that if things don’t work out, FWB could bring the loss of their friend. To keep things platonic, many avoid discussing the relationship, and make sure to bring up romances with others. And no flirting.

Still, the line is crossed at some point in the lives of about 60% of college students. What happens next? 

80%-90% of the time FWB sex doesn’t grow into romance. Maybe the sex wasn’t as great as hoped. Or it worked at first and then faded. Or only one person fell in love. Or one person fell in love with someone else.

So what happens when the sex stops? Does the friendship end, too?

Turns out, as often as not, the couple feels even closer than they had before. That’s what a University of Louisville, Kentucky study found. About 80% of ex-FWBs kept the friendship even without the benefit.

Friendships after Friends with Benefits

Friendships after Friends with Benefits

As Zhana Vrangalova at Psychology Today points out,

However they end, it seems that once the erotic aspect has been exhausted, many don’t find it particularly hard to return to being just friends. The shared history, the emotional intimacy, the mutual liking are all still there.

Where friends are lost, there typically wasn’t a real friendship to start. The FWB was more sex-based. And one partner often felt deceived.

So if you were actually friends before, you’re likely to be friends after. And maybe even closer.

From Psychology Today.

Related Posts on BroadBlogs
Friendly = Slutty?
Girls Get Friend-Zoned, Too
Can Men and Women be Friends?

About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on April 7, 2014, in men, psychology, relationships, sex and sexuality, women and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 44 Comments.

  1. I don’t think FWB relationships really work out. As much as I wouldn’t like to admit it when you have sex with someone something changes; at least that’s true for me. I think having a FWB relationship with someone who you don’t have any feelings for can be awkward. It’s just that you don’t view them under that light so it’s even hard to imagine kissing them let alone doing them. Perhaps that’s just me. I think when you’re in a FWB relationship it’s hard not to think about the possibility of being with them if it’s involved the cuddlings and the caressing. Those intimate moments creates an emotional connection and it’s hard to separate that emotional connections from a pure friend relationships.

  2. notrudeandginger

    This article was refreshing read. You always see in the movies or hear the clichés of how either friends with benefits fall madly in love or one or both end up terribly hurt. I have met men who think this in real life think if they hook up with a girl the girl will fall madly in love with them. I have had to reassure guys. When Ive had FWB it was usually someone I thought was attractive and got along with but not the kind of guy I would date so it worked out fine. I think its great that such a large percent stay friends and become even closer. I would imagine this works best when both people are honest and adults.

  3. I haven’t had a lot of FwB but I thought that the majority of cases would end badly. I would think that one of the “friends” would get attached and/or develop stronger feelings. I think it would be easy to slide into wanting more. Also i think that after one of the friends gets into a relationship with someone else, it can stir up jealousy seeing that person move on. I was surprised to read that most of the people were able to pull it off. Maybe this surveys sample size wasn’t large enough to represent what everyone is feeling. But I also think that the two people going into FwB zone are aware of what they are getting into.

  4. I found this information to be very interesting. The chart provided above really did shock me. I’ve always thought the percentage of friends surviving friends with benefits was extremely low. However, I do question that since this is a survey of only about 1,000 college students in Kentucky, should it speak for ALL college students? Nonetheless, although I’m not fond with the idea of being “friends with benefits”, there’s nothing wrong with going back to being just friends afterwards, it really just depends on the person’s maturity level. If you were once close friends with that person, why end a good friendship?

  5. I am a guy and have experiences in both cases. I have had a few friends become friends with benefits and some have gone terribly bad but others have gone very well. The person I consider my best friend today was once a fwb. We were friends for about 5 years and lost contact for a few months and then hooked up a few times. We were both going through separations and it actually worked out well for the both of us. today we are closer friends than we’ve ever been. Despite this, after reading this post I was surprised because even though this fwb situation resulted in a close friendship, many more of my fwbs seem to end terribly. Many fwbs that I observe seem to end badly as well. very interesting post.

  6. This a very interesting topic. I think anytime you cross the “friendship” line and come into the FWB zone, you are prone to either nothing happening, as far as friendship goes, or losing the friendship. Although it looks like studies have shown that most people who have FWB relationships, end up still being friends! I’ve never experienced having a friend with benefits, but I know of people who have and although they don’t lose the friendship, “things are not the same” after the sexual benefits have ended. I wont say having a FWB relationship has never crossed my mind, it just puts that doubt of “how will this relationship end.” It is nice to know that 80-90% of these relationships do not grow into romance according to studies. I personally think it’s safer to stay just friends if you think a FWB relationship will bring more negatives than positives 🙂

  7. Friends w/benefits , I would say it is depends on the situation and people too. By the way, in our country, Burma, we don’t really have that situation at all. All the girls keep their virginity. In the US, most of the girls don’t keep their virginity. I agree that friendships between men and women usually the guy is hoping for sex. I think that happen mostly in college life because they like partying. When they get drunk they might have slept together. Or let’s say a girl just broke up with her BF so a guy was with her to give support. In that situation they both might crush on each other. That’s why I would say it is totally depends on situation and depends on a person mood. After that they could get into some kind of relationship.

  8. I know many people have mixed feelings for having a FWB. Personally, from experience, my FWB and I have known each other since we were young. Unlike a lot of people, our FWB relations made our friendship stronger. We were able to hang out (even if we didn’t hook up) and everything be chill and normal. I am actually lucky because whenever I need someone to talk to or just get away from my friends, I can always go to him and he’ll listen to my problems and vise versa. Not only this, we got each other’s back when we need help. Even when our sexual relations were off limits, we still managed to stay friends.

  9. Christina Falla

    This is a very interesting topic, and its happens almost all the time. I know people who are going through this whole FWB and I myself have gone though this. In my experience I have had a good one and a negative one as well. For the 80% to still stay friends with them is very odd to me, because I felt that those kind of relationships always turn out bad. My last FWB things ended badly for I was the one who was expecting things from him as if he were my boyfriend when he was not. He was one of my best guy friends and there was always attraction there but we dated other people but weren’t happy, So we decided to try FWB and we thought we would love it, but it was the complete opposite. As a woman I wanted the relationship and of course he didn’t want that. As of now him and I have no contact whats so ever and if we even cross paths we act like we don’t know each other and yeah its sad but I left very hurt and wouldn’t want any further contact with him. I truly feel that involving sex somethings hurts friendships so i wouldn’t suggest having a FWB unless you truly stick to your ground and not catch any feelings and keep it strictly FWB.

  10. Michael Bernal

    I feel that FWB happens more often than not, but I don’t think anyone of either 2 is ready for the hypothetical what if this happens, what if that happens. In all honesty people need to get off their sexual needs, have it be something from first base to fireworks. I feel like 2 people would really not have to care of jeopardizing what they already have as a friendship and they would have to somehow find a way to convince themselves to not get emotionally and psychologically attached. As far as guys being referred to as players and girls being called sluts cause of this desire, there should be stereotype what so ever for this desire. Everyone needs that ventilation one way or another and if that’s what they choose, they shouldn’t be judged for it. For some reason, I think that the chart statistics are backward, in other words, from being just as close to no longer friends should be the opposite after the FWB relationship ended. Hmm.

    • People tend to think that everyone is like themselves and their friends. That’s why you need social research. Turns out, not everyone is like you and your friends.

  11. I think friends with benefits are very considerable topic in our lives. Actually, I talked with my friend who had his FWB about his relationship. He said she was a kind of stranger to him when he met and had sex with her. He met her at a club, drank with her, and went back to his house with her to have sex under the influence of alcohol. After that, the relationship continued as FWB for a few months. However, as this article states, only the woman felt in love. When he knew about that, he suddenly stopped to have sex with her because he had a real girlfriend at that time. After that, the relationship between them ended. I reflect that there are opportunities to get FWB in the college life or in our lives. However, as the statistics in the graph shows, people rarely feel the relationships get closer after the relationships ended. Moreover, the friendships can be destroyed by the FWB relationships. Therefore, I consider that it is better not to have a relationship as FWB with friends or even someone.

  12. Those are really interesting materials here. But I don’t really agree on the conclusion just based on my own experience. Even though in the survey, many people agreed on people can still be friends after the whole FWB thing end, some of them even voted “closer”, but I actually have some other sides of opinion on this.
    I had one experience of the “Friends with benefit” thing myself, and it started because we were attracted to each other physically and mentally too, but we couldn’t be together for other reasons. in stead of let it go, I, the girl, actually asked him if he wants to keep this relationship as “FWB”. So we went on with this, but then I guess i felt my feelings for him got stronger and he still wants me as a girlfriend at some point, so I ended this with him just to not fall for him and we could.t really be friends because then we might just start the whole thing all over again.
    My experience may not be the same with everyone or the typical reason to start and to end, but I think once friends with benefits went back to close friends, if the sex is bad, it’s gonna be awkward, if its good, they’d definitely going back there again.

  13. To me it seems that less people are getting in relationships and instead are either talking, hooking up, or being FWB. I think society has a lot to do with this but many people who are still creating their careers may not want to settle down yet to focus on their work. Which is where FWB starts to takes place. I personally would not take FWB for consideration, but I think it affects the people who have done it in different ways. One of my close friends started that way with her boyfriend of 2 years now, so at least with them things turned out well. But they had a normal friendship before as well, so I suppose the results vary depending on the situation.

  14. This article I found very interesting. The evidence backing up how many people were at least just as close if not closer was intriguing to me as normally I have only witnessed, (from generally a 3rd person standpoint), that friend A and friend B end up cutting things off then not really being friends/very close after, or they end up dating each other officially down the road. The reasons for dating would be obvious, a natural attraction towards the other, the bond of being friends prior and during a FWB stage, and the intimacy of being sexually active with the other. The other end of the spectrum, is what I have seen more often than not, they end up dwindling apart from each other after they stop hooking up. The reasons could be that of not having time for each other (a very common excuse for people to become only FWB in the first place), the mutual liking of each other begins to vary (one falls in love, one wants out), or other people come into each ones respective lives.

  15. Being friends after FwB is possible if both find someone to love because if only one finds love( I don’t wish to anyone to be the one who hasn’t found love),the other one for sure will feel either betrayed or may think that finally you just used him or her,forgetting that basically the pleasure was shared..so either he/she will feel really ashamed and fall in love with you even tho you r gone,or she/he will hate you and try to ruin everything with your new love! We call it friends with benefits,but since you see each other’s nudity,which is the 1st state of the body,that relationship is way beyong fwb..!people just lie to themselves,even though there arepeople to whom sex without any love is the best! Anyone needs to be loved..it’s our nature..even killers have someone to love

  16. Hayley Epstein

    I found this article very interesting. Particularly due to the fact that I have always thought that being friends with benefits would hurt a friendship, rather than strengthen it. However, this article got me thinking about why it is that I have always felt the way I do about this. I think it is, in part, due to movies and the way that FWB are often portrayed, turning into love or ruining a friendship. In addition, I always felt otherwise because I feel as though often times when two people are friends and interested in having sex with the other one, chances are one of the two has or will develop feelings for their friend. When I read this article, I thought about examples when friends have done this sort of thing. What I realized is that, most of the time, if a friend had strong feelings for their friend, the friend knew. So, lets say a guy has a crush on his friend that is a girl. That girl would likely know this, and be less inclined to want to have sex with him because she would not want to hurt him. In cases where neither had feelings, and one developed feelings, I think that there is a sort of mental block which comes along when there is an agreement between two people that they will not get too intimate. Due to the set boundaries, I think it is harder to develop really strong feelings, and if those feelings were to develop; that person could just end it right then and there. I realize now that there are many reasons why a friendship would not be ruined. Regardless of this, I am still a little bit surprised that it was not more common that a friendship was ruined after being friends with benefits.

  17. In todays day and age, especially in college, friends with benefits seems to be more common than real relationships. In college many kids are lost and alone and are often looking for friends and sexual benefits at the same time. In college, you never know when you meet someone whether or not they will be attracted to you or vice versa but over time friendship creates a new connection, possibly leading to unintentional attraction (or not). Friends, often bored and curious give into their sexual instincts and explore one another. Because sex isn’t seen as big of a deal nowadays in college, it is often easy for friends to let their feelings go and purely participate for the sexual experience. However, it is not always the case, many of my sisters friends have fooled around with each other and some of them were unable to get over the “strange” experience that occurred with their close friend. Often times is it weird and awkward at first but they seem to be able to get past it all with time. From what I have seen, it is always best to stay friends, however, if friends do give into the FWB then they must be able to control their emotions and accept any differences that may occur afterward.

  18. The concept of Friends with benefits is the trend of the young generation. In my opinion, the idea of a carefree release of sexual tension with a safe partner is better that using a dating website, indeed you never know who is behind the screen, and you can end up having a very bad surprise. In addition, Friends with benefits have many other appeals, there is no commitment except to fun and pleasure . And dating, really ? small-talk, expensive dating, time-consuming trying to figure out what the other person is thinking about how you are dressed, what you say and how you say it !!! waouh that’s too much of a pain and nobody wants to deal with that anymore. And i guess it’s a fair deal for both partners, they both get what they sexually need without entanglements of the heart. I already had such FWB relationship before and it always went well, even after the sex ended I’m still friends with them and nothing about our friendship changed. I know some people would say that when it comes to emotions, someone is likely to become attached and get hurt but I’ve never experienced that and i can only talk for myself and my own experience. So i guess if someone is considering having this type of relationship with a friend, the advice i could give is to make sure both know what they want and if such a relationship is for you.

  19. It’s pretty interesting that the intimacy line is crossed 60% of the time. Friends whom discussed this topic with me have said that their fwb-type relationship ends because of that line being crossed, myself included. I would have thought that something like this would actually be much higher, near the 70% range. What’s more interesting is the 80% of the friendships still stay intact. I wonder if there’s any awkwardness felt between the two parties after the benefit has stopped or did they just continue to be friends as if nothing between them happened.

  20. Pierre.O_FhWS5

    Personally I disagree with the fact that FWB happens most often when the boys are hopping for sex because it had never been criticized for a boy to have sex with any of his friends when they have a mutual sexual attraction . In an other hand, girls tend more to hide behind make up concepts such as FWB to avoid being called sluts or other degrading words. In fact, I believe that this concept was created for girls who want to enjoy or experience their sexuality without having to deal with prejudices.Other than that, FWB is a relationship, people sought to create rules so that they can avoid building strong feelings but the truth is in my opinion when you have sex with someone, you actually develop feelings they might be not that strong but you have to feel at least something, it doesn’t have to be love but you still have to feel something strong enough to be able to have sex many times with the same person. In this FWB’s journey, the one crossing the line first which his most of the time boys are now trapped in a drama episode because the security is not there at this point the girls mostly will feel insecure and will assume that the words about what happened will spread out which is not the case but that’s the spiral of drama that will begin and end up with a dramatic end of a great friendship..

    • Well you can disagree, But statistics show that most male-female friendships begin because of an underlying sexual attraction on the part of one of the partners– Usually the guy.

      And while FWB can help girls avoid the label, “Slut” it’s more than just hiding behind the label FWB. She is doing something real by having sex with one guy instead of A bunch of guys she doesn’t know.

      But thanks for your perspective. Interesting.

  21. Friends with Benefits is definitely a big topic in college life. It can make or break friendships or even become the seed to a marvelous relationship. Nonetheless like the post points out many of the intimacies do not blossom into serious or mildly serious relationships. They either die out or create a better friendship. This is where I had a few curiosities, such as: How long did these friendships last? and Is FWB just considered FWB or just college dating? Because lets be honest we do not have much time in college for a social life. Plus the people that we surround ourselves with (friends) are people that we were attracted to more or less by some type of criteria, whether it be sexual or another means of human attraction. We are more comfortable with our friends than complete strangers so it would be more ideal to have sex with them versus a complete stranger. Not to mention the people that were studied in this had a median age of 19 and are possibly not a very good judge of the people they want to sleep with. Plus no one really wants to get their feelings hurt, so FWB could definitely be skewed to be dating with training wheels. To be honest, I do not feel that being FWB is worth risking a friendship because I would rather keep a true friend around verse playing around and possibly cutting of a lifelong friendship with sex. NO matter how great it could or could not be.

    • While the study showed that typically FWBs stay friends, you may be wise to not try it. After all, A couple of women have written in saying that their friendships ended when the FWB did.

      The research didn’t say anything on how long the friendships lasted. I have the sense that they had been friends for A while though. FWB is different from College dating. But College dating hardly ever happens it these days. But maybe you are just redefining the term, then.

  22. noellekeshmiri@gmail.com

    FWB? Yes a lot of friendships between a man and women end up hooking up! If sex stops does the relationship end? Well there could be many reasons the women could end up likeing the man more then he does , or he could really just think of her as a friend he’s attracted to that he wants to go to bed with!{MOST MEN} !! It really depends how strong your friendship was also in the beginning! Plus women have this sense of more attachment once slept with no clue why its just in our blood , even if you don’t think it is is SORRY! And men can TAP TAP TAP and not get as attached as us ladies ….. so many more reasons is sex stops does the relationship end !! :}

  23. In INDIA, such kind of situation would be found less. If asked me, Its either the friendship or the relationship. Nice post!

  24. This is a really interesting topic to me. I have been friends with benefits with a few of my friends and it actually has always ended badly. Almost every single time I have been unable to remain friends with them. I find it very interesting that in this statistic it says that 80% of FWB keep the friendship. Because from my experience, one of the two usually gets more attached than the other, and if things don’t stay equal between the two, meaning one is hooking up with other people while the other is not, there is great room for hurt feelings. From my experience, I’ve learned that the basis of a good FWB dynamic is to make sure both are always on the same page and very open and honest with how they are feeling, so that if one begins to feel more for the other, or vise versa, they are not blindsided when something goes wrong.

  25. Great topic to discuss! One of my friends had a FWB for a while and then they started dating properly. They’ve been together for over a year now! Not saying it always turns out like that though lol interesting read 🙂 x

  26. I think friends w/ b can be complicated- more power to the people who can navigate this and keep a relationship intact. I have never had that particular outcome-then again, f w/ b isn’t my style generally so probably why.

  27. Note to self: have sex with all my friends 😉

  28. As you know, I have been FwB with my lover for 7 of the 8 years we’ve known each other. It currently stands that the only reason we’d stop being FwB if one of us moved away, or he found someone he truly wanted to date. I think we would definitely continue to be just friends, unless the other hypothetical woman refuses to let him (which would be a sucky thing to do).

  29. This is very interesting

  30. I think this one doesn’t surprise me too much, if you enjoy someone’s company as a friend you don’t enjoy it less because you sleep together. I think it’s probably true like you said how when friends are lost they probably weren’t friends in the first place.

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