Here are 20 tips to make friends with benefits work

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Unconventional relationships are becoming increasingly popular. Many people are looking for more freedom than that offered by the once obligatory, monogamous, ’til-death-do-us-part relationship. More freedom, however, doesn’t necessarily mean fewer complications. Watch out for common mistakes and make an effort to prepare before jumping into this new adventure. Here are 20 tips for making the most of having a friend with benefits.

Define your type of relationship

Defining your expectations and boundaries is extremely important. A friendship with benefits may mean something different for each person. For some, it’s all about the physical relationship. Others, however, may be looking for affection, conversation, and going out. Discussing such issues at the start will help you clearly inform your partner of the type of relationship you’re looking for.

Choose your partner wisely

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You may be tempted to choose your partner based solely on physical attraction, and in an intimate relationship, this criterion is certainly important. Friendship with benefits, however, involves some delicate issues, so it’s best to choose someone with whom you feel comfortable and can communicate well. Avoid choosing a partner with whom you wouldn’t want to engage in a bit of pillow talk. That could end up being unpleasant for everyone.

Don’t choose your ex!

Just don’t do it. Yes, you already know this person and your sexual compatibility very well. It won’t be easy, though, for either one of you to put any potentially lingering feelings aside, and this may result in a rather uncomfortable predicament. A study conducted in April 2019 by American psychologists Stephanie S. Spielmann, Samantha Joel, and Emily A. Impett showed that feelings of attachment are difficult to avoid when pursuing a sexual relationship with an old flame. Remember, there’s a reason why this person is your ex.

Don’t choose someone who is in a relationship

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In addition to being ethically dubious, having sex with someone who is already in a relationship only adds an additional layer of potential complications, unless, of course, you’re dealing with an open or polyamorous couple. In that case, it’s up to you to decide if you’re willing to embark on that kind of adventure.

Clearly verbalize your expectations from the start

While there’s no need for a notarized contract in triplicate, clearly spelling out your expectations of the relationship at the start is vital. New York City sex therapist Holly Richmond emphasizes the role that discussing your emotions plays in establishing a successful relationship. Too often, couples don’t want to risk killing the magic or getting bogged down in long discussions, so they just let things take their course. Unfortunately, this is the perfect recipe for misunderstandings and disappointment.

Make sure you’re on the same wavelength

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Once you’ve expressed your wants and expectations, make sure you’ve been thoroughly understood. Ask your partner explicitly if you expressed yourself clearly and if your vision of the relationship corresponds to their needs and desires. Some people may be tempted to accept conditions that they don’t really want out of fear of being judged or losing the friendship. Listening to each other, verbally and physically, is crucial, as is emphasizing that you want your partner to be happy with the situation.

Establish firm rules

Once again, friends with benefits don’t need a legal charter, but clearly defining unacceptable behaviour will help prevent disagreements later. For example, is spending the night allowed? Are you open to going out and doing other things together? Are certain activities off limits? Of course, you can always revisit these rules as needed.

Be honest

If you’ve established clear boundaries and everyone is in agreement, there’s no reason to lie. Each of you can determine the degree to which you are comfortable involving yourself in the other person’s private life, namely in regard to other sexual partners and dating. This will help you avoid having to lie about your personal life or hurt your partner’s feelings by over-sharing.

Always be respectful

You may be inclined to distance yourself or be less present when your partner is speaking because your relationship is not romantic. Never lose sight of the fact that your connection is based on friendship and, therefore, rooted in mutual respect. No one wants to feel used, no matter what type of relationship they’re in.

Don’t be afraid of some affection

While seduction may be part of your agreement, the idea of being too loving with your partner may be frightening. You may be worried about becoming attached or sending a mixed message, but if you’ve clearly established your intentions from the start, you shouldn’t miss out on the chance to experience some intimacy. After all, hugs have been proven to be good for your health. Go for it!

Respect each other’s limits

Your relationship may have no strings or mutual obligations, but respecting your partner’s emotional boundaries is essential. Breaking your commitments is a breach of trust and risks compromising your relationship and even ending your friendship.

Re-evaluate your expectations

Human emotions shift and adapt. As the relationship evolves, your or your partner’s wants and expectations may change. Be sure to take time to discuss where you are. Try checking in once in a while, express yourself clearly, and ensure mutual understanding.

Don’t be ashamed of your relationship

You are free to decide whether or not to inform your friends about your intimate relationship. A secret relationship could even be a bit sexy. The reason for secrecy, however, should be clear to both parties. If one of you suspects that shame may be involved, your relationship will be frustrating and unhealthy. It’s vital that neither of you is ashamed of your choice of sexual partners.

Manage your jealousy

Ah, infamous jealousy! Even if you don’t develop amorous feelings, possessiveness may still become an issue. If you start to feel jealous of your partner, try talking about it calmly. Jealousy is a normal emotion that can be discussed openly. Avoid blaming other people. Work on yourself, instead, for the good of everyone involved.

Prioritize sexual health

It can’t be said too many times: protecting yourself is fundamental. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that over one million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are diagnosed each day across the globe and recommends the use of condoms to prevent their spread. Respecting yourself and others, including future sexual partners, demands that you take time to choose a method of protection that suits you both. Getting screened at least twice a year is also recommended when you have multiple partners, even with protection. Don’t forget that no method of protection is 100% effective. You should also discuss methods of contraception to avoid finding yourself in a difficult situation.

Communication, communication, communication!

Don’t be afraid to express yourself and discuss your situation as often as necessary. A conversation doesn’t have to be work. It may even reveal pleasant and surprising discoveries that can bring you closer. We often hesitate to talk about our feelings out of fear of judgment or due to a sense of pride. Ignoring a problem never produces positive results. Develop a connection built on trust and establish a space in which each person can freely express their worries or discomfort.

End it in a healthy way

You may need to end your relationship. Perhaps one of you enters a serious monogamous relationship, your relationship becomes problematic, or you simply stop finding pleasure in being together. While you may not be a couple, ending the relationship as harmoniously as possible is important. This may be difficult for one or both of you, but take responsibility for bringing it to an unambiguous and respectful conclusion.

Accept that it’s over

Your split may not be consensual. While you may not like it, you should respect the other person’s decision. Everyone has a right to make choices concerning their private life, and you get nothing out of clinging to someone who isn’t happy in your relationship. You’re sure to have difficulty getting through this period, but you’ll come out of it much happier in the end.

Is it possible to stay friends afterwards? (Yes!)

Rumour has it that friendships with benefits end horribly. That simply isn’t true. Of course, like any other type of relationship, there are certain risks to consider, but remaining friends when sex is no longer involved is entirely possible. You may need a period of transition and should allow yourself this time. If you’ve followed all the rules on this list, you’re likely to come through it unscathed.

Have fun!

A relationship based primarily on sex is sure to be a source of pleasure. So don’t fret about it too much, and don’t be overly timid. Give yourself permission to freely enjoy wonderful experiences without regret. Who knows, friendship with benefits may be your key to happiness.

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