Everyone involved in a friends with benefits relationship knows about the risks that come with it – unless you’re careful, someone will catch feelings. But what’s so scary about catching feelings?
The answer, as with any other type of relationship, is the same: what if those feelings aren’t reciprocated?
A friends with benefits situation is more about the benefits than the friendship. How does such a relationship evolve into something else where feelings are clearly involved? It all depends on whether (and how) either person’s expectations of the relationship change.
So what’s the deal when it’s more than friends with benefits but not a relationship? If you’re actual friends who presumably like each other and also have sex, what’s stopping you from developing romantic feelings for each other?
Let’s see what these complicated entanglements are and how to get through them with your heart unbroken.
More Than Friends With Benefits But Not A Relationship?
Is there even such a thing as more than friends with benefits but not a relationship? Sure there is. Some call it a situationship, and that title might be an appropriate description for a situation where everyone is just confused.
Among the many kinds of relationships we can find ourselves in, this might be one of the most complicated. Unless expectations are clear from the beginning, there may be a lot of confusion between everyone involved.
One thing to remember is that any level of involvement beyond the casual nature of an FWB relationship is likely to have something to do with feelings. And when there are feelings, there are hurt feelings.
Here’s a quick overview of the most common kinds of relationships that could cast a light on the one smack in the middle that isn’t quite casual but also isn’t defined. What might you be currently tangled in?
1. Hooking up
Hooking up is the definition of no strings attached. It’s not wrong to also call these relationships one-night stands. Usually, expectations are clear that you’re not interested in anything further than the hook-up.
Don’t assume anything, though, and make sure to always spell it out for the other person if this is what you’re after. Likewise, if you’ve met someone in a bar or on a dating app and you’re about to hook-up, don’t guess their intentions, but make sure you’re on the same page.
Hook-ups are about casual sex and nothing else. They’re usually one-time flings, but it’s not uncommon for people to hook up with each other more than once if an opportunity presents itself. As long as everyone is in agreement about what they want, it’s a great way of relieving sexual tension without complications.
2. Friends with benefits
A friends with benefits relationship is as much about casual sex as hook-ups. The difference is that an FWB is an arrangement and a hook-up is a spur-of-the-moment thing.
Let’s be honest: the phrase ‘friends with benefits’ is a euphemism for a relationship that’s all about sex. Friendship isn’t a factor in it, nor should it be. Getting too friendly with your FWB is a recipe for catching feelings.
To keep things casual, focus on the ‘benefits’ part, or more accurately, the booty calls. The ‘friends’ part of FWB should only imply that you’re somewhat familiar with this person and that there’s a level of respect between you. It shouldn’t mean that you regularly hang out, talk to each other, or are actually good friends.
People love their friends, so if you’re mixing love – no matter how friendly and at the moment platonic – and sex, some sort of romantic feelings are bound to develop. What’s stopping you from falling in love if you’re sexually compatible and care about each other? Unfortunately, it rarely happens on both sides, and going from FWB to dating is very rare.
For this reason, if you’re in an FWB relationship with your actual best friend, you can bet that there are feelings on at least one side. If you don’t want this to happen, don’t hook up with your actual good friends and keep your socialization outside of your FWB dates to a minimum.
Now we come to the ‘more than friends with benefits but not a relationship’ thing, which we could, for now, call a situationship.
This nebulous place where you’re regularly hooking up and also doing some couple things together. You Netflix and chill, but neither of you knows what’s going on because no one wants to utter the words that could potentially ruin all the fun: “What are we?”
The fact is that some people love the casual sex aspect of an FWB relationship, while others simply aren’t made for it. The intimacy of sex easily makes these people crave emotional intimacy, but because they don’t want to disturb the balance, too many things are left unsaid.
So, the advice you hear for casual relationships about how you should be fine if you keep your expectations realistic doesn’t always help. However, the real elephant in the room when talking about undefined relationships isn’t expectations – it’s false hope.
How to get unstuck?
Lots of people enter a no strings attached arrangement when they already have feelings for the other person and hope that things will change for the other person. There’s always the possibility that they will, sure. But the likelihood is far lower than you’d like it to be.
Perhaps a relationship doesn’t start as a friends with benefits thing, but it just happens with no expectations whatsoever. There’s never a conversation about what’s going on, and it just happens that one or both people develop some level of feelings but never talk about it.
These kinds of relationships can go undefined for years, staying in the same place and becoming stale. The only way out is to break up or, you guessed it, communicate. Yes, you’re going to have to have The Talk.
An honest conversation will let you know where you stand, what the both of you intend to do, and if you should even continue the relationship. It might lead to moving on from the relationship or to moving forward with the relationship.
Why you should have the talk
As long as you continue to accept being in the ambiguous and vague ‘relationship,’ you’ll never be free to feel your feelings. When you’re hiding that you feel something for someone you’re in some sort of relationship with because you’re afraid to broach the subject, it’s worse than pining from afar.
This situation makes you feel ashamed to have feelings in the first place and invalidates them. You settle for what is almost an imaginary relationship and take what you can get. It’s not just a sexual relationship, nor is it a real relationship. You’re spending time doing things besides sex, but you’re not allowed to say how you feel.
You’re undrestandably hesitant to talk about it. You might finally move into a real romantic relationship, but there’s always a chance that your conversation will give you the opposite of what you want – confirmation that the other person has no feelings for you and a failed situationship.
It’s still better to know. Do you really want to continue a relationship that is never going to reach the next level? To be with someone you can’t even call your boyfriend or girlfriend? To settle for crumbs of affection and accept it as all you can get?
You deserve better.
If you’ve had the conversation and it resulted in discovering that both of you have feelings and want a more serious relationship than hooking up, followed by worrying if it’s okay to cuddle, the situationship has become a relationship, and now comes dating.
When you start dating after having been in a situationship, things will probably move more quickly towards an even more serious relationship, but some things will have to change. It might take some getting used to before you realize that you’re no longer just friends and that it’s okay to be vulnerable with one another.
Your sex life and your love life are now connected, and you’re finally allowed to feel and express your feelings. It might feel weird to be able to post about your relationship on social media after having to pretend that nothing was happening when you were undefined.
5. Committed relationship
After dating for some time, your partner is falling for you and vice versa, and you’ve developed an emotional connection, you might decide to take things even further and commit to each other.
This is no time to relax, however. This is when the real work actually begins, but strong feelings and willingness to nurture your relationship can result in a happy and healthy long-term relationship.
If things ended up not working out, and you called it quits, you can at least be upset about the failure of your relationship. While things are undefined, you can’t even look back at anything because how did you break up if you were never really together?
How Do You Know When It’s More Than Just Friends With Benefits?
How do you know that your relationship isn’t an FWB arrangement anymore? Deep down, you know. The real question is how to tell if both of you feel something and want more than you have.
There are signs you’re unofficially dating but are afraid of asking the question because you’re afraid of losing this person completely. Or you’re afraid of how things might change if you get the answer you’re hoping for.
An important thing to consider is who is initiating all these changes. If it’s both of you, things are probably developing into a romantic relationship. If it’s one-sided, it’s time to move on.
Maybe, if all the signs are listed in one place, you’ll be able to decide what to do.
1. Are you texting and calling just to get in touch?
Let’s face it, when you’re in a purely sexual relationship, you’re not interested in hearing about their day. It doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be basic courtesy involved, but you’re not going to send someone you’re casually hooking up with a good morning text.
You’re already getting what you want from them, and there’s no need to expand on it. So when you send each other texts just because and talk every day just to hear each other’s voices, it’s a sign that things might be different.
2. Are you spending time together without having sex?
The most obvious sign that things have changed is easy to notice: it’s not just about sex anymore. Friends with benefits meet up, get on with it, and go on their merry ways. If your FWB is hitting you up only to arrange a hookup, then things are the same as they ever were.
If you’re both looking for ways to see each other more often or to hang out, you’re probably trying to get to know each other better and deepen your relationship.
3. Have you met each other’s friends?
Even in relationships that start off with the intent of being romantic, it’s a big deal to introduce someone to your friends. It shows an intent to include them in your life and tells people that there’s something between you, especially if you don’t share mutual friends.
If either or both of you are staying in your lane and never mixing with each other’s friends, it’s clear that you see your relationship as having only one purpose.
4. Do you go on real dates?
If you only spend time together somewhere where you can easily hook up and everything that precedes it is just a prelude to it, it’s still a casual sex relationship.
Dating leads to getting to know each other better through shared experiences and focusing on each other. If you’re not only extending your time together but actually thinking about ways to have a pleasant date together, you’re more than a hook-up.
It’s not important for your FWB to know anything personal about you. Your likes and dislikes only matter when it comes to your sex life. Where you went to school and your sister’s dog’s name have no relevance to the time you spend together.
If they ask questions and want to know the little things about you, it’s natural that you’re wondering whether they have feelings for you. If they’re eager to talk about themselves, too, it means that they not only want to get to know you better but want you to know them too.
6. Are you interested in other people?
When you’re not interested in anyone else, it might mean one of two things: you’re either in a place in your life where you’re fine with an FWB relationship, or you have feelings for your FWB partner.
Do you decline when someone asks you out because you’re just not feeling it? You’ll know things aren’t as casual anymore when a no-strings thing isn’t enough and you want to be in a committed relationship, but you’re not thinking about dating other people.
If this is one-sided, however, heartache is inevitable, so get out as fast as you can, and soon enough, you’ll start to get interested in other people.
7. Do you spend the night at each other’s places?
You have a strictly sexual relationship, so what are you doing waking up next to each other in the morning?
If you’ve been spending your nights together, things are getting complicated. If you’re making it a habit of staying after hooking up, feelings are on the horizon for one or both of you.
If your FWB is asking you to stay, they don’t want things to end and want to spend time with you. If it’s always you who initiates this, pulling back might be a good idea.
8. Do you feel an emotional connection?
If you feel like you can share everything with each other, if you attentively listen when they speak, if you don’t judge each other? If you’re genuinely interested in each other’s lives, if you can have deep conversations? If the ‘friend’ part of ‘friends with benefits‘ is important? You’re feeling an emotional connection.
If you can’t be bothered to answer their questions and they feel cold or closed-off, unwilling to share, and disinterested, then you’re probably already getting everything you want from each other.
9. Do you show each other appreciation?
Your FWB getting you a small gift shouldn’t be a big deal, but it is. It means that they thought about you, decided they wanted to get you a gift, put thought into what you might like, and searched until they found it.
They might have bought you the gift just because they saw it and it reminded them of you, but the point still stands: you were in their thoughts, and they wanted to make you happy. This and other small shows of appreciation – flirting, compliments, paying attention, expressing gratitude – show that you matter to this person.
10. Do you miss each other when you’re apart?
And no, not just the sex. If you miss being together when you’re away, it’s a good sign that your attachment has gone beyond FWB. If it’s mutual – if they’re letting you know they’ve missed you – things might be changing.
It shows that you’re not only enjoying the physical part of your relationship but that you also appreciate each other’s company.
If you’re missing them, and they only think of you when they’re in the mood (or vice versa,) things will soon get messy, and one of you will get hurt.
11. Are you affectionate?
Affection during sex is to be expected, but if it continues outside the bedroom, it definitely shows that things are not as they seem. Kissing, cuddling, and soft touches that serve no ulterior purpose are an expression of feelings rather than desire. If this is happening, your relationship is likely going in a different direction.
If one of you tries to initiate non-sexual affection and the other rejects it, your wishes regarding the relationship are clearly mismatched. End things before it becomes too hard.
12. You just know.
When all is said and done, you know. You’ve seen all the signs – now just allow yourself to listen to your intuition. If you want something more with this person, what is your heart telling you to do? Do you think that if you show your feelings that you’ll get hurt or that you’ll get your love story?
If you’re hesitant, there might be a reason. Don’t let either fear of rejection or wishful thinking sway you – listen to your gut feeling.
Define The Relationship
What’s more than friends with benefits but not a relationship? A place where nothing ever happens and where you’re not allowed to feel. It’s not knowing and wondering. It’s a constant limbo where you’re afraid that if you show your feelings, things might end.
Don’t accept your fate and be someone who only takes what you are given. Ask for what you want, and you might get it. You might lose the little comfort you have, but at least you’ll be free. Until you’re rid of the assumptions and uncertainty, you won’t be able to move on and form a real relationship with anyone.
A situationship can continue for years until it fails and leaves you heartbroken. Establish boundaries before it’s too late.