Sunlit Water

January 19, 2007

Serious Question

Filed under: Sex — by teofilo @ 12:20 am

So if, as people keep telling me, close friendships can provide all the emotional support a person needs, how does a friends-with-benefits situation differ from a relationship?



  1. I don’t actually think a close friendship can provide all the emotional support most people need, but they’re still quite important. But the main difference is that “friends with benefits” is an unstable relationship category (and a bit of a misnomer). It’s essentially just a short-term form of casual dating.

    Comment by Matt F — January 19, 2007 @ 1:19 am |Reply

  2. And I’d say something that doesn’t generally go with close friendship. Someone who you’ve got a friendship you really rely on with, you’d probably either not be having sex with, or you’d be in a relationship with. (Sentence-ending prepositions gone mad!)

    IME, ‘friends with benefits’ denotes a person you know, and are friendly with, but aren’t all that close to, who you’re having sex with in a non-relationship way. And as Matt says, it’s not generally all that stable.

    Comment by LizardBreath — January 19, 2007 @ 9:40 am |Reply

  3. It differs from a relationship in terms of stability as noted above and also, sometimes, in terms of the assumption of exclusivity. Also, it nearly always ends in disaster. (That is not to say I don’t recommend it under the right circumstances.)

    Comment by mrh — January 19, 2007 @ 10:35 am |Reply

  4. I would support the idea that a “friend with benefits” is rarely actually a friend. Most of my relationships look, both to me and to others, like actual friends with benefits, which is a good thing. The only things that means they lack, compared to what I’m led to believe relationships have, is (1) romance, and (2) courtesy/plans around issues of longevity.

    Comment by A White Bear — January 19, 2007 @ 11:22 am |Reply

  5. I would recommend NOT being good friends with someone for years and then one day, somewhat randomly, sleeping with them. The basis of this advice is purely hypothetical.

    Comment by ac — January 19, 2007 @ 11:41 am |Reply

  6. I’ve never heard the term. I can see it being applied descriptively to a relationship of mine, where I was in love and she was not. Thankfully, she grew tired of that and dumped me fairly quickly.

    Comment by idontpay — January 19, 2007 @ 11:42 am |Reply

  7. A Chilean friend once told me they called it “amigos con ventajas,” literally, friends with advantages. I thought this a much more appropriate term, for at least one person tends to be taking advantage of the other in what Matt F aptly describes as an unstable relationship.

    That said, there is, of course, the option to upgrade to full-fledged partners.

    Comment by Stanley — January 19, 2007 @ 1:12 pm |Reply

  8. (“Ventaja” can also mean benefits, but I was amused by the most-direct translation.)

    Comment by Stanley — January 19, 2007 @ 1:22 pm |Reply

  9. Er, “Ventajas” I mean.

    Comment by Stanley — January 19, 2007 @ 1:23 pm |Reply

  10. By “benefits” I assume you mean medical and dental, right? Pension? Let me see you turn a few tricks, and then we’ll work on the benefits package.

    Comment by Snacks So Smoove — January 19, 2007 @ 2:14 pm |Reply

  11. If you aren’t secretly in love with your friend with benefits and hoping that he’ll finally realize, after sleeping with you, that he was in love with you all along, then a friend with benefits has more of the emotional stability I mentioned before (mean of pleasant enjoyment an SD or two above average, low variance). Your romantic relationship ship should have a higher mean, and more variance. Your friend-with-benefits-except-that-you-are-secretly-in-love will have a low mean, to include all the additional torment, and very high variance, like the thrill when he does pay some temporary attention to you. I really should graph all this.

    Comment by Megan — January 19, 2007 @ 2:51 pm |Reply

  12. What about friend-without-benefits-except-that-you-are-secretly-in-love?

    Comment by Matt Weiner — January 19, 2007 @ 3:29 pm |Reply

  13. Those are awesome, let me tell you.

    Comment by Matt F — January 19, 2007 @ 3:49 pm |Reply

  14. But the answer is easy. They differ from a relationship by not being one.

    Comment by eb — January 19, 2007 @ 3:50 pm |Reply

  15. The comments so far largely confirm my previous impressions, which is reassuring. AWB brings up something I’ve often heard about FWB arrangements, namely that they, in contrast to relationships, lack “romance.” Any thoughts on what this means in practice, anyone?

    Comment by teofilo — January 19, 2007 @ 7:04 pm |Reply

  16. My wife doesn’t let me have FWB. (I don’t even have to ask.) This I think is the most important feature: nearly completely irreconcilable with relationships.

    Comment by charleycarp — January 19, 2007 @ 8:44 pm |Reply

  17. I’m reminded of a friend of mine who had a friend 1)she hung out with constantly, and 2)fucked constantly, but they weren’t in a relationship. I mean…if you have only one or the other, OK, but if both conditions apply, you’ve got yourself a relationship. Maybe not a permanent one, but…

    Comment by Scott Lemieux — January 19, 2007 @ 8:47 pm |Reply

  18. Charley, it’s the B by itself that’s the problem, no?

    Comment by Matt Weiner — January 19, 2007 @ 9:20 pm |Reply

  19. Teo, I have no idea, and I think I’m probably incapable of this kind of relationship. I can remember being hurt by the realization that others could have sex as it were casually, without any intention of it having any further meaning or developing, without romance. Not me.

    Comment by idontpay — January 19, 2007 @ 11:35 pm |Reply

  20. That’s generally been my attitude as well, but lately I’ve been wondering if it’s really true for me. That’s kind of why I’m asking this stuff: to get an idea for how other people think about these issues and some perspective on them that I can apply in my own life.

    Comment by teofilo — January 19, 2007 @ 11:58 pm |Reply

  21. 18 — Depends on the F.

    Comment by charleycarp — January 20, 2007 @ 12:18 am |Reply

  22. Indirectly relevant.

    Comment by ben wolfson — January 20, 2007 @ 12:34 am |Reply

  23. Ben links to that all the time.

    Comment by teofilo — January 20, 2007 @ 12:39 am |Reply

  24. It’s worthy of being linked to all the time.

    Comment by ben wolfson — January 20, 2007 @ 2:26 pm |Reply

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