FWB Filter: Does it Work?
August 10, 2010 6:30 AM   Subscribe

Friends with Benefits filter (NSFW). Single straight woman, mid 40's. Despite putting in a reasonable effort, I haven't met anybody that I would like to pursue a relationship with. But I do have an attractive buddy who I'm certain would be up for a FWB thing. We dated 20 years ago, no interest in going that route.

But I've never done this before (nor have any of my girlfriends, so I have nobody to ask). How do these things work? Do people get hurt? Are there ugly complications? On the one hand, I can resist if these relationships become problematic, on the other, I really want to have sex and I find him physically super attractive.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Sure, some people get hurt, because what begins as pure entertainment can sometimes develop into an obsession, and people are often irrational on the subject of sex. If the object of your affection is O.J. Simpson or someone like him, you are going to have trouble. That said, the risk is not necessarily excessive. If this attractive man seems like a nice guy, he probably is, and the two of you can have sex together and enjoy it, and nothing bad may ever result. And since there is no commitment, you are free to walk away anytime you feel that you don't like what is happening. So personally I would say, go for it. (Of course, you will take reasonable precautions against sexually transmitted disease.)
posted by grizzled at 6:38 AM on August 10, 2010


If you work with him or for other reasons see him routinely, forget it immediately. It's certain to get complicated unless you you (and to the extent you can determine, he too) know you can compartmentalize friendship from sex. I for one haven't met anyone who could, but there you have it.
posted by nj_subgenius at 6:52 AM on August 10, 2010


These things generally work best when you're both aiming for the same situation. If you want "friends with benefits", but he's hoping this is a stepping stone to a romantic relationship with you, that's a recipe for hurt feelings when it doesn't happen. So make sure you're both communicating honestly about what you really want out of this.

And if a romantic relationship isn't what the two of you want with each other, but you do still (at least theoretically) want one of those with someone, it's a good idea to discuss that up-front. At what point will you have to stop the FWB arrangement if one of you gets involved with someone else? If that happens, it will probably lead to some hurt feelings as well, but it's not nearly so bad if you've discussed the possibility of this happening and agreed on how you'll handle it.

Finally, I think it helps to have some confidence that the friendship will continue even if the FWB part doesn't. And here again, I think the best thing you can do is talk it through. If you are still friends with him 20 years after dating him, that's a good sign that you'll be able to get through some slightly difficult times if it comes to that.

Communicate, communicate, communicate, and if all signs are good, have fun!
posted by FishBike at 7:02 AM on August 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Being in one 'relationship' (even if it's only FWB) lessens your chance of finding another, more genuine relationship. Like it or not, you will be spending some amount of emotional energy and time on this, that will consequently not be available for pursuing a real, more satisfying relationship.
posted by eas98 at 7:19 AM on August 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


Being in one 'relationship' (even if it's only FWB) lessens your chance of finding another, more genuine relationship. Like it or not, you will be spending some amount of emotional energy and time on this, that will consequently not be available for pursuing a real, more satisfying relationship.

I'm going to disagree pretty strongly with this. Sure, it takes some time, but everything in life takes time. And I can say from firsthand experience that having someone to occasionally get your kicks with can be extremely helpful for not getting involved with someone who isn't right for you, just because you'd like to have sex. Some people can handle an FWB setup with no downside at all. Some are totally incapable of managing it. It's important to know where in that continuum you fall, but this blanket statement just doesn't always apply.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:27 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I guess I should plagiarize with a few edits some advice I gave in earlier situations. But yeah I've totally successfully done friends with benefits with exes. Doesn't mean it's for everyone.

Decide now whether he's relationship material or not and stick with it.

I suggest accepting that you might have weird, clingy, neurotic, illogical, irrational, silly, awkward feelings[...] accept it as a possibility. When/if they happen, remember: you don't have to act on your feelings. They are a weird combo of brain chemicals and genuine regard, and they might FEEL important, significant, meaningful. But the situation hasn't changed. So as important as they seem, they do not change anything; do not allow them to affect your behavior.

If there's one thing non-monogamy has taught me, it's that it's impossible to prevent a person from feeling how they feel. You can limit time spent, types of activity, soft drinks consumed, but you can't limit feelings. So how do you keep something like this casual? Well, there's no way to guarantee that your FEELINGS will stay casual. You can, however, ensure that your BEHAVIOR stays casual. [...] If I sound like a heartless robot, or if you think it's impossible to control behavior when the feelings are there, then I recommend against starting anything if he's not relationship material. You don't want to let sexytimes hook you into a relationship that won't work for you.

In terms of proposing it, I suggest being honest about what you want and what your concerns are. Say "man, I'm really horny, and I kinda want to make out with you, but I've never done a casual thing before. What do you think?" (Well, maybe a little more elegant than that, but you get the picture). It's not the world's most irresistible, sultry, confident come-on. But it's honest and lets you open a dialogue about both of your concerns and hopes.

Remember, after you start the relationship, that you have the right to:

--feel how you feel, even if that's "I'm in love with him!!!" or nothing at all
--be irrational
--end the sex or the relationship at any time for any reason
--ask for what you want, even if it's irrational or weird or whatever
--enjoy yourself
--only do things that are fun
--have emotions
--get attached

And another important thing to remember:
--unpleasant emotions don't have to be anyone's fault. Sometimes they just happen.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:59 AM on August 10, 2010 [12 favorites]


In my experience, it works just great. It's fun and satisfying, however I've found that it inevitably falls apart when one of you starts getting attached. That's when you know it's time to get out. Regardless of how good the sex is, that kind of added complication isn't worth it.

When I've been sleeping with someone casually and they decide that they want something a little more...substantial, that's when I pull the chute. I don't enter into those relationships to find love, and I personally am unable to change the parameters after having gotten used to something casual.
posted by fso at 10:13 AM on August 10, 2010


The thing about FWB is communication - as with any relationship. Go in with your eyes open, and let him know what you expect, and get to know what he expects. As long as everyone is up front with their feelings and expectations FWB is one of the best things in the world. But communication is key.

Yes there is potential for one side to develop feelings that aren't part of the deal - but that's true in any relationship. How many romantic relationships fall apart because one partner falls out of love? It's a risk everyone takes.

I say, talk to your friend, lay all of your cards on the table and see if he's up for it. If not, no harm, no foul. Of course that's what works for me. But I usually go in with, "hey, neither of us are seeing anyone right now, I'm bored, you're bored, let's be bored together until one of us finds someone."
posted by patheral at 11:18 AM on August 10, 2010


FWB is very fragile — you need to be willing to walk away from that part of your relationship as soon as you or he start feeling weird about it/meet someone else/start getting too invested, etc. You should make sure you're both have that understanding if you want to maintain the friendship post-FWB.
posted by crickets at 11:41 AM on August 10, 2010


Hi there, I've been you, some years back. There are a couple of things to consider when entering into this sort of deal:

First and foremost you both have to be completely on the same page and completely honest with each other, otherwise you run the risk that someone's feelings could get hurt.

We dated 20 years ago, no interest in going that route

Hmm. Second, and probably more important: No hidden agendas. That quote there leaves me a teeny bit in doubt that one (or both) of you may either subconsciously or actively trying to rekindle something "for old time's sake". If not, then hey, that's cool. But I'd definitely be wary of that, especially with an ex, and especially where those old nostalgic feelings might get tangled up in the mix.

Frankly back when I was single and definitely not looking for anything but fun, I found it easiest to engage in an NSA fling with someone I truly had no connections to beyond a mutual desire to roll in the hay, and mutual health/safety boundaries. I happen to be extremely picky and somewhat paranoid, so it took me quite awhile to establish those boundaries, thus I wound up doing quite a lot of cyber / IM (which honestly can be quite a lot of fun in its own right) before I found a trustworthy dude who was on the same page and who didn't go all weird on me when I cut ties with him upon starting a new relationship.
posted by lonefrontranger at 2:54 PM on August 10, 2010


It's very difficult for women to have sex without developing feelings for the person involved because of the brain chemistry involved -- oxytocin, the bonding chemical, is released during orgasm. So if the sex is good enough to be FWB with this guy then the oxytocin will probably make you start seeing him as more than a friend and then where will you be if he doesn't return your feelings or he does but you already know you're a bad match romantically?
posted by Jacqueline at 4:13 PM on August 10, 2010


I'm the same age and in the same situation. I find that the only way it can work for me is to be with someone that I'm not super-attracted to (but do have affection for) and to keep it infrequent, or the whole oxytocin thing kicks in and I want more. That may seem backwards. What I really want is someone I'm overwhelmingly attracted to who is also available, but he doesn't seem to be making himself known. Which is all to say that I sympathize and wish you the best of luck.
posted by FlyByDay at 6:05 PM on August 10, 2010


It's very difficult for women to have sex without developing feelings for the person involved because of the brain chemistry involved -- oxytocin, the bonding chemical, is released during orgasm. So if the sex is good enough to be FWB with this guy then the oxytocin will probably make you start seeing him as more than a friend and then where will you be if he doesn't return your feelings or he does but you already know you're a bad match romantically?

Pardon me while I laugh hysterically at this statement. I suppose it could be true of some women, but let me catch my breath and say - not true of everyone. I've had scads of unattached sex with NO risk of "developing feelings" for the guy involved. Jeez, if anything it was the opposite in my case. But those are different stories.

Maybe I'm just strange. I dunno. But I want to point out that it's not just the woman who forms one sided feelings for the man. That's why communication is key in FWB relationships.
posted by patheral at 7:50 AM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


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