Successful FWB practices?
November 27, 2016 6:10 AM   Subscribe

I've never had a successful FWB, although I would like to. Dunno if it matters but I am a cis female involved with a cis male looking for tips from folks who have had/are having successful longish FWB relationships. What's working for you? What pitfalls to avoid?

I understand that FWB situations tend to be transitory, but that was true for my marriage and earlier relationships as well so I'm not expecting this to be a forever thing but a longish thing would be nice. My goals: 1. To stay friends, regardless of what happens with the sex thing; 2. To further develop our friendship, which is not as deeply rooted as I'd like; and 3. To have hot fun sexy times. Number 3 won't be a problem. Help me with numbers 1 and 2 plus anything else you can think of. Thanks!
posted by Bella Donna to Human Relations (9 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

My only "successful" FWB was with someone I was mildly friendly with but with whom I didn't feel a need to pursue a deeper friendship. Assuming the key to a successful FWB is to not fall in love, I think the key to not falling in love is to pick someone you can't really fall in love with.

I expect you'll see a variety of opinions on the subject.
posted by bunderful at 6:47 AM on November 27, 2016 [16 favorites]

Best answer: This may not be what you want to hear, but I actually think that #2 is not a great idea if you want this to last. In my experience, when these things flourish, the "friends" part of friends-with-benefits is not an entirely accurate term. It's more like, 'friendly, respectful acquaintances with benefits,' because some distance is required if you want it to work.

To put it bluntly, if you've got a really close friend with whom you share the intimate details of your life, and you ALSO have really hot sex, there's a very fine line separating that from an actual relationship. What usually does keep that from becoming a relationship is either...

a.) There is some kind of external circumstance or dealbreaker that would keep a relationship from working - one person doesn't want kids or marriage when the other one does; one person is going to move across the globe in a month; one person has a terminal disease, etc. The problem is that the presence of intellectually recognized adverse circumstances will not, in fact, keep two people who would otherwise be into each other from falling in love, and that's a recipe for heartbreak. If that's where you are, it's better to go into it with your eyes open than to shield yourself from the truth.

b.) The relationship is asymmetrical. You're best friends and have hot sex, but you're not in a relationship. Why? Because one of you doesn't want to be in a relationship. This is also a recipe for heartbreak; as a bonus, it's a recipe for the dramatic implosion of the friendship. When things turn ugly in FWB relationships, this is usually why. If you're ever in a situation where, if you're being honest, you'd say, 'I would prefer to be in a relationship with this person, but since that's not an option, I will be okay with an FWB relationship for now,' get the fuck out of there. You're just going to get hurt.

The ideal emotional position to be in with an FWB is this: "This person is hot and nice and I respect them a lot and i like the way they treat me, but I also don't really want to spend more than a couple of hours in their presence because when I do we tend to run out of things to talk about." That's a FWB that will last you.

If that's not what you want, or how you feel, that's okay! But maybe what you want is something slightly different than a FWB arrangement. If the emotional intimacy aspect of the relationship is important to you, then maybe you want -

--An open relationship, where you're intimate and have lots of hot sex and can depend on each other for emotional support, but you're also free to pursue other people.

--A relationship that moves very, very slowly: both of you are recently out of relationships and are wary of rushing into something new.

--A relationship that allows you more space than your previous relationships; you don't talk every day, you see each other maybe once a week, or maybe once a month.

--A relationship that exists off the relationship escalator; that isn't necessarily moving towards cohabitation and marriage and kids.

These are all different from the usual relationship models, but because they involve emotional intimacy, they are, nonetheless, relationships. If you want a relationship like this with your friend, then figure that out, and then ask for it.

Now that I've written all this, I'm realizing that what I'm trying to say is that the key for making this last is to be able to articulate to yourself why you don't want a relationship with this person, and being fairly confident that the other person is on the same page. "We don't want to ruin the friendship" is not a good answer. If you don't want to run the risk of ruining the friendship, don't have sex. Sex is risky. It just is. Emotionally intimate relationships are worth that risk, even if they're unconventional. But if all you want is NSA sex, find a hot, slightly boring rando on Tinder and keep your friendships safe.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 6:54 AM on November 27, 2016 [93 favorites]

A common problem with FWBs is that one person catches feelings and wants it to be more and the other doesn't, and then drama and damage happens. I'd agree with pretentious illiterate that you might be playing with fire by wanting to intensify the friendship while trying remain only friends.

I know people that try to avoid relationship drift with FWBs by separating physically after sex and not cuddling or sleeping together. YMMV.

You also need to consider what will happen when the relationship winds down when one or the other of you starts dating again and wants/has to cut off the sex part of your relationship.
posted by Candleman at 7:32 AM on November 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think giving up on making it last will actually help with the quality of the FWB relationship. If you really don't want a relationship then it's almost definitional that it will end when one of you wants a relationship (with someone else).

I know something casual can be nice, and why would you want nice things to end, but if you try to hold on it will end (either because it will become a real relationship or because it won't).
posted by J. Wilson at 8:20 AM on November 27, 2016

Best answer: I think the fundamental tension is not between being friends and sex, it's between treating it as casual and successfully navigating something that can turn complicated fast. One possible solution I can think of (and I've never tried this, though I wish I had) is to say, let's talk once a month, and if both of us opt back in, all is good. Otherwise we're back to just friends (and all is good).
posted by kleinsteradikaleminderheit at 9:26 AM on November 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Reasons I think mine worked:
- Both of us were actively interested in other people and dating others romantically. This helped us both stay removed from each other, even in intimate settings.
- Constant communication about where we are at with the relationship. Mostly in the form of "This is so awesome because xyz."
- We were fairly close and very nice to each other but neither of us could ever imagine dating each other. Every time we were together it only became clearer to me that I could never date him. We talked about intimate things but we would never be best friends.
- We immediately clarified our expectations and set boundaries. We both wanted to be FWB. We were both okay with hanging out and not messing around, if that's how an afternoon turned out. We liked cuddling and staying overnight. We were both comfortable with the arrangement mentally and physically. We agreed to be extremely honest with each other. As time went on some things changed, and they were communicated and adapted to.
- We had a rule that if either of us got feelings, we would tell each other and end it. This was successful- we had one incident of jealousy that was immediately communicated. We talked it through and were able to continue on without problems, though we were both open to ending it then (which I think is really important).

One of the best, most communicative friendships I've had because expectations were so clear and honesty was necessary and expected.

I think pretentious illiterate's answer that having a reason why you don't want to be with this person romantically is very helpful. I had plenty of clear reasons for my FWB. I also think a monthly check in with an easy opt-out is a great idea.

Re: Wanting to deepen and maintain the friendship, I think this would be difficult but not impossible. I would consider why you would like the friendship to be more deeply rooted. Would you be comfortable telling them you want a more deeply rooted friendship? Honesty about expectations is so important in this kind of arrangement.

As far as staying friends afterwards, it's like when you have a shared class or hobby with someone, and then the hobby ends. Do you stay friends or not? It depends. Not sure if you can really plan how a friendship goes.
posted by sweetjane at 9:59 AM on November 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

i have been able to manage this for a little more than a year now, but it's mostly because she has a full time (ok, on and off again) gf but on occasion likes dudes. so there is no expectation that this will lead to anything. and we hang out as friends most of the time anyway.
posted by lescour at 11:07 AM on November 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Pick a guy who is much older or much younger and who you would never, ever consider bringing home to your parents. And ditch the "becoming good friends" part. Friends are friends, lovers are lovers. Don't spend the night, don't give up other plans for them, don't go on vacation together or make plans for the future.

This is quite honestly why a lot of married people have affairs with each other, there is a built in distance (not condoning that but that's why it happens). If you are spending all weekend together every weekend it's gone too far.
posted by fshgrl at 11:41 AM on November 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I have several longterm (5+ years) FWBs, both in the form of single folks, coupled folks together, and people in open relationships.

The key, for me, is to view sexy times as a sort of optional extra area your friendship can expand into if you're both feeling it at that moment. Friends first, lovers second. I do not treat them like a booty call, and they don't treat me like one either.

I also don't spend a ton of time with these people. We chat occasionally, and hang out with greater or lesser frequency depending on what's happening in our lives. We don't always have sex just because we're hanging out. Sometimes we just watch a movie or cook dinner together or something. No expectations. Sometimes the couple is not in a 'sharing' phase. Sometimes I'm in a committed relationship. Sometimes the single folks are in their own relationships, or traveling, or whatever.

While I am very emotionally close to all of them, and could count on them for support if I needed it, they don't form the core of my social group, i.e. they are not the people I always turn to first when I'm lonely or sad. I think that's important. It's all too easy to fall into the trap of pinning all your emotional needs on someone who you are physically intimate with, and that way lies madness and hurt feelings.
posted by ananci at 12:01 PM on November 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

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