By now, it’s a fairly certain fact that pursuing a friend with benefits (FWB) situation-ship is a slippery slope. Both people enter for carnal satisfaction with no strings attached, but one often leaves frustrated when he or she inevitably catches feels. But what if I told you there’s actually a science to navigating a healthy FWB relationship? According to research published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior this month, there is.
To conduct the study, researchers recruited 171 young adults who’d had FWB relations within the past year. They took a look into how well adjusted the two were and how satisfied they were with their sex lives. Here’s the kicker: They then had to rate statements that measured how committed each was to the other.
Results determined that young adults who “acted” more like a couple—meaning they had made clear sacrifices to protect the relationship and didn’t pursue others—were most satisfied. Likewise, those who were less committed were less satisfied with their sex lives.
What this research suggests is that, in order to ensure a FWB situationship moves along swimmingly, you’ve got to treat it like an actual relationship. Problem is, the whole point of pursuing a FWB is to not be tied down by commitment or sacrifices. No strings, remember?
“The results suggest that it is important for young adults to be aware of commitment as they enter these FWB relationships,” the study says. “The fact that satisfaction with sacrifice seems to play a vital role in FWB relationship adjustment suggests that young adults should be aware of the investments they have in these relationships.”
Past research on FWB has revealed that 25 to 40 percent of young adults in FWB situations hope they grow into something more serious. That sheds more light on the unsuprising fact that these arrangements often possess ulterior motives. In fact, 20 percent of FWB situations become official.
But if things don’t end up the way they do in the movies, that doesn’t mean the friendship is over. In 2015, the Archives of Sexual Behavior published a paper that found people in FWB relationships can indeed be friends after benefits run dry—but it was conditional. In order for the two to remain friends, both had to commit to their friendship first, putting sex on the backburner. While the study found that half of people remain friends after FBW dissolves, an overwhelming majority of those who did remain friends still engaged in “friendship-based intimacy,” a term I assume means cuddling.
I’m not familiar with many men who’d ditch plans with the boys to cuddle with a woman on a Friday, but research suggests women do crave intimacy more than sex in these scenarios. A study by sex-toy retailer Lovehoney examined the sex lives of 1,600 people and found that women are far more into FWB than men. Results showed that 50 percent of women have had one to three FWBs, compared to just 41 percent of men. The research also found that women prefer the relationships to be shorter versus men, with most lasting about three to six months. Men, however, want theirs to last far longer, for two years.
“Arrangements for casual sex seem to work particularly well for women who miss intimacy when they are single but prefer to sleep with someone they are familiar with,” a Lovehoney spokesperson said of the results. After all, it is easier to sleep with someone once you’ve already established a repertoire. Oftentimes, the sex is better. So while most FWBs are doomed from the start, for some people–a rare set of people–things work out; either the two begin dating or end things amicably.
Because FWB situations are so common now, especially among young adults who don’t want to commit to anything, maybe these scenarios aren’t necessarily a replacement for romantic relationships, but a different type of commitment? Maybe they’re just "a different type of dating” altogether, versus a form of non-dating. Something to think on the next time you decide to be “just friends” with the last person you swiped right on.