Friends-with-benefits, bum chums, arousal acquaintances, f*** buddies. There are many terms for the person you occasionally hook up with for casual, meaningless (in theory) sex.
Defining this grey area of pseudo-romance, however, can be a struggle to some and a downright mystery to others.
With such close physical intimacy, it’s only natural to occasionally wonder, is there something more? Does he have feelings? Am I just a rebound?
Well, as a thirtysomething guy, I’ll tell you that the bi-monthly booty call can mean all those things and more. There’s no set answer, it depends on many circumstances.
In this article, I’ll go through some of the possible things “friends-with-benefits” (FWB) means to a guy. Once you get the idea, you can act (or react) accordingly.
Let’s get to it!
1) Unadulterated physical gratification
At our core, most men aren’t particularly complicated creatures. Many of us just want our basic primal urges to be met on a regular basis: food, sleep, and sex.
If the latter comes without the emotional complications of attachment, we’ll often take it.
No-strings-attached fun is an appealing option for men as it provides the opportunity for sexual pleasure without having to go through the sometimes daunting rigors of settling down.
This is why many men, for instance, may seek out sex workers–by doing so, their physical urges become satisfied… and little else.
There’s nothing particularly romantic about transactional intimacy after all, but it does fill an animalistic void for certain men.
2) Not having to commit
Real talk: friends-with-benefits is an ideal option for guys who have a fear of commitment but still enjoy the advantages of intimacy or partnership.
They want the best of both worlds, to have their cake and eat it too, to be able to play the field and also have the comforts of companionship to fall back on.
Men avoid commitment for a number of reasons: maybe they’re battling unaddressed childhood trauma, perhaps they’ve been burned before, or maybe they fear losing their freedoms–or in many cases, all of the above.
But from my experience, being non-committal can be an unsustainable approach to a longer-term sexual relationship. Feelings almost always develop on one or both sides.
In other words, once a fling or hookup becomes a regular occurrence, chances are things will get complicated.
So it’s best to end things before they get out of hand.
If you’re a woman and are willing to ride this potentially turbulent rollercoaster, then that’s your call.
But don’t be surprised to encounter some conflicting emotions down the line.
I’d say that in the grand scheme of things, purely physical hookups are still pretty rare, even in 2023.
3) It’s “convenient”
I remember a few years ago, I had casual relations with a girl I knew from college. We’d meet up, sleep with each other, hang out for a bit, then separately go about our lives.
We had both agreed that the setup was “just for fun.”
So I’d call her when I was feeling frisky or during a night out and she would willingly come over. For a while, it was awesome.
Eventually, we both got pretty busy and I stopped contacting her. Soon, she blocked me on all her social media accounts. I was perplexed as to why.
I came to realize that this seemingly convenient relationship was not so convenient after all. The unintentional distance was perceived as ‘ghosting.’
I got the message loud and clear: she wanted more out of our relationship than mere convenience, therefore she decided to disengage completely from me.
For some men, an FWB arrangement can be a safe space where they can explore their innermost kinks, sexual desires, and preferences in a fairly low-pressure environment.
In a more serious relationship where you have more of a life partner than a sexual plaything, there could be some apprehension or hesitation around the introduction of new, relatively depraved bedroom escapades.
In a casual sex relationship, however, where presumably fewer feelings are involved, that pressure may be alleviated and inhibitions lowered.
Sexual experimentation can mean different sexual fantasies, positions, or even communication and openness during intimacy.
An FWB arrangement provides a platform for guys to learn more about their own bodies, their turn-ons, turn-offs, and how to communicate those to a partner.
If this sounds appealing to you, then tread with caution. It’s a slippery slope, and feelings can still easily develop given the intimate nature of the aforementioned activities.
For your FWB arrangement to be a success, communication is of utmost importance, just like any relationship.
5) Not having to be emotionally available
I’ll be honest, some men prefer a no-strings attachment setup solely because they’re scared of vulnerability. The potential heartache and baggage that go hand-in-hand with a serious romantic relationship might be too much to bear for them.
Growing up, my parents were always fighting. Eventually, they separated, much to everyone’s relief. My dad was a bit of a womanizer while my mom had her own set of issues.
In the end, the dysfunctional dynamic of their relationship resulted in some pretty emotionally
unavailable kids, myself very much included.
For much of my life, the prospect of loving or caring for someone (and vice versa: someone loving and caring for me) was terrifying and I wasn’t quite sure as to why.
There was a lengthy period in my life when I’d go out on dates and occasionally, we’d even end up sleeping with each other–yet I just could never get myself to call them back.
I felt that by following up and going on multiple dates, I’d risk attachment for both of us–something I avoided like the plague.
This “quirk” of mine resulted in some pretty disillusioned women–and I didn’t feel particularly great about myself either.
As humans, we tend to be scared of the unknown. Being emotional was something I never learned as a child, hence the prospect of real intimacy was legitimately scary.
6) Maintenance of freedom
Bottom line: some people just prioritize their personal freedom above all else.
And though I’ve been in a relationship (my first serious one) for the past few years, maintaining our freedom as individuals is still something I advocate.
Maybe you’re passionate about travel or your job and consider anything less a distraction. This is a perfectly acceptable mentality, in my opinion.
Do what makes you happy.
Settling down, having a couple of kids and a membership at your local country club is not everyone’s definition of a perfect life, despite what society might tell us.
So, while there’s nothing inherently wrong with being in a serious relationship or married, we should still seek to maintain our autonomy as people.
You’re your own person after all. Own that.
An FWB arrangement is great for the man who values his independence since obviously, there are fewer expectations in a fleeting, short-term hook-up over a committed relationship.
He’ll still be able to enjoy his freedom while occasionally bedding a willing companion every now and then.
7) It’s part of a transitional phase
Real talk: when you get out of a long-term relationship, it’ll take time to decompress.
The recovery process is hardly linear; some of us will take weeks to truly get over a broken heart, and some of us will take years.
Understandably, men who are fresh off a breakup may not be ready to jump into a fully committed relationship straight away.
But in these trying times of vulnerability, some form of intimacy may still be desired as a means of accelerating the healing process.
In this case, a guy might want to date casually and not rush into things. Hence, he will distract himself by getting out there and meeting people.
So, if you suspect that dude you met on Bumble might have a foot out the door, it’s worth digger a little deeper.
Perhaps, you’ll learn that he’s still reeling and you’re a rebound.
Regardless, it’s up to you to decide if this is still worth pursuing or if you want something more.
8) He’s testing the waters
Hey, it’s not all doom and gloom. As a man, I’ll tell you this much: when we are genuinely attracted to a girl and see there’s some potential there, we might want to take things slow.
Many guys know that rushing into things can be a recipe for disaster and will invariably mean hurt feelings for everyone involved.
So having that friend-with-benefits can really just represent a glorified step of dating, a testing ground, so to speak, for something deeper.
We might use the opportunity to evaluate our compatibility and let things play out at a natural, relaxed pace rather than let things get too serious, too fast.
This removes a ton of unnecessary pressure and is generally more fun for both parties.
It’s important to remember that every individual and situation is unique.
As we touched on earlier, communication is essential in any kind of relationship (and even more so in arrangements like FWB), to ensure that both parties share the same understanding and expectations.
Challenges and benefits of a friends-with-benefits relationship
If you’re a woman thinking of partaking in a friends-with-benefits type relationship, then it’s worthwhile to protect yourself by weighing the pros and cons before taking things to the next level.
To help you get started, I’ve come up with a list of a few things to consider. Let’s start with the challenges:
Nobody likes to be left in limbo. This emotional grey area is what you could potentially face in an FWB scenario since, as you know by now, there is a fine line between sex and love.
As I’ve gone over earlier, even if both parties explicitly agree to keep things casual, our pesky emotions have their special way of disrupting things.
Down the line, feelings could arise for one or both participants. This, in turn, can lead to
some difficult emotions to deal with, particularly when the feelings are one-sided.
In essence, you’ll end up dealing with the heartache of a relationship without actually being in one.
The ensuing feelings can sting, so best prepare yourself.
It may be 2023, but sadly, a double standard still exists when it comes to women who engage in casual sexual relations.
If you’re female in a non-romantic sexual relationship, you might be considered by more traditional-minded folk as a promiscuous, shameful woman. Meanwhile, the man somehow gets a free pass.
This can result in feelings of guilt or shame or worthlessness, and possibly even embarrassment to your family in more extreme cases.
Society is collectively pretty damn judgemental.
If you have no qualms about societal expectations and are unapologetically and consistently yourself, then more power to you! You can kindly disregard this item.
Potential loss of friendship
If you value your platonic bond with this potential sex partner, then you’ll want to think long and hard about the risks associated with casually sleeping with someone you care about.
Maintaining the boundaries of friendship while engaging in intimate activities might lead to emotional confusion.
There’s always the chance of feelings surfacing and if they do and you’re not on the same page, be prepared for that kinship to go swiftly down the drain.
Sometimes when intimacy and sex are involved, it will complicate things to an irreparable level.
This should always be taken into account by both parties before the actual hook-up.
Okay, now let’s get to the fun part. Here are the benefits of having a friend with benefits:
If you feel you’re truly on the same page, a casual hookup can be a great way to explore and express sexuality, particularly for those with minimal experience.
It’s like having a practice round in a video game–in other words, a space where you discover yourself and your sexual needs and desires without the obligations of a conventional romantic relationship.
Maybe this whole process will shed light on what you want deep down in an intimate relationship.
While I’ve discussed what friends-with-benefits can mean to a guy in this article, it can also be useful to speak to a relationship coach about your situation.
The fact is that relationships can be confusing and frustrating. Sometimes you’ve hit a dead end and you don’t know what to do next.
Relationship Hero is one of the best resources I’ve found for love coaches who aren’t just all talk. They have seen it all, and they know all about how to tackle difficult situations including casual sexual relationships.
Personally, I tried them last year while going through the mother of all crises in my own love life.
Although I was skeptical at first, they eventually managed to break through the noise and give me real solutions.
My coach was so warm, they took the time to really understand my situation and gave some absolutely critical feedback and advice.
In minutes, you can connect with a certified relationship coach and get tailor-made advice for your issues.
In a perfect world, you can enjoy many of the benefits of a traditional relationship without any of the work.
You can focus on that work promotion, your budding TikTok career, or go backpacking through Europe and not have to be bogged down by tedious relationship dramas.
No anniversaries or date nights to plan, no birthdays you might forget, and you can party all night on a Tuesday without anyone telling you off.
Ideally, an FWB relationship is also a perpetually relaxing, drama-free one.
Comfort and trust
If your FWB interaction is with a long-time friend, then there can be a level of comfort of understanding that isn’t typically there in new relationships.
This familiarity will naturally promote an even-tempered environment; you’ll be able to successfully communicate boundaries as there’s an established level of stability and perception between you both.
I’d like to conclude by saying that I’m not here to offer any definitive answers.
It’s 2023 and all kinds of stereotypes and rigid societal norms are practically shattered by the day, so if someone wants to pursue a friends-with-benefits type relationship who is to say that they can’t?
As humans, our approach to relationships is no longer linear. We can’t paint everyone with the same brush. What works for some might not work for others.
And in the same breath, casual sex can mean a boatload of things to a guy. We’re all a little different from one another. Use this article as a guide, but it’s up to you to decide what it comes down to.
If you feel that you can pursue a casual relationship, be honest with yourself first.
Be aware that feelings are a complicated thing and can pop up uninvited, making things potentially messy if you’re not careful.
And when you’re ready, just do your best to protect yourself and set boundaries… and don’t forget, always keep it respectful. You got this!