How to make Friends with Benefits work


If you’ve ever wondered if you could have your friendship cake and eat it too, this article is for you. After all, as terrific as friends with benefits (FWB) relationships may sound on the surface, they’re sometimes riled in chaos, or they at least have the potential to be if not done with care. Here are five tips to make your FWB work for you:

1. Be clear about what you want – with yourself and your friend. If your heart is hoping that a lifelong relationship will spring forth from the well of friendship but your mouth is saying “yeah, I totally don’t want anything serious either”, then your FWB is not off to a good start.  Make certain that you know where your heart and head are at and that you’re being honest with your friend about your intentions.

2. Set some rules. Although one of the benefits of a FWB may appear to be that you can live life, for the time being, without a so-called ball and chain, the fact is that some rules are there to protect you (wouldn’t your parents love to know that you are just now realizing this?). If you don’t set boundaries or rules about whom else each of you can have sex with or under what circumstances, how else are you going to limit your exposure to infections? Or prevent your FWB from morphing into the laughing stock of your friend circle or the potential for someone practically stalking you with calls and texts now that they think you two have a “thing” going on?

3. Be “just friends” some of the time. One of the cool aspects of being FWB is that, by definition, you can be friends who don’t always have sex – the sex is just a benefit. Try to not lose sight of the non-sex benefits by making sure that you spend some time hanging out, getting food together, catching a movie or whatever else.

4. Communicate like whoa. Often when FWB-ers find that they’re feeling jealous (“I can’t believe he Facebooked his ex!”) they wonder if they have any right to those feelings since they’re not, after all, in a committed relationship. But that doesn’t make those feelings go away. If you’re feeling jealous or insecure, it’s okay to say that. Worried about your FWB developing a serious crush or going on a date with someone else? Speak up! Feel like you’re spending way too much time together for two people who are not supposed to be “together-together”? How else can you handle it if you don’t discuss?

5. Practice your skills. Although FWBs provide various opportunities to release sexual tension, they also provide plenty of opportunities to practice your communication and negotiation skills for everyday issues as well as sexual issues. Also, they’re ripe with opportunities for learning about your body with someone you like, trust and enjoy spending time with. You may find that having a FWB provides a fun and comfortable way to feel more confident about your body, to enjoy having sex with the lights on, to try out new styles of kissing or major making out, or to sample new positions.

Even though FWBs sometimes get a bad rap (those kids are doing WHAT these days?), the fact is that friends having sex is nothing new – we just have a name for it these days. When carried out with the type of care and thought you’d give to any friendship that mattered to you, FWB can be an enjoyable, meaningful and pleasurable part of life.

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[Originally published in my weekly column at]

About Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick is a sex researcher at Indiana University, sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, columnist, and author of five books about sex and love. Learn more about her work at