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Cuffing season is upon us, but I’m here to talk about my favorite kind of situationship: the age-old friend with benefits. Listen, we’ve all been there, and there’s no shame in it! Let’s be honest, having a friends with benefits can be incredibly convenient—all the fun, none of the planning-your-future-together? Sounds good to me. That said, there are friends with benefits rules that need to be followed strictly so as to ensure your FWB relationship thrives. The Dos and Don’ts of hooking up with a friend are many, and I’ve taken the liberty of listing them below.
What’s not to love about the idea having no-strings-attached sex with someone you like and respect, but don’t necessarily want a future with? Still, friends with benefits can be tricky if you two aren’t setting ground rules. Are you allowed to tell other people you’re hooking up, or is it meant to be kept secret? Is it acceptable practice to cancel a FWB hookup in favor of a real date that night instead, or will this cause problems? Perhaps most importantly, what happens if one friend starts catching feelings for the other? How should one address it? When the lines start blurring, things can get messy, and your fun, friendly hookup becomes just another source of drama.
To avoid confusion, awkwardness and disappointments, here are some things to keep in mind. Of course, every situationship is different, but these are some hard and fast rules you might want to pay attention to before getting in too deep with a friend.
1. Choose Someone Honest
You need to make sure that you two are open about everything, as both of you need to be on the same page in case either of you start developing feelings for the other. Same thing goes if one person wants to end it. You both have to be okay with the end result, so an lines of trust and honest communication are key.
2. Speak Your (Sex) Mind
The main point of having a FWB is to have amazing, satisfying sex, no? Be vocal about what you like and what you don’t like—and encourage your partner to do the same. You never have to try anything you don’t feel comfortable with, of course, but let one another know what you’re into and see if you have a shared sexual fantasy you can finally live out.
3. Groom As If They Were Your Significant Other
Even though you don’t want a relationship, it’s not fair to your friend with benefits if you show up to your trysts with prickly legs, stained undies, and dirty hair. I guarantee you’d be pissed if your FWB showed up with smelly underarms and greasy hair of their own! Common courtesy, y’all.
4. Ensure You’re Emotionally Ready
Casual sex can be anything but casual if you aren’t emotionally prepared. Some people are able to disassociate the act from the emotion, but others struggle with this, and that’s okay. A lot of us are programmed to feel a connection after we sleep with someone, so you need to make sure you’re 100 percent okay with having sex that won’t lead to anything deeper.
5. Practice Safe Sex—Always
Condoms! Are! Lifesavers! Not only do they prevent you from having little babies with a partner you’re not interested in long-term, but they also make sure you stay STD-free, which is key when you’re having sex with someone you’re not monogamous with. You do not want to risk messing up what should be a good time for all.
6. Keep Your Eyes (And Heart) Open For New Relationships
In other words: Don’t get too comfortable, or close yourself off from finding someone you want to be with. You don’t want miss out on not getting to know someone amazing just because you have a sex buddy.
7. Don’t Have Sleepovers
Having sleepovers confuses things. You want to keep yourself from getting emotionally attached, so sleeping next to your FWB—and walking up next to them—is extremely intimate. Say goodnight, take a shower, and get into bed feeling relaxed, satisfied, and totally comfortable with the fact that they went home.
8. Don’t Cuddle
I mean, if you two have an agreement that cuddling is on the table, then snuggle up. Otherwise, try to refrain. Cuddling encourages intimacy, which is a no-no with your FWB. You want to keep things simple, and spooning can complicate them.
9. Don’t Expect Bells And Whistles
Don’t expect anything relationship-like from your friend with benefits, and don’t go out of your way to plan anything romantic, either. No fancy dinners, flowers, gifts or games. When you have a FWB, you’re having casual sex, and (maybe) some conversation—that’s it.
10. Don’t Be Clingy
Again, this is a friendship, not a relationship! Leaving a change of clothes or a spare toothbrush at their place is highly discouraged, as is giving them grief if they have plans, a date, or have to cancel on you. Once you become a stage five clinger, the fun is done.
11. Don’t Introduce Your FWB to Your Parents
A FWB is supposed to be temporary. If your parents don’t already know your “friend,” don’t feel obligated to introduce them to your family or friends. You don’t want people in your life to start nagging you about “what’s going on with you guys?” do you?! I think not. Skip the drama and keep it on the down low.
12. Don’t Get Mad If They Meet Someone
Your FWB is not your partner. Just as you should be keeping your heart open to new relationships, they, too, are allowed to date, Tinder stalk, or Hinge swipe anyone they please. If you find out your FWB is interested in someone else, that’s okay because they’re not cheating on you. You’re free to date anyone you want, too.
13. Don’t Leave The Bedroom
After a few nights of what’s hopefully amazing sex, don’t feel forced to start doing date-like things like going shopping together, seeing a movie, or—in Carrie Bradshaw’s case on “Sex and the City”—inviting them to dinner because you connect so well in the bedroom, you assume it’ll translate elsewhere. As Carrie learned with the less-than-scintillating McFadden: Keep your chemistry contained to the bedroom where it belongs. If you decide you both have stronger feelings, it’ll happen organically.
Versions of this article were originally published in October 2018.