Friday, March 20, 2009

FWB - Friends With Benefits

Can the concept of FWB (friends with benefits) work? Can two consenting adults be friends and share physical intimacy regularly, without increasing their emotional involvement and risking relationship trauma?

Real friendship itself is in fact a significant form of intimacy. Friends share details of their daily lives with one another creating a web of links that bind them together. Sex, on the other hand, may not be intimacy at all. Sex by itself can be simply meeting a biological need... so long as there is no significant emotional attachment. Having casual sex with someone seen once in a great while during times when both parties are single does not necessarily involve friendship, but a casual physical link. The, meet you in the Bahamas once a year, thing can be fun, but that isn't what FWB generally means.

When we enter into a FWB relationship, we generally see one another regularly. It's the regularly part that may become the problem. Mixing real friendship and sex may eventually become problematic because expectations evolve during a friendship... honesty, reliability, accountability, trust... and this may involve exposing ourself to being vulnerable. Physical intimacy added to that equation may inevitably bring two people closer. Being friends first is a great way to start a relationship as long as there is honesty between partners about feelings.

Unfortunately, it is all too common that one party to the FWB pact is hoping that a more serious relationship will grow out of the new level of intimacy. Pretending to feel less than we do, may lead to significant disappointment if the other party doesn't feel the same. We can end up feeling shamed or used. It behooves us to go back and decide whether or not we are truly friends, or just casual acquaintances who are physically attracted to one another.

If we are casual acquaintances who are interested in becoming more intimate through physical contact, we must honestly approach our partner and be forthcoming about out true feelings and intentions. We protect both ourselves and our partner by laying our cards on the table. If we have no intention of becoming emotionally involved, we must be up front about this fact. It is our responsibility to let our partner know that we are not interested in any further level of relationship. This gives them the option to decline participation and protect themselves from the risk of emotional trauma, if they are hoping for more than what we can offer. If we believe that they are not being honest with us or themselves, we may take the initiative and decide not to further physical intimacy.

The concern is that we make a choice to be sexually involved with someone, later finding out that we or they actually do have feelings beyond friendship. Now what?

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