Can 'friends with benefits' ever work?


By Ellie Spenceley, Second Year, English

The Croft Magazine // Embarking upon a ‘friends with benefits’ arrangement with someone is a big risk, and not a decision that you should take lightly. Whilst you may go into it thinking you will be able to keep feelings out of the equation, sexual intimacy has the potential to trigger emotions that you did not even think you had the potential to harbour.

It is incredibly easy for momentary acts of affection to be misread by one person as something more. Hand holding, forehead kisses, eye contact and skin-to-skin contact… All of these can and often do feature in casual relationships, particularly after sex. For one person, these gestures might seem insignificant and they may not feel the need to read into them. For the other, however, interactions like these might induce feelings of attachment and romantic longing.

When considering whether a ‘friends with benefits’ relationship could work for you, it is important to evaluate your ability to compartmentalise interpersonal relationships. How personal does sex feel to you? Are you capable of distancing yourself emotionally from someone you are sharing your body with? It is worth taking a moment of self-reflection to come to terms with whether you have the emotional capacity to separate the physical from the emotional.

It is also worth doing some research on your love language (words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, quality time, or physical touch) and your attachment style (secure, anxious, avoidant, or fearful) to help you reflect upon how you might react to a casual sexual relationship with a friend.

If your love language is physical touch and you are planning to spend a lot of time in bed with someone who you have agreed not to date, things might get emotionally turbulent for you pretty quickly. The same sort of view can be taken with attachment style – unless you have a secure attachment style and are capable of engaging in relationships with people whilst maintaining a rather autonomous sense of self, the way you filter your connection with someone may influence your ability to have a ‘friends with benefits’ situation without getting hurt.

It is very possible that your attachment style will clash with that of the person you are ‘friends with benefits’ with. I know that my anxious attachment style did not gel well with the avoidant nature of the individual I had a ‘friends with benefits’ relationship with, which led to unrequited feelings and frustrations provoked by my feelings of inadequacy, need for attention and validation from someone who could not give it for any more than a moment.

Everyone will view actions in intimate relationships in different ways depending on their worldview and emotional composition, and it is so vital to know this before you subject yourself to pain that could have been avoided. Casual sex can be wonderful if the situation is right and the feelings surrounding it are mutual, but it is likely that it will not be as smooth-sailing as this ideal.

Featured Image: Unsplash / Element5 Digital

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