Human relationships can lend themselves to any number of complexities – just when you thought you were getting the differences between casual dating and a relationship or had learnt to spot the many nuances of dating, you were confronted with the concept of friends with benefits. While the idea of friendship between opposite sexes turning into a sexual relationship is not really new, the term gained popular currency with the 2011 movie, Friends with Benefits, starring Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis. However if you are being tempted to explore this romantic equation, beware of the many ways that a friends with benefits relationship can go wrong.
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What is it anyway?
‘Friends with benefits’ refers to a situation where two friends from opposite sexes discover they are physically attracted to one another and agree to share a strictly sexual relationship. Neither party is considered committed to the other and either can start dating someone else at any time with prior warning. In many ways, a ‘friends with benefits’ arrangement differs from a relationship as well as dating. While some behaviors in ‘friends with benefits’ relationship may seem similar to casual dating, it is different from the latter too – while casual dating usually refers to two people getting to know each other before monogamy or a commitment, friends with benefits primarily share common interests and sexual experiences and rarely follow dating conventions or romantic practices like celebrating Valentine’s Day. Again a ‘friends with benefit’s relationship is different from a one-night stand which is defined by a single, usually unplanned, sexual encounter.
It can mask emotional insecurity
A ‘friends with benefit’ relationship encourages an emotionally insecure individual to look towards sex as a way of seeking validation from another person. It is only natural for a man or woman to emerge from a breakup with a bruised and battered ego but by succumbing to a ‘friends with benefits’ relationship so as to make yourself feel desirable or smart again, you could again be setting up yourself for heartache. So if you decide to go ahead and wish to have sex without any emotional involvement, let it be for the right reasons and not so that you feel guilty or confused in the process.
It can endanger your sexual health
Having casual sex is part of ‘friends with benefit’ relationship but this can leave you exposed to many dangers, not the least of which are physical. If you are a woman, it might saddle you with an unplanned pregnancy and if you are a man, you may find yourself responsible for one. Even if there is an option to get an abortion, the physical and emotional trauma that one has to go through is just not worth the momentary high of no-strings attached sex. Much more serious is the possibility of casual sex exposing you to the risk of AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases since friends with benefits relationship does not require monogamy and thus it is quite possible that your “friend” has multiple sexual partners, of whose sexual history you are completely ignorant. It is much better to take your time to meet a partner who agrees to an exclusive relationship rather than risk your health and well-being for some temporary thrills.
Your reputation suffers
Again engaging in casual sex on a regular basis may lead your bed buddy to see you only as a means for sexual pleasure. In place of the emotional support that you appreciated in the ‘friend’ or the pleasure in common interests that you originally shared with him/her, you my now find that he/she is only interested in a sexual relationship.
It can leave one for asking more
Intimate relationships, no matter how practically you approach them, are apt to get messy. It is quite possible that while you want a mainly sexual relationship, your “friend” suddenly decides that he or she wants ‘more.’ While on some occasions, your intuition and your gut can help you to whiff out a disparity in emotional attachment, most of the times things roll on until it is too late to avoid the complexities inherent in a friends with benefit relationship If one person is hoping to transform a ‘friends with benefits’ arrangement into a real relationship and the other is comfortable with things as they are, then jealousy and resentment are bound to make an appearance and eventually lead to a breakup.
You are replaceable
At the same time, you also need to be prepared for the possibility of rejection or an abrupt end to the relationship. Your ‘friend’ might suddenly meet someone he/she wants to date seriously and thus want to opt out of the arrangement with you. Or he/she may lose interest after the novelty of the arrangement has worn off and wish to replace you with another friend-cum-sex partner. Thus before you engage on a casual relationship, ensure that you are protected from the emotional impact of such possibilities so that you do not end up feeling lonely and depressed.
Destroys a friendship
However the biggest downside of a friends with benefits relationship is that it almost always destroys a nice friendship and takes away any future prospect of ‘benefits’ with it. Such an arrangement inevitably leads to a blurring of lines between the roles of a friend and lover – so, say you have been playing tennis with your friend for ages on Saturday afternoons but after started having sex with him/her, you are bound to respond to a teasing comment about your backhand with, ‘You weren’t so great last night either’. There goes not only a good friendship but your chances of getting a 3 am quickie as well.
Endangers future relationships
Messing around with friends can potentially hurt your future relationships as well. If your current partner finds out that you used to be intimate with a friend of the opposite sex, he/she will instantly become jealous and suspicious of any other men or women in your life – be they merely friends or co-workers. Even if your hook-ups occurred years before, if this ‘friend’ is still in your life in some capacity, your partner will be convinced that if it happened before, it can happen again. This lack of trust can eventually prove disastrous for a relationship no matter how compatible you both are.