How To Have A 'Friends With Benefits' Arrangement Without Hurting Anyone (Including Yourself)

If we look at Hollywood when it comes to the concept of friends with benefits, nine times out of 10 these arrangements turn into happily-ever-after situations. It just takes the characters two hours to figure out that even though they're just supposed to be just friends, they're actually much more than that. In fact, they're soulmates — or at least that's what Hollywood wants us to walk out of the movie theater believing.


But while friends with benefits always makes for a great plot line in a film, even if the ending is predictable, in real life these arrangements aren't always easy to handle. In many cases, feelings get hurt and, in the process, a friendship is lost.

"Being physical with someone has loads of feel-good hormones going around in our bodies — we've got all of those endorphins going on, and hits of dopamine," dating and relationship expert Sarah Louise Ryan tells PsychCentral. "However, we're built to attach to one another."

Yes, it's that pesky oxytocin that can make you feel things you didn't expect to feel, or experience emotions that you're not really sure are authentic. Although a 2014 study published in Procedia: Social and Behavioral Sciences found that, for the most part, participants are more likely to report positive experiences with their friends with benefits, that doesn't mean negative experiences don't exist, no matter how small the percentages might be. If you want a friends with benefits arrangement without anyone involved being hurt, there are some things you need to take into consideration.


Make sure you don't already have a crush on your friend

If you take a look at your close friend group, as well as your extended group and even fringe friends, you'll probably get a good idea of who can handle a friends with benefits situation, and who can't. For example, if you know one of your friends or acquaintances has a crush on you or you have a crush on one someone in your circle, those are the people you want to avoid as friends with benefits options.


Because oxytocin is a highly potent hormone, if there is already a twinge of interest or affection there, you can only expect those feelings to heighten. While being friends with benefits definitely involves attraction, and sleeping together is bound to make you both more attracted to each other, that's not playing with fire. Where you get close to creating a mess, is when you pursue someone for a friends with benefits arrangement where there's already some emotional investment from one or both parties.

Be honest

Sometimes a friends with benefits arrangement evolves out of a couple of one-night stands or random hook-ups over a period of a few months, but that doesn't mean you can't backtrack and have a chat about what you're doing together and what intentions might be there for both of you. It's important that you both be on the same page about what you're hoping to get out of the situation. If either one of you goes into the relationship with expectations that the other person isn't on board with, then you already have a problem.


While there are some people who are capable of having sex without falling in love and wanting to make a relationship out of it, there are those who can't. You need to decide which person you are, and which person your friend is, and then honestly talk about what the arrangement will entail in an emotion-free, pragmatic way.

Definitely set up some rules

Just as much as serious romantic relationships need rules and boundaries, the same goes for friends with benefits. When we're in a committed relationship, we're allowed to have expectations, to look toward the future with goals in mind, and discuss our lives together for better or worse. But because this is a friendship that comes with sexual activity on the side, rules are paramount. Will your dates entail anything more than just sex? Will you kiss goodbye when you part ways? How long do you plan to keep the relationship going? Is jealousy possibly going to be an issue at some point? 


These are all possibilities and valid concerns that should be addressed when agreeing upon rules and setting up boundaries. While nothing needs to be set in stone during that initial conversation, it's still a conversation that needs to be had. If it means going so far as to draw up a list of rules for your arrangement, then do it. 

Agree when enough is enough

Although Hollywood wants us to think that friends with benefits always end up in a together-forever scenario, for us mere mortals out here in the real world, friends with benefits are not unlike placeholders — we have our fun in between relationships, then move onto something that's serious and committed. While giving a specific end date to the arrangement isn't very realistic, if you both agree that once one of you gets back on dating apps, goes out with the same person more than three times, or some other sort of benchmark is reached, then you can navigate when things will come to an end.


If you don't want to go through the heartache of breaking up with your friend and losing them, then agreeing upon an expiration date for your hooking up, will protect you both. Ultimately, friendships are more important than sex, so talking things through every step of the way will make your friends with benefits arrangement a success and not a sob story. 

Have a follow-up discussion

Like any relationship, you want to occasionally check-in with each other and have follow-up chats about your situation. Even if something isn't working and is making one or both of you unhappy, not everyone brings it up as they should. Instead, they wait to be asked. While you should feel comfortable enough with your friend with benefits to always be honest, share your concerns, and speak your truth, if that's not how you — or your friend — roll in regard to how you both tackle feelings, then setting aside time to make sure you're still feeling good about the arrangement is a must.


Because boundaries don't have to be permanent decisions and there is always room for adjustment, it's these check-ins where you can discuss any changes you may want to make to the rules. If you want to get the most out of your friends with benefits relationship and have as much fun as possible without anyone getting hurt, then this course of action is essential.