Communication is critical to any relationship, but some things are better left unsaid—especially when it comes to someone you have an NSA arrangement with. Chances are, in this case, the relationship is based solely on sexual compatibility. Enjoy it for what it is, and try to avoid conversations that could potentially confuse the convenience of the relationship. Experts encourage discussions about your sexual health, safe sex practices, sexual desires, and boundaries, all of which can lead to increased empathy and intimacy, but exes, babies, and your last big bonus don’t make for great bedroom talk.
“When we have sex with someone, we do tend to let down our guard because of the closeness that happens,” says Dawn Michael, PhD, certified sexuality counselor, clinical sexologist and author of My Husband Won’t Have Sex With Me. “But if it is just a friend-with-benefits situation, you also want to be careful about how much you let this person into your life, and that the motivation is just for a sexual relationship and not something else.” So, to help you navigate the uncharted territory of talking to your FWB, we asked relationship experts to share the topics of conversation that can complicate things—or worse, cause someone to get emotionally hurt.
Your anxiety about the future
It’s totally normal to have occasional panics over when you’ll reach the altar or cradle a newborn of your own, but it is better to seek comfort from someone who is emotionally invested in you, like a friend or family member. “Assuming a hetero fling, guys can get twitchy about women wanting a long-term commitment when all they signed up for was ‘fun,’” explains Claudia Six, PhD, a sexologist, relationship coach, and author of Erotic Integrity. “There’s nothing wrong with wanting these things, but disclosing them to a casual lover will dampen the sexy fun you could be having.”
Your body insecurities
Also normal: having a laundry list of insecurities (we all do). But try to forget your flaws in bed. Not only is it an unsexy topic of conversation, but Dr. Six notes that talking about your cellulite or tummy rolls can also be a manipulative tactic: “It puts the other person in the position of refuting your concerns, and you’re likely not going to take in their compliments anyway,” she says. Instead, own your body. “Our sexual partners don’t care nearly as much as we do about how we look—they care about enthusiasm,” she adds.
Your grooming habits
“The only sexy thing about grooming is the result,” says Dr. Six. In other words, your hookup buddy doesn’t need to know all the dirty details of the Brazilian wax that left your nether region bare. On the other hand, if you choose not to wax or shave, you do not owe your sexual partner an explanation of why.
The number of people you’ve slept with
Unless this person is someone you see yourself getting serious with, there is no need to reveal the number of notches you’ve etched on your bedpost. “A little mystery doesn’t hurt, and keeping them guessing can boost their ardor,” says Dr. Six. It forces you to be in the present moment and enjoy it for what it is, she adds. What is important, though, is discussing your sexual health and disclosing any STIs (past or present).
When it comes to seeing someone new, experts agree that you should keep your ex out of the conversation. This is especially true when it comes to anything the two of you did sexually. “At best, it’s gossipy and unchivalrous, which applies to men and women, and at worst, it’s going to make your new partner think he or she is next in line to have their performance and sexual behaviors discussed with others,” says April Masini, relationship and etiquette expert. “When you become the human Yelp of sex partners, you hurt your chances at making a new partner feel comfortable.” So, while you might think it’s harmless, this talk can cause your FWB to feel self-conscious and dampen his or her performance.
When it comes to someone you’re casually hooking up with, or even dating in the early stages, any talk about personal gains should be off limits. That means everything from your rent to your bonus should be kept private. “If he or she asks about how much money you make or anything related to money while you’re on a hooking-up basis, that would be a red flag,” says Dr. Michael. Also a red flag: he or she talks too much about money they make.
That you’re playing the field
“The first few months is considered the getting-to-know-you phase, and this is when you should decide whether or not you want to continue seeing each other,” says Masini. “Fast exclusivity is not a great idea in most cases, and playing the field is just smart dating.” Practice safe sex, and until you find someone that you want to become exclusive with, there is no obligation of transparency.