Ah, the friends with benefits (FWB) relationship… Just invoking it can cause sharp reactions in people. The label has a rather storied history, one that can be quite divisive, with many people saying they’d never pursue one and other people saying it’s a form of connection they prefer.
Still others say that they don’t do friends with benefits and go on to describe a situation that sounds remarkably like a traditional FWB setup, where two friends have a sexual relationship without a romantic relationship or commitment. They just don’t call it that.
Anyway, it turns out that an awful lot of people who are in FWB setups are hoping the connection will eventually develop into a romantic one.
A Lot of Friends with Benefits Want the Connection to Turn Romantic
A recent survey studying the attitudes of people with a current FWB relationship found the following:
- Approximately a quarter of men hoped that their current FWB relationship would eventually develop into a romantic one.
- About 40% of women surveyed had a similar hope, that the FWB setup would go on to be romantic.
- These findings demonstrated that women were more likely than men to hope a FWB situation would become romantic, consistent with broader cultural opinions on the matter. (To be fair, however, the study found that about 60% or a majority of women in FWB situations did not want the setup to become romantic).
- A meaningful number of men also hoped that the relationships would become romantic. This breaks a bit with stereotypical conceptions of gender roles, the whole notion of “why would he want to buy the cow when he can get the milk for free?” (Ugh.) Apparently quite a few men would (although admittedly a minority).
It was worth noting, however, that only about 30% of women wanted the FWB setup to stay the same. As noted above, about 40% wanted it to become romantic and about 30% combined wanted to either go back to being friends or sever the connection.
Men were also significantly more likely to want the FWB situation to stay the same (60%) and were less likely to want it to change in general (with roughly a quarter wanting it to become romantic and the remaining 15% wanting to either go back to being friends or cut ties completely).
I Suspect Mismatched Expectations Are Common When They Remain Unspoken
It all makes me wonder, quite unscientifically, mind you, how many times people are in a FWB pair in which both halves of the situation want it to change in the same direction (whatever that direction) but neither wants to be the one to bring it up first, to communicate it clearly, for fear of risking rejection or encountering conflict.
I feel like for what is often conceived of as a simpler model of relationship (i.e., “no strings attached”) that FWB dynamics can be quite complicated indeed. And I also suspect mismatched expectations are common when they remain unspoken.
Books by Page Turner: