A Friends With Benefits Arrangement Isn’t What It Used To Be

Photographed by Savana Ogburn.
A new survey has shown that the traditional friends-with-benefits (FWB) model is changing. No longer is it a strictly sex-with-no-strings-attached setup, with the benefits being a lot more than sex for people engaging in a FWB relationship. 
Relationships, situationships, flings… our perceptions of sexual interactions are becoming more fluid, so it’s natural for FWBs to follow a similar route. The term FWB has been in circulation for a couple of decades and hasn’t strayed too much from its original definition: a non-committal and non-monogamous casual sexual relationship.
A recent survey by Ashley Madison, however, found that FWBs are branching away from purely being focused on physical intimacy. Out of the 2,066 respondents, 71% said they have had a friend with benefits. 52% of these people reported going on short and fun dates as their favourite thing to do together, while 27% said it was spending extended quality time together.

"Having consistency without the expectations that surround a monogamous relationship really works for us."

Penny, 23
Penny, 23, has been in a FWB relationship for almost four years now. For her, the biggest perk is that “it’s fun” — which is only heightened by her and her friend’s closeness.
“We are both very busy people and having consistency without the expectations that surround a monogamous relationship. Being with one person regularly helps you get to know their likes, needs and desires which only enhances the overall experience,” she shares with Refinery29.
For Penny and her friend, a strong friendship has been something that’s added to their sexual relationship. “We have built really great pillars of trust, respect and understanding from the foundation of our friendship. This makes communication easy and also makes exploring new things together a fun and safe experience,” she says. “There is always that fear of jeopardising the friendship when it ends but I think our friendship has only grown stronger.”
Penny's experience matches up with the survey findings — respect and trust feed into the success of a FWB setup. According to the survey, consistent sex is still the biggest perk of having a friend with benefits (81%) but non-physical benefits are climbing too. 70% of people pointed to mutual respect as a perk, 67% of people said it’s having someone you can trust and 66% said more willingness to experiment sexually was a bonus. 
A 2017 study in Archives Of Sexual Behaviour found that the happiest pairings were the ones that valued communication and sacrifice. Of the 171 college students who participated, those who self-reported ‘yes’ to statements such as, "I tend to think about how things affect 'us' as a couple more than how things affect 'me' as an individual" and "It makes me feel good to sacrifice for my FWB partner” were reported to be the happiest.
Untraditional relationships are growing in popularity; it’s clear that non-monogamy is not just a fad. And unlike what movies like Friends With Benefits try to tell us, they don’t have to end in an explosive fight or with the lovebirds wandering off into the sunset. 
“Other than not having feelings for each other in that way, we both want very different things out of life and from our future romantic relationships,” Penny says when asked if her and her friend would ever enter a relationship together. There are endless 'rules' when it comes to FWBs, but ultimately, benefits and guidelines work best when they're unique to each couple.
“Our situation really suits us and I don't think that you need to be in a traditional relationship with someone to have an authentic and meaningful connection.”

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