If you’ve ever watched a rom-com, you know what a friends-with-benefits relationship is. They’re relationships where friends have sex but don’t call it a romantic relationship. And, if you go by what the movies tell you, a friends-with-benefits relationship will likely end up with you two falling in love.
However, the reality is very different. And science can explain why.
Our Bodies Aren’t Designed for Casual Sex
Who knew that men and women were biologically different? It turns out, women are more likely to develop an emotional bond to a sexual partner than men are because women experience higher levels of oxytocin after sex.
Sexologist Tanya M. Bass says, “Oxytocin is known as the feel-good hormone that promotes feelings of love, bonding, and well-being.” She continues, “It can be very common to feel attachment to someone after sex since the brain releases oxytocin during arousal, stimulation of the genitals and nipples, during intercourse or orgasm. The release of this hormone after being physically intimate may cause a feeling of attachment and closeness.”
Women are more likely to develop an emotional bond to a sexual partner than men because women experience higher levels of oxytocin after sex.
Our bodies are made for us to enjoy sex (that’s why orgasms exist), but we’re also meant to experience it with someone we love who’s going to stick around (hence oxytocin).
Negative Psychological Effects
I honestly can’t think of a worse way to ruin a friendship with a guy friend than hooking up with him. A recent study showed that one in four friends-with-benefits relationships ends sex and the friendship altogether. Those aren’t odds that I’d want to take.
Experts also suggest that it’s impossible to have a casual friend-with-benefits relationship because friendship is not a casual thing. Aaron Ben-Zeev, Ph.D., writes, “Friendship is also not a casual relationship—we do not make friends with all of our acquaintances. Friendship assumes the continuation of the relationship over a period of time and a depth that is absent from mere casual acquaintances.”
Think about it. Friendships already share some form of intimacy, making “casual” sex between friends impossible by definition. Adding sex to the equation will only increase your intimacy and complicate things.
Friendships already share some form of intimacy, making “casual” sex between friends impossible by definition.
Besides the effects of oxytocin, research also shows that “casual” sex can lead to negative mental health consequences. Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., writes, “Researchers examining the mental health associations of hookup sex also report that participants who were not depressed before showed more depressive symptoms and loneliness after engaging in casual sex.”
In short, engaging in no-strings-attached sex is already a recipe for disaster, and doing it with a friend only makes it worse.
What If You’re Both into Each Other?
There’s a chance that you have a guy friend who is into you and you’re into him. This might seem like the perfect opportunity to try a friends-with-benefits relationship, but really, it’s an even better opportunity to turn your friendship into a romantic relationship. You already know each other on an intimate level and can skip some of the awkward beginning stages of a romantic relationship, so why not give it a shot?
If you decide to give it a shot, it’s important to set boundaries to make sure neither of you gets hurt and that you can maintain your friendship if things don’t work out. It’s also important to acknowledge how your type of friendship can develop into a romantic relationship. Dr. Theresa DiDonato writes, “I would consider the quality of your friendship before transitioning to a relationship. Do you feel safe and secure in that friendship, or is it an exciting, emotional ride?”
If you and a guy friend both like each other, it’s safer to take a plunge into a romantic relationship than a friends-with-benefits relationship.
In short, it’s better to go for it if you have a stable and secure friendship rather than one purely based on excitement and fun. This also makes it easier for the connection to turn romantic and will less likely end in disaster.
Contrary to popular belief, female brains are different than male brains. This makes regular friendships between men and women difficult, but it also goes to show that having a friends-with-benefits relationship is a bad idea. Our bodies weren’t designed to have casual sex, and research shows that women who engage in casual sex are more likely to face mental health problems like depression. However, if you and a guy friend both like each other, it’s safer to take a plunge into a romantic relationship than a friends-with-benefits relationship.
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