Falling in love with your friend with benefits (FWB) is like working full-time as an unpaid intern at a company you're crazy about with no guarantee of a job at the end of it all.
It sucks, especially when you're the one who's caught feelings.
You might be lucky enough to have your feelings reciprocated, but you're more likely going to get your feelings hurt.
If you're in the latter camp, I'm here to commiserate with you.
Here are the five stages of falling in love with your FWB:
Stage 1: You Won't, Under Any Circumstances, Catch Feelings.
This is the best stage. You're probably recently out of a relationship and emotionally unavailable, but you're also sexually frustrated.
One-night stands are an option, but let's face it: The morning after and the walk of shame back to your apartment aren't as fun as when you're doing it every single weekend.
Plus, you don't want to catch any diseases from strangers. What's the next best option?
Doing it on a regular basis with someone you know and trust, without the label of “significant other.”
The beginning is so much fun. You get along with this person, you're (hopefully) having bomb-ass sex and there aren't any strings attached.
You never have to feel guilty when you're flirting with other people or lazily flicking through Tinder.
There is just one unspoken rule: You two have to keep it this way for as long as possible.
You're having fun at this point and you promise yourself that you won't, under any circumstances, become attached.
Stage 2: You Start To Settle Into A Routine.
The 4 am texts start to become 2 pm texts and the two of you gradually settle into a pleasantly predictable routine.
It's fairly comforting, and there are still no relationship obligations you have to keep in mind.
You fit this person into your busy schedule and he or she fits perfectly between the last class you have on Monday and dinner with friends.
This is also a good stage because the two of you are still getting along and ostensibly, want the same thing.
For many FWB relationships, this is the longest stage, and the rest of your FWB relationship will ideally play out in this manner until one of you gets bored or meets another person.
In some FWB relationships, however, this is the stage when you start to become a little too comfortable in your routine. It brings up feelings that are reminiscent of a relationship.
After all, you two are sharing a lot more than spit, and at this point, you're doing so on a regular basis. Depending on the type of person you are, this could lead to a lot of trouble.
Stage 3: You Start To Develop Feelings.
You're lingering at your FWB's house for longer and longer and now, the two of you have extended activities from purely hooking up to actually talking and hanging out.
This keeps happening until one day, you wake up beside this person, look over and start to freak out because you realize you genuinely like him or her.
You like the way this person makes you laugh as much as you like the way he or she make you come.
You start to fantasize about this person outside of the bedroom: picking out vegetables at a farmer's market, picking out furniture at IKEA or doing other non-sexual relationship-type activities. Yikes.
At this stage, you consider breaking it off for a number of reasons. Maybe your last relationship was a disaster and this arrangement was only supposed to be a short-term thing.
Maybe you recognize you're falling for emotionally unavailable people because you're emotionally unavailable yourself.
Despite your normally logical trains of thought, you can't deny your feelings for this person.
Now, every time you come over, you experience a wave of nausea, or you start to take certain actions that used to mean nothing to you more seriously.
This person offered you carrots? Carrots mean nourishment, and if he or she wants to nourish you, maybe he or she also has feelings for you? You're going a little crazy at this point.
Stage 4: You Admit Your Feelings To Your FWB, And Everything Falls Apart.
Once you admit your feelings to your FWB, it could go one of two ways. Ideally, of course, your FWB returns your feelings, and both of you want to take the arrangement to the next level.
More often though, your FWB doesn't return your feelings, and the house of cards the two of you built together so precariously falls apart.
After all, if your FWB were the type of person who wanted to be in a relationship, wouldn't he or she be in a relationship already?
You two may still meet every once in a while in order to relieve some sexual frustration, but once you admit your feelings and get rejected, nothing is quite the same.
The fun you used to have with each other is replaced by a general awkwardness created by the vacuum of his or her unreciprocated feelings for you.
Every time you have sex, you get a little more attached and just a tiny bit more heartbroken. You do this until you realize you can't handle it any longer.
Your arrangement ends, either with an ultimatum or with both parties silently agreeing to never speak to one another again.
Stage 5: You Learn From Your Experience.
Falling in love with someone who doesn't return your feelings is messy when you factor sex into the equation.
This is the worst stage because there aren't any real guidelines to help you when your FWB relationship inevitably dissolves.
How do you cope with the ending of a relationship that wasn't even really a relationship?
Your friends may be able to relate, but eating ice cream straight out of the tub and staring at Netflix for a week isn't exactly the best protocol for situations like these.
Honestly, your only option is to pick yourself back up, brush yourself off and realize your FWB is just another person to add to your list of experiences. You know you'll be okay in the end.