If you've ever seen Friends With Benefits or No Strings Attached (how did those movies get made at the same time?!), you know how it often goes. Two friends giddily draw up an arrangement to use each other for sex, and nothing else. But then, after spending more and more time together, they begin to form a deeper connection – and that’s where it starts to get messy. Fortunately, if you've watched these flicks, you know that (spoiler alert) these pairs ultimately can live happily ever after. So, does that mean it's possible to start a relationship from a friends with benefits situation IRL?
The most popular definition for friends with benefits on Urban Dictionary is “two close friends who think it would be fun to have sex with each other again and again. Until one falls in love and gets their heart broken when the other doesn't want a relationship.” I don't necessarily agree with this definition, but isn't the fact that it's the most favored definition just about say it all? It’s pretty common for at least one person in a FWB situation to catch some feels — and it makes sense, too. Sex releases a surge of hormones, some of which actually make us feel bonded to the other person. Plus, when you add the friendship element, there’s a degree or trust and respect for the other person. In other words, when you’re having sex with someone you also like as a person, then it’s natural that you might eventually want more.
Is It Possible To Go From Friends With Benefits To A Monogamous Relationship?
According to relationship and etiquette expert April Masini it is definitely possible to transition from FWB to a monogamous romantic relationship — but that doesn’t mean it’s always an easy feat. “It requires communication and an understanding of the scope of what you’re trying to do,” Masini tells Elite Daily. “If you’ve been sleeping with a friend without any commitment, you really need to talk about what you both want, and what you both expect. This is not a direct line between two points.”
Certified dating coach and relationship expert Damona Hoffman says that getting caught up in the situationship can distract you from pursuing a more serious relationship. “You’re depleting your energy and your relationship drive,” says Hoffman.
Speaking from personal experience, Hoffman relayed a time where she felt she wanted her FWB relationship to become more, but felt stuck. “Half of my brain and half of my body was in the situationship,” says Hoffman. “My coach told me, ‘Don’t you owe yourself clarity to know what’s going on?’”
The first step, she says, is having an open conversation (or, more likely, a series of conversations) about this transition. Of course, that means establishing whether your FWB feels the same way. “Write down what you’re going to say to them, and write down what you think they will say,” says Hoffman. “Then maybe practice with a friend, so when it happens, it doesn’t feel as intense.”
“You probably need to hear them say they’re in or they’re out,” Masini explains. “Take responsibility for that need. Miscommunication can lead to hurt, so be clear and ask for confirmation and clarity in exchange.”
How Do You Transition From FWB To Something More?
Once you’ve established that you both are interested in pursuing a relationship, you’ll want to be clear on exactly what kind of relationship you’re entering. According to Masini, it’s crucial to avoid assuming that you both want all the same things out of the relationship. What will you call each other? Will you delete your dating apps? Will you be seeing each other more often? Do you plan to meet each other’s friends and families? Of course, you don’t need to jam all of this into one conversation, but you should clarify as much as possible before you get in too deep. The more frankly you discuss what your ideal relationship looks like, the more reassurance you can get that this new phase will work for both of you.
“Be honest and if you can, be brutally honest,” says Masini. “Talk about what you want — but also talk about what you don’t want. For instance, don’t dance around the topic of monogamy [if that’s what you want]. Ask your partner how they feel about that, and if they’re on the same page that you are.”
Masini also recommends giving yourselves a time frame to check in and see if you’re both satisfied with this relationship transformation. That way, you can test-drive the change without the transition feeling so intimidating. In two weeks, or two months, or whatever milestone you choose, you can have another conversation about whether you’re both satisfied with the status of your relationship.
Cherlyn Chong, a dating coach and breakup coach, advises that you and your FWB partner restart your relationship from scratch if you both want to move forward from the current situationship. “You have to start dating again,” says Chong. “That means stepping back from the sex and getting to know each other on just this very genuine trusting kind of basis.”
What Happens If You Try A Monogamous Relationship & It Doesn’t Work?
Having feelings for one another is one thing, but in order to make the relationship more serious, you have to put in the effort, and make a plan to date each other with intention. “Dating is hard work, getting to the love is hard work,” says Chong. “If you expect the process to be an easy one, that’s not how it’s going to be.”
“If you can both agree to try this new status for three months and then decide at that time if it’s still working or not, you’re not going to be second-guessing each other as much,” Masini adds. “Also, agree that if it’s not working for one or both of you, you’ll let the other one know before going off with someone else. This is a lot more difficult to do than to talk about when you’re transitioning from a casual to a more monogamous relationship.”
If you’re hoping to turn your FWB situation into a real relationship, know that this is totally normal and understandable. And fortunately, it’s very possible to achieve that transition — as long as both people are equally invested. “They might say, ‘I've been feeling the same way too and I was scared because I didn't want to lose you’ and then you both get your needs met,” says Hoffman. “But no one gets their needs met if you just stay in it and swallow all of your true feelings.”
There are so many different types of relationships that two people can build together. So once you’ve confirmed that both you and your FWB are down to take your situation to a more serious level, you’ll just want to figure out what a happy, healthy bond looks like for both of you. The bottom line? Just because something starts as casual doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. As long as you and your FWB stay on the same page throughout the transition, you too could achieve a hookup-turned-happily ever after.
April Masini, relationship and etiquette expert
Cherlyn Chong, breakup coach and dating coach
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