Can You Be Friends With Benefits With An Ex? Experts Say It’s Complicated
Just because you and your ex weren't able to make your relationship work, doesn't mean that all the feelings you had for them automatically went away. Whatever the reason for your split, you and your ex may still be physically attracted to each other. If that's the case, you may start wondering: Can you be friends with benefits with an ex? I mean, you're still as physically attracted to them as ever, but you both know that a romantic relationship between you just doesn't work, so why not keep it physical? The short answer is, being FWB with an ex is possible, but it isn't easy.
"If you have a history with a person, while that may make it easier to get into bed the first time, that history will follow you into the bedroom at some point over time," Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, tells Elite Daily. "Shifting from a committed relationship to a FWB relationship with your ex is psychologically very dangerous. There is too much historical baggage attached." Friends with benefits situations are difficult enough as it is, he explains, because they go against human nature. "The feelings that we automatically attribute to intimacy often turn a simple and easy FWB situation into one that has much deeper feelings," he continues. So, if you take something that's already difficult and add someone you have a past with, it can make things even harder.
While you may think that not getting emotionally attached in a FWB situation is easy, that's not true for everyone. "Feelings are still involved, whether people want to admit that or not, and it just complicates things," breakup coach and host of the breakup BOOST podcast Trina Leckie tells Elite Daily. When it comes to a FWB arrangement with an ex, Leckie warns that one person may be doing it for the wrong reasons. "They are really struggling with the breakup and even have hope that their ex will change their mind and want to get back together," she says, which is why getting into a FWB situation with an ex is extra risky.
"This type of relationship can work with the right boundaries and clear communication around what you both want," Pricilla Martinez, CEO of Regroop Online Life Coaching, tells Elite Daily. However, if you and your ex are pretty much acting like you're dating, even though you aren't, the situation can get confusing and painful very quickly, she adds. If you're spending a lot of time together and going out together, it may seem like you're in a relationship again, so, "one of you may realize that you want to get back together [while] the other ex doesn't," Dr. Gary Brown, a prominent couples' therapist in Los Angeles, tells Elite Daily.
"You really have zero control if you or your partner will develop stronger feelings or want a deeper commitment," Martinez says. Even if you make rules about the things the two of you can and can't do and establish boundaries, how you feel is often out of your control — especially if the lines get a little blurred. Leckie says being FWB with your ex could also keep you from being able to truly heal from the breakup because a part of you might still feel like you're in a relationship.
Granted, staying away from your ex when things ended amicably and you're still very much attracted to them can be really hard. "The temptation is always there to go back to what's comfortable and familiar," Susan Winter, NYC-based relationship expert and love coach, tells Elite Daily. "That's why you'll sometimes see sexual behavior between exes that lasts throughout the years. It may be on-and-off and may only be when both are in-between partners, but it's the 'go-to' behavior whenever single or lonely." Winter says it could be considered a weaning process, but agrees it can backfire if you want something more and your ex-turned-FWB doesn't, or vice versa.
Ultimately, getting into a FWB situation with your ex can work, but it can get complicated if feelings come back, or if they never really went away in the first place. "Potentially lonely nights are easier to endure when lying next to someone you are also friends with," Dr. Brown points out. But keep in mind, if your goal is to find someone you want to have a serious relationship with, hooking up with your ex continuously may be keeping you from that, Martinez warns. "It can work out, but you have to be clear on the expectations going in," she adds. So, if you and your ex can agree to a no-strings-attached situation, and you both know (and accept) for a fact that it's just sex, enjoy being FWB with no worries. But if either one of you has ulterior motives or residual feelings, think twice before starting anything up.