Does Having Sex With A Friend Ruin Your Friendship? It's Complicated, An Expert Says
Whoops. You did it. You hooked up with a friend. Um... now what? Whether you and your friend meant to have sex with each other, it was a drunken dalliance, or it just somehow happened, you're probably wondering, does having sex with a friend ruin your friendship? Not necessarily. While having sex with a friend will most likely change your dynamic in some way, there's no need to throw a funeral for your friendship. You can blame it on chemistry, alcohol, or boredom, but if you've hooked up with a friend, here's what you need to know about saving your friendship.
First of all, it's helpful to understand how both you and your friend view sex. Jess O'Reilly, sex expert and host of the "Sex With Dr Jess Podcast," says that if you tend to view sex casually and as an act that can be shared with multiple people, you could be open to friendship after having sex.
However, O'Reilly says, "If you view sex as something sacred or special, you may be less inclined to stay friends with someone with whom you’ve had sex. Each of these approaches is valid — you have to do what works for you."
If you and your friend have different views on what sex means, you might encounter some awkwardness, but being honest with each other can help smooth the transition back to a non-sexual friendship.
Assuming you and your friend both want to salvage your friendship, the next thing to consider is setting boundaries. O'Reilly says to ask yourself, "Will you every consider having sex again and if so, how will you approach it? How much time will you spend together and do you want to set rules, like no sleepovers?" Having a conversation about boundaries will help both of you agree on clear terms that will define your friendship and help both of you feel safe that a hookup won't happen again. While you don't have to set clear rules like no drinking around each other, having an understanding of what's cool and what's not cool sets you both back on track.
Having sex with someone you've been friends with for a while can be a little emotionally jarring. You might even wonder if it means that you should pursue something romantic with them — after all, you have a solid friendship and now had this whole attraction thing happen! O'Reilly advises against reading into this too much and says, "You don’t need to be romantic just because you’ve had sex. Many people see sex as a component of romantic relationships, but others do not." Intimacy, attachment, and comfort could all be reasons you two felt sexually attracted to each other in the moment, but aren't necessarily indications that you two are meant to be together romantically.
If you find yourself in a situation where one of you wants to pursue something more post-hookup and the other wants to go back to being just friends, it is actually possible to save the friendship. Try reframing the situation in your mind as a disagreement, instead of an unresolvable conflict. O'Reilly says, "Almost every relationship disagreement is resolvable if you’re willing to consider multiple perspectives and respect boundaries. You can remain friends if one of you is interested in a relationship and the other is not — if you both accept and respect the boundary."
Part of respecting boundaries is being being real with your friend and real with yourself. O'Reilly says, "If your friend wants to become involved with you romantically and you’re not interested, you need to be very clear about your intentions. Don’t lead them on. Though it can be affirming and fun to be chased, in the long run, the friendship will only survive if you’re honest and don’t take advantage of their interest."
On the flip side, if your friend wants things to go back to normal but you're secretly hoping they'll change their mind and fall for you, having an open, honest, and caring friendship could be really difficult. If this is the case, O'Reilly advises, "You need to decide whether or not you can accept and respect their boundaries. If you cannot, you may need to walk away from this friendship, or at least take some time apart."
Of course, you and your friend could decide to become friends with benefits and keep the sex train rolling, but if you don't want that and truly wish to go back to being friends, you can do it. Having a clear, honest, and compassionate conversation about what happened, how you feel, and what you want now will reset the tone and help you both get back on track. Keep in mind that your friend wants you to be happy, and you want the same for them. So while this whole situation can feel awkward and strange, it's not necessarily the end of your friendship.