Nurturing a relationship takes a level of commitment that can be difficult. However, as many of us know, even if you don't necessarily want to give an exclusive relationship your all, that doesn't magically erase the natural craving for physical intimacy. So, finding a consistent hookup buddy can be very appealing because you satisfy your needs without having to put in the work to sustain a more complex relationship. Sadly, we all know things don't always go according to plan. Knowing what to do if you start falling for your friend with benefits is key because sometimes, keeping things strictly casual can get tricky.
I spoke with licensed clinical psychotherapist Dr. LeslieBeth Wish to learn more about the best course of action if you've become attached to your FWB and want more out of your relationship with them. According to Dr. Wish, the first thing you should do is spend some time examining your feelings and relationship patterns. She says it's not uncommon for people to subconsciously seek out casual sex when they really crave the closeness of a relationship with more emotional depth. "First, search inside yourself to make sure that you aren't so afraid of emotional intimacy that you've used casual sex as a shield against the fear of falling in love," Dr. Wish tells Elite Daily.
That's not to say wanting casual sex always has a deeper meaning, because sometimes you just want a part-time bae and there's nothing wrong with that! But once you find yourself wanting more from them, it's definitely a good idea to acknowledge your feelings instead of repressing them. However, Dr. Wish believes keeping your emotions to yourself for a while is the best course of action if you're hoping the bond will develop into something more serious. "You don't necessarily have to cut the physical chord that binds — which your partner might cut when you express your feelings. So, why not take small steps to be closer?" explains Dr. Wish.
Most of us know how nerve-wracking it can be to realize you're falling in love with a friend — the anxiety and fear can get really intense. So intense, that coming clean about how you're feeling can be very tempting, but Dr. Wish emphasizes the importance of taking it slow. "Don't rush any expressions of your feelings — a 'love-rookie' mistake that increases your chances of scaring away your partner," says Dr. Wish. "And don't fall for the trap that 'expressing your feelings' is the best way to go. Remember: You can always call things off — so why rush [into ending things] just to calm yourself? You could be passing up a good thing!"
Thankfully, there are some ways to encourage a purely sexual relationship to grow into more. "Plan your sex so it begins or ends around a meal or snack time so that it feels natural to be together before or after sex or bring something good to eat that you think your sex partner might like," suggests Dr. Wish. This can make hanging out outside of the bedroom feel much more normal and can alert their mind to other aspects of your connection that aren't sexual. According to Dr. Wish, another great way to get the relationship juices flowing is to ask their advice about something, which can result in some non-sexual bonding.
"[You can also try] putting more time between your encounters," says Dr. Wish. "You could explain it by saying you have 'some things' you need to tend to. Being less available can often prompt feelings of longing in your partner."
Trying to turn a casual relationship into something more committed or exclusive might be challenging, but there's nothing wrong with setting the stage for a closer connection. And if you shoot your shot but it doesn't end up working out, try to remember that there are plenty of compatible matches out there, so don't get too discouraged. If you want a serious relationship, you shouldn't settle for anything else.