In a day where the Internet has replaced dating and texts are sent far more often than flowers, it’s no surprise that men and women alike have begun to reevaluate what they need out of a relationship. In the recently released movie No Strings Attached, Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman weave their way through a “friends with benefits” (FWB) relationship, all the while attempting to stay uncommitted and unattached. Without giving anything away about the movie, we can all see what might happen here, because many of us have been there, done that … and fallen deep into the hole. And so, the eternal question remains unanswered: can two people (FWB) be with each other sexually without getting either attached or hurt? In The Swiss Cheese Theory of Life, or love, even if you’re in the hole, try to move through it with grace while keeping your friendship intact. Practice the following tips to either avoid digging a deeper hole or to begin your most successful friends with benefits relationship ever. But remember, we make no guarantees!
1. Rules RULE. The best way to protect yourself and your partner in a FWB relationship is to start with a solid, agreed-upon set of rules. While this may not be the most romantic start to a relationship, who cares? It’s not romance you’re looking for, remember? Lay down the ground rules about contacting each other, sleeping over, and what you’re going to tell your friends before you jump into bed.
2. Be less involved. It’s a tried and true theory that the person less involved emotionally in the relationship has more power. The person who lets his or her feelings get involved earlier or more easily will end up being a pawn, while the king or queen has the utmost control. If you’re trying to protect yourself, keep your options open and remember what you’re here for—benefits, not feelings.
3. Actually be friends. Choosing a partner that you’re actually friends with is an important step to successful FWB relationship. While you may not want to start sleeping with your best guy or girl friend, as it may cause drama in your already-great relationship, picking someone who you are comfortable around can be very beneficial. Someone you feel like you can talk to will be good when ground rules need to be set, and/or it’s time for you to get out of the relationship.
4. Stop listening to your friends. Your girlfriends and some guy friends will have 500 different stories of their past FWB relationships and how they did/didn’t work out, and why they are/aren’t happy that they happened. If you’re going to do this, do it with confidence or else you’re likely to fall victim to overthinking things.
5. Enjoy yourself! Remember, this is supposed to be fun! FWB relationships have gotten a bad rap recently, so if you’re sure you want to be a part of one, remember what you came for in the first place. Putting too much pressure on yourself and overanalyzing your relationship will only get you into trouble. This is especially true if you’re a psychotherapist, like us!
Judy Belmont, M. S., and Lora Shor, M.S.W ., are both psychotherapists, wellness speakers, and are coauthors of the upcoming book The Swiss Cheese Theory of Life, due out April 1, 2011. This self-help book on resiliency teaches us how to get through life’s holes and not get stuck in them!
By Lora Shor, MSW, and Judy Belmont, MS , for Cupid’s Pulse