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What Are The Pros And Cons Of Friends With Benefits? A Social Psychology Podcast Episode.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Friends With Benefits? A Social Psychology Podcast Episode.

Whilst I don’t think I would ever engage in Friends With Benefits, because these sort of friendships and relationships just aren’t for me. I am really interested in learning more about them and understanding who they do and don’t work for. Therefore, in this social psychology podcast episode, you’ll learn what are the pros and cons of Friends With Benefits and if you did want to engage in this type of relationship, what are some research-based tips for making it work. Of course nothing on this podcast is ever any sort of official advice. Yet if you enjoy learning about relationships, casual sex and more then you’re in for a treat.

Today’s psychology podcast episode has been sponsored by Psychology Of Relationships: The Social Psychology Of Friendships, Romantic Relationships And More. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it. Also available as an AI-narrated audiobook from selected audiobook platforms and library systems. For example, Kobo, Spotify, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, Overdrive, Baker and Taylor and Bibliotheca.

Introduction To Friends With Benefits

Something I find really interesting is that despite levels of sexual intimacy being at a 30-year low, casual sex is rather common and over 50% of young people between 18 and 29 years old have reported at least one causal sex experience (Lambert et al., 2003; Hawkins et al., 2023). I think that’s rather interesting because it shows that whilst overall sexual activity is decreasing, people still want casual sex no matter what.

Furthermore, causal sexual encounters are not all good and all bad, so they certainly aren’t created equal. Since some examples of casual sexual encounters can include hook-ups or Friends With Benefits and everything in between. It’s the experience of Friends With Benefits that is the focus of this episode.

And in case you don’t know what Friends With Benefits are, Lewis et al. (2012) defines Friends With Benefits as regular sex between people that tend to know each other well as well as they have an emotional connection.

The first con or disadvantage of Friends With Benefits is that people who tend to fall in love easily need to be very cautious. Yet some other disadvantages are that Friends With Benefits don’t tend to be suitable for people who want a committed relationship or have challenging attachment histories since this sort of relationship really will not work for these people.

And I just want to jump in here and say that it doesn’t make you a bad person or a strange or odd one if Friends With Benefits isn’t right for you. I know in certain subcultures Friends With Benefits is something that is relatively normal, and actually in wider society, there are tons of people that have Friends With Benefits. I know plenty of straight people who love and only have Friends With Benefits, and the same goes for gay people.

So that’s a little myth I wanted to burst straight away. It doesn’t matter what your sexuality is, your background or what your friends are doing. Friends With Benefits are really common but if they aren’t right for you then that’s okay.

The worst thing you could do is invest in a Friends With Benefits relationship, realise you don’t like it and get seriously hurt emotionally by the experience.

In addition, Friends With Benefits is a mixture of real emotional connection between the partners, good sex and sexual attraction. So in that respect Friends With Benefits and romantic relationships aren’t actually that different.

Instead the only aspect that truly separates these two types of relationships is the idea that a romantic relationship involves a future for the couple and the perceived demands of a budding committed relationship.

What Are The Cons Of Friends With Benefits?

On the whole, there are some additional clear cons and disadvantages of Friends With Benefits because if someone develops a romantic attachment to their friend then this could end up in losing a good friendship, heartbreak is another one and for some people this could be a waste of time that could have been better spent on intentional dating.

Personally, this is why I could never really do Friends With Benefits because I want something real, committed and something that does involve a future. I don’t want a friendship just to have sex and I do love that idea of building a future and relationship with someone.

I want someone that can make me laugh, I can do things with like travelling and I can be with them for the long term. I don’t actually care about sex or physical stuff too much, but I am probably only saying that because of something bad that happened to me recently.

Anyway, Friends With Benefits just isn’t for me. And I’m sharing that because I do feel that in wider society there is a pressure on young people to just have sex, do adult things and do them regularly.

So I want you to know that if you don’t want this then that’s okay.

The Losing A Friend Potential of Friends With Benefits

I mentioned a moment ago that sometimes someone in the casual sex relationship can develop romantic feelings for the other one and this can be a problem. And whilst there is no good way to stop this from happening, if this does happen then this can lead to a breakdown in the friendship even more so if these feelings aren’t shared by the other person.

Thankfully, research from the University of Louisville suggests this isn’t a death sentence for the friendship because 80% of participants who had ended their Friends With Benefits relationship were still friends.

In addition, a lot of Friends With Benefits don’t last very long with Machia et al. (2020) finding that 60% of people in these relationships just went back to being friends after having sex only one time. As well as most Friends With Benefits relationships never progress into romantic relationships and end before that, with 75% to 85% of relationships going back to platonic friends or not being friends at all after they stop seeing each other.

Which I have to admit is brilliant news and I think that will relax a lot of people who want to try Friends With Benefits but they’re scared that this might happen.

I’ll talk in a little bit about how to possibly avoid losing friends.

What Are The Pros of Friends With Benefits?

Interestingly enough, there has been a lot of academic research over the years on Friends With Benefits and its advantages. Even though it has mainly been focused on emerging adults, it’s important to note that Friends With Benefits does happen in adulthood including for people who are single parents and divorcees (Vanderheiden, 2021).

In addition, the reason for why single parents and divorcees engage in Friends With Benefits behaviour could be because if you really think about it, both these older age groups and emerging adults share some behaviours. Due to all those groups are sharing different types of major life transitions, so despite their personality and developmental differences, there are some similarities.

Our first benefit of Friends With Benefits is that emerging adults who have had sex with a friend at least once has said it was a positive experience regardless of their gender (Gusarova et al., 2012). Also, there is some evidence of gender differences in the perception of casual sex because men are more likely to perceive it as more positive because they are more likely to experience an orgasm according to Piemonte et al. (2019).

A second lot of advantages to Friends With Benefits includes it can lead to greater feelings of sexual agency, confidence and satisfaction in a relationship that is typically experienced as more psychological safe (Owen et al., 2013; Hawkins et al., 2023). As well as the quality of the sexual experience tends to increase with a person’s sense of familiarity and safety with the person.

Personally, even though I’m flat out not going to go into the details because I am warming myself up to do a podcast episode on the topic because I need to burst some myths and talk about it so it can help people. I want to stress here that having a sexual encounter with someone who you don’t feel comfortable and safe with (even more so because of what they’ve done) is an awful experience and I don’t wish it on anyone. So I can understand how the quality of sexual experience can increase with a person’s sense of safety as well as familiarity.

Building upon this further, safe sexual practices are critical and in contrast to popular belief they are more consistent in Friends With Benefits relationships. Therefore, this reduces the most common risks of casual sex, like getting a Sexually Transmitted Infection and unplanned pregnancies.

Also, one benefit I do like about the idea of Friends With Benefits is that the sex is a lot more convenient. Since there is basically no effort unlike in a more serious romantic relationship and Friends With Benefits reduces the risk of sex with strangers.

What Should You Consider If You Want To Explore Friends With Benefits?

This is the section of the podcast episode that I was really interested in for my own curiosity because I have no intention of ever doing this but I am interested in the concept at the very least.

As a result if you’re thinking about starting a Friends With Benefits relationship with, well, a friend you should consider these three things. Firstly, you need to know yourself and be transparent because less than 25% of Friends With Benefits relationships turn into romantic ones. So if you want to start a Friends With Benefits relationship hoping that it’s going to turn into a romantic one and you want to fall in love with your friend and you want them to fall in love with you, then you need to communicate that. Also, if you’re dating and want to pursue another person then let you know this so your Friends With Benefits relationship doesn’t degrade into a “situationship”.

Now because I am somewhat cut off from the dating world and all of its wonderful lingo, I will just clarify here for the uninformed that a situationship is a romantic or sexual relationship that hasn’t been formalised yet.

Personally, this is another reason why I couldn’t do Friends With Benefits because sure, I am still a young person and I want sexual and romantic things so there are friends I would love to have this relationship with. Yet I know I don’t want Friends With Benefits with them, I want a real romantic relationship with them. So that’s one reason why this wouldn’t be a good fit for me because I would be in a relationship that would never be what I wanted it to be and that wouldn’t be good emotionally over time.

Secondly, you need to set clear boundaries from the start of your Friends With Benefits relationship. Since if you are sexually attracted to your friend and you broach the subject with them then you need to talk about what you do and don’t want from this relationship. This is going to save you a lot of stress later on because this will allow you to create shared meaning and informed consent before getting sexually involved with each other.

Finally, nurture your friendship because the sex should hopefully be very exciting and really, really good. But you need to make sure you don’t forget to do what you enjoyed doing before you started being Friends With Benefits. Therefore,, you might want to spend some time together with shared friends, do something just the two of you that you both like and keep each other updated on your life.

In other words, when you become Friends With Benefits, don’t forget that you’re actually friends too and actually friends first. So you need to keep the friendship alive, fun and kicking.

Social Psychology Conclusion

Overall, when it comes to Friends With Benefits, having casual sex with a great, trusted friend isn’t going to work for some people then for others, it could be amazing. Of course, I would add that if you’re a new adult, a single parent or a divorcee then these are times in your life that could be rich opportunities to have sex and explore.

However, you have to do what is best for you because I don’t want you to get hurt physically or emotionally by Friends With Benefits relationships. You need to have a consensual sexual relationship with someone who you like, someone who likes you back and someone that will respect you. And having sex with a trusted friend might be a great way to do that because it might be pleasurable and wonderful.

After this podcast episode, would I ever consider being in a Friends With Benefits relationship?

I would consider it and think about it. But I know myself well enough not to do this in real life because I can have attachment issues, I’m not actually into sex that much and honestly, the people I would flat out love to have Friends With Benefits relationships with, are actually the people I want long-term committed relationships with.

So no this wouldn’t be a good idea personally.

However, you might be different and if you are then more power to you and I truly wish you the best of luck because I’ve heard from some friends over the years that they are amazing. And come to think of it one of my old friends did get his boyfriend from a Friends With Benefits relationship and they are the best couple ever and their relationship had less than a 25% chance of developing.

So it’s possible.

Just do what is right for you and have fun, because that really is the key to life.


I really hope you enjoyed today’s social psychology podcast episode.

If you want to learn more, please check out:

Psychology Of Relationships: The Social Psychology Of Friendships, Romantic Relationships And More. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it. Also available as an AI-narrated audiobook from selected audiobook platforms and library systems. For example, Kobo, Spotify, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, Overdrive, Baker and Taylor and Bibliotheca.

Have a great day.

Social Psychology References and Recommended Reading

Gusarova, I., Fraser, V., & Alderson, K. G. (2012). A quantitative study of ‘‘friends with benefits’’ relationships. The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 21, 41–59.

Hawkins, S.E., DeLuca, H.K., Claxton, S.E. et al. (2023). Sexual Behaviors, Satisfaction, and Intentions to Engage in Casual Sexual Relationships and Experiences in Emerging Adulthood. Archive of Sexual Behavior, 52, 1575–1591.

Henderson, E., Aaron, S., Blackhurst, Z., Maddock, M., Fincham, F., & Braithwaite, S. R. (2020). Is pornography consumption related to risky behaviors during friends with benefits relationships?. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 17(12), 2446-2455.

Lambert, T. A., Kahn, A. S., & Apple, K. J. (2003). Pluralistic ignorance and hooking up. Journal of Sex Research, 40, 129–133.

Letcher, A., Carmona, J., Ramsay-Seaner, K., & Scott Hoffman, M. (2021). Motivations, Expectations, Ideal Outcomes, and Satisfaction in Friends With Benefits Relationships Among Rural Youth. Journal of Counseling Sexology & Sexual Wellness: Research, Practice, and Education, 3(2), 58-69.

Machia, L.V., Proulx, M.L., Loerger, M., & Lehmiller, J.J. (2020). A longitudinal study of friends with benefits relationships. Personal Relationships, 27, 1, 47-60.

Olmstead, S. B. (2020). A decade review of sex and partnering in adolescence and young adulthood. Journal of Marriage and Family, 82(2), 769-795.

Owen, J., Fincham, F. D., & Manthos, M. (2013). Friendship after a friends with benefits relationship: Deception, psychological functioning, and social connectedness. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 42, 1443–1449.

Piemonte, J.L., Conley, T.D., & Gusakova, S. (2019). Orgasm, gender, and responses to heterosexual casual sex. Personality and Individual Differences, 151, 109487.

Stewart, R. S. (2020). Sexual Friendships: How Ought We Think about and Classify Friends with Benefits?. In Expanding and Restricting the Erotic (pp. 11-33). Brill.

Vanderheiden, E. (2021). “Have a Friend with Benefits, Whom off and on I See.” Friends with Benefits Relationships. In International Handbook of Love: Transcultural and Transdisciplinary Perspectives (pp. 155-175). Cham: Springer International Publishing.

Wade, L. (2021). Doing casual sex: A sexual fields approach to the emotional force of hookup culture. Social Problems, 68(1), 185-201.

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