Friends with benefits–Two good friends who have a sexual relationship without being emotionally involved. Typically two good friends who have casual sex without a monogamous relationship or any kind of commitment. (definition taken from the Urban Dictionary)

Are these kinds of relationships good or bad? Well, it depends on your perspective.

The NYTimes published an article about FWB yesterday. Although they don’t make an explicit judgment call on the properness of FWB relationships, they seem to imply that it’s fine as long as both people are aware of the potential downsides. According to a recent study, sex in a friendship can become a bit of an albatross: it’s always there, but never spoken about. The fear in a FWB relationship is that one person will become more invested in the relationship than the other person. That someone will fall in love – or at least in more than lust – and both the friendship and the sexual relationship will be ended. The study found that 60% of Michigan State students had been involved in at least one FWB relationship.

Here’s what the study says about how these relationships end:

  • 1 out of ten became romantic relationships
  • 3 out of ten stopped the sexual part but remained friends
  • 2.5 out of ten stopped both the sexual and friendship part of the relationship
  • 3.5 were still in a FWB relationship

So back to our original question: are these kinds of relationships good or bad?

Well, as a general kind of relationship they’re fine. They offer a way to be sexual without the emotional distractions and inherent issues of a romantic engagement and without the safety issues involved in hook-ups or one night stands. And let’s be honest: most college students are sexual. So FWB widens the options to have safe, respectful sex.

On the other side, some may argue, sex belongs in a monogamous, committed relationship. Maybe even – gasp! – only after marriage.

But that’s just not how people in their 20’s are having sex these days. And the critical part of our sexuality is that it feeds our soul and supports us as we learn more deeply about ourselves and those we are in relationship with. And FWB is one way to do that.

So what is your experience? Have you ever had a FWB? How did it end up? How do you perceive the relationship with the increased clarity of hindsight?