I'm a big proponent of friends with benefits and having casual sex, as long as both people are game and know what they're getting into. Of course, casual sex is not for everyone. If you aren't in a relationship and love sex, a casual sex partner can be a great alternative to one-night stands. If you like one-night stands, go for it, but personally I prefer having sex with the same person, because I find it less awkward and the sex gets better.
That being said, as much as good casual sex can happen in many different forms, there are some benefits to relationship sex that you don't find in a casual partner. Both relationship and non-relationship sex have their pros and cons, but while there's a lot of overlap there are also many things that make them very different. Like waffle fries and french fries. Or baked potatoes and mashed potatoes. Potatoes and sweet potatoes. (Full disclosure: I may have a more active potato-life than sex life at the moment.) And I'm not just talking about emotions, although that certainly plays a large role in how they differ.
Here's how sex is different when it's casual than when it's in a long-term relationship, because they both have some major ups and downs:
1. You Eventually Have To Mix It Up
In LTRs, the long makes a different. Most casual sex is either a one-night stand or a friends with benefits, and my record for one of those lasting is about a year and a half. Which may sound like a lot, but relationships last for years and decades, and there's a whole lot more potential for ruts, so you have to keep aware of your sex life is doing and spice it up as necessary.
2. Casual Sex Is Easier To Critique
One of the things I really like about having a friends with benefits partner is that you can have a really open, frank dialogue about sex. Without the emotional factor you're both less sensitive, and when it's sex for sex's sake you can say "I really like X, but Y didn't really work for me." without it feeling so loaded. Obviously you can get to that place in relationships too, and you should aim to, but it's so much easier with casual sex.
3. You Have To Work To Prioritize Sex In A LTR
When you're meeting up just for sex, obviously the sex is never going to slip. I mean I would normally still watch movies and have sleepovers with my FWB, but sex was always the main event. In a long-term relationship, other thing can start to get in the way and sex can be put on the back burner. You have to work for it— but it's worth it.
4. Eye Contact
Casual sex is more awkwardly sliding the laptop off the bed because we're done with 30 Rock and it's sex time. It's not without affection (at least in my experience), but it's not the same. Long term relationship sex has all of the feels, and a lot of those feels come out in a whole bunch of eye contact during and maybe some Boyz To Men in the background.
5. The Cuddle Factor
Even though I would certainly always be touchy and physical with friends with benefits, it's not the same spooning-hand-playing-cuddle-fest of LTR post-sexing. With friends with benefits, there's an immediate fall back into goofy friend mode, in my case with a lot of high-five giving, but in a relationship sex you tend to decompress and take a while to come back to reality.
6. The Compartmentalizing
When you're just having casual sex and that's what your connection with this person is based on, it's fairly unadulterated sex. But in a relationship, your sex is often informed by other things going on between the two of you. Just had a fight? An anniversary? Feeling blue? Doing it just because it's been while? All of this affects the kind of sex that you're having. For better or for worse, it's a part of something bigger— it's just one part of your connection.
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