I've had a lot of friends with benefits. And they've all been happy, healthy and pretty much without exception, we've remained friends afterward. But one of my friends is currently in a position I found myself in a few years back, wondering "Has my friends-with-benefits situation gone on too long?" Because it can be difficult to tell when something that was once a perfect setup has gone past its sell-by date.
Now, there are definitely times when a FWB should have never happened to begin with. "I think the first question that should be asked is to yourself. Do you even want a casual sexual relationship?" relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW tells Bustle. "So many [heterosexual] women end up in these situations because they are hoping that the guy will eventually become their boyfriend. In reality, that's not a great reason to have a friend with benefits. More often than not it ends up being painful and upsetting. The only reason to have a no-strings attached sexual relationship is because you truly desire no-strings attached sex. Not because you are hoping it will evolve into something else."
But what if you are that person — the person who likes the no-strings attached sex? I've definitely been that person. Well, even then, there are still times when you need to say goodbye to a casual hookup buddy. Here's how you know your FWB has gone on too long, because it's not a time period, it's a feeling:
1One Of You Has Started To Want Something More
It happens. Sometimes one of you starts to catch feelings. It's really difficult, but it's important to nip it in the bud. Resist the urge to just "wait and see".
"If you are in this sort of relationship and you've decided that you'd like to be more serious or exclusive you need to handle it in a confident, direct manner," Hartstein says.
What does handling it in a direct way mean? Well, you need to talk about— fast. Because either you both feel the same way, in which case maybe a more serious relationship is an option, or you don't feel the same way. If that's the case, you're going to need to end it ASAP. One person pining after the other one takes out all the fun — and is just plain torture.
2You've Become Uncomfortable With The Situation
Some people like the idea of casual sex — until they don't. A close friend had lots of friends with benefits and casual partners over the years and she loved it. Seriously, this girl could own a one-night stand like nobody else. But one day, that changed. She wanted to have a more serious relationship, to remind herself that she could, before she had any more casual sex. And I didn't see the logic, but I supported her just the same. Because if a situation, especially one as vulnerable as having sex with someone, isn't make you feel totally amazing, then it's time to let it go.
3It's Stopping You From Getting What You Want
I had a great FWB that lasted almost two years. Why did it end? Simply because we both realized that we wanted to be in relationships, but not with each other. When we had started hooking up, we both just wanted sex. But almost two years later and we wanted something more serious. The problem? The time and energy we were spending hooking up and watching 30 Rock was stopping us from actually meeting people that we could get something more from. Luckily, we talked about it really openly and because we both were feeling the same way, it was easy to transition out of it. And a month later, we were both dating other people— and still friends. If you have a great FWB, it can be really easy and comfortable, but if that starts to be an impediment to what you actually want then you may need to call it quits.
FWB relationships might have an expiration date, but it has nothing to do with time. Some people need to end it after a few months, but sometimes they can last for years. It's all about how you're feeling. And when it doesn't feel right — that's when you know it's gone on for too long.