How Can You Tell A Friends With Benefits Relationship Isn't Working? The Signs It's Not For You

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle
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In a perfect world, you'd never have to worry about recognizing the signs your friends with benefits relationship isn't working, because all your romantic endeavors would work out exactly as you'd imagined. But in reality, disentangling the complicated web of emotions surrounding sex, love, and intimacy is not an easy task. Needless to say, a friends with benefits arrangement doesn't work for everyone. If you want to try it out, though, it's crucial to know the number one rule for successfully navigating a FWB relationship: always set boundaries and openly communicate — otherwise things are bound to get messy.

"Engaging in a ‘friends with benefits’ (FWB) relationship can be like walking with a blindfold on," Lori Bizzoco, Relationship Expert and Founder of relationship advice site Cupid's Pulse, tells Bustle. "You never know the boundaries that are established in regards to what’s acceptable and what’s not. Having friends with benefits is bound to become problematic as a result of uncertainty! Being in a FWB relationship always has the potential to turn into a sticky situation, leaving one person with their feelings hurt. Looking out for these signs could prevent [you] from complicating your FWB relationship and know when it’s time for you to call it quits."

Your FWB might not be a traditional relationship, but it's a kind of relationship nonetheless, so it's important to talk about your boundaries so neither person ends up hurt or confused. Unfortunately, no matter how well you communicate, there's always a chance you could outgrow your FWB situation. Here are eight signs that your FWB situation isn't actually working out for you anymore — which means it's time to redefine the relationship... or find a new one altogether.

1The Sex Isn't Hot Anymore

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At its core, a FWB relationship is about two people fulfilling each other's sexual needs, without the emotional strings and parameters of a relationship. If you find yourself no longer sexually satisfied by your FWB, it's OK to "break up" in pursuit of a new partner (whether it's a serious relationship or another casual fling).

"The whole point of having a FWB is to be having great, uncommitted sex," Rhonda Milrad, LCSW, Relationship Therapist, and Founder of online relationship community Relationup, tells Bustle. "If the sex isn’t steamy anymore then all you are left with is unsatisfying sex in a loveless connection and that isn’t very fun!"

2You're Avoiding Them

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One sign something is off in your FWB relationship? "You notice that you are avoiding your FWB and not very interested in getting together anymore," Milrad says. "The experience is dissatisfying and the relationship seems to have run its course."

If you catch yourself avoiding making plans with your FWB (or even breadcrumbing them), you might be better off finding a new relationship — or just taking some time to be totally single.

3You're Jealous

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Jealousy is normal in every relationship... to a degree. But if you're in a non-exclusive FWB arrangement and find yourself feeling jealous of your partner's other hookups, that's a clear sign that you should end things.

"Having a FWB suggests that you two are not in an exclusive relationship," Bizzoco says. "If seeing your FWB talking to other people bothers you, it signifies that you’re not okay with the casual status of your relationship with them."

4You're Not On The Same Page

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In any relationship — friends with benefits or otherwise — it's important to make sure both people are on the same page, and that the boundaries of your relationship are clear.

"Having different ideas of your FWB relationship can lead to misunderstanding and disappointment," Bizzoco says. "You may think it’s okay to text them frequently when they disagree. Or worse, you could start believing your relationship is progressing when they don’t feel the same."

5You Feel Powerless

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No relationship should ever leave you feeling weak or powerless to your emotions. If you don't feel in control of your feelings re: your FWB, it might be best to cut the cord and find a relationship that better suits your needs.

"Just like in any relationship, it’s unhealthy to feel powerless and having to submit to what the other person wants to do!" Bizzoco says. "This may mean that you only hookup whenever they prefer to."

6You're Emotionally Invested

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TBH, I hate the whole "I don't catch feelings" thing: we're all human, and we all have feelings. It's totally normal to develop romantic feelings for someone after having sex, but if your FWB isn't on the same page, that can lead to serious heartbreak.

"If you’re getting emotionally invested in the relationship and giving your FWB your best time and attention, but he or she isn’t returning the favor, then the arrangement isn’t going to last," Jonathan Bennett, Relationship/Dating Coach and Owner of The Popular Man, tells Bustle. "At that point, it’s clear that your goals for the relationship are starting to diverge."

7You Check Up On Them

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Don't get me wrong: it's OK to text your FWB when you're apart and ask what they're up to (just like you would with your friends without benefits). But if you cross the line into paranoia and find yourself checking up on them on social media (or IRL), that might mean you're secretly unhappy with the non-exclusive status of your relationship.  

"If you’re constantly checking up on your FWB, like his or her whereabouts and the people he or she is seeing, then it’s clear the casual nature of the relationship is starting to negatively affect your well-being," Bennett says.

8You Fantasize About A Deeper Relationship

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Even if you're "happy" just to have sex and hang out with your FWB, you might also secretly fantasize about your FWB blossoming into a real, long-term, exclusive relationship. "If you find yourself frequently dreaming about what life would be like in a more traditional relationship with your FWB, then it’s a good sign the current arrangement is starting to wear thin," Bennett says.

Ultimately, the only way to know if your FWB isn't working for you is to honestly reflect on your feelings, and ask yourself if you're really happy and fulfilled, or merely complacent in your current situation. Friends with benefits might be tricky to navigate, but don't be discouraged: it's absolutely possible for a FWB relationship to work, so long as both partners are communicative, mature, and respectful.