Flings vs. Friends with Benefits: Some Restrictions Apply.

Via Anna Jorgensen
on Jan 26, 2014
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Last summer, at the ripe old age of 42, I had my first summer Fling.

From the time I was 21, I’ve gone from one serious, committed relationship to the next with nary a breather in betwixt. Oh sure, a couple of times between those relationships I tested the sheets with a few non-relationship fellows—common nowadays, I’m told. But for the most part, my M.O. was as follows: meet man, have chemistry, have sex, move in, fight, break up, have (great) make up sex, repeat cycle.

Looking back, I can see how we were all desperate to make it work when really we probably could’ve been enjoying the intimacy for what it was: short-term Friends with Benefits (FWB) or long-term Flings. In fact, had we properly labelled it, we might have had the chance to really become friends during those relationships.

After my last break up I made a conscious decision: romantic and sexual celibacy. I figured I’d get through 2013 solo and free and figure my shit out. After five break-ups—including my marriage—in six years, it was time for a break from break-ups. Something wasn’t working, and I was the common denominator.

Mid-year I meet a guy and break my own contract. We hang out for the summer.

I told him, casually, in our first conversation, “I’m committed to a year of celibacy—romantic, sexual, etc. I need a romantic health break!”

His reply: “Yeah, until I’m done with working out of town, I’m no good at relationships.”

But it seems we have an understanding here, and to be sure, later I text him: “So even though we’re not going to have sex, do you want to be friends?”

He does.

Cut to next scene: Sex in the small town city. I’ll spare you the details. Nonetheless, we establish the rules of the playground.

FWB Rules:

1. Don’t tell anyone. (You’re not being used for sex if this is a mutual agreement!)

2. No PDAs (Public Displays of Affection).

3. Don’t fall in love.

4. We can see other people but must be ‘safe’ and respectful.

5. For a good time, not a long time.

Most guys reading this would be all, “Hell, yeah! Where do I sign up?” And he was, too. But, like a cheap, commercial, waxy, chocolate, Hollywood, sell-out, Rom-Com, mutual attachment formed, albeit looking back it was situationally enhanced. (We were both hanging out in our home town biding time and riding it out for our departure.)

We amended our rules to reflect the fling we were really in.

Fling Rules:

1. It’s okay to be open and public but don’t post couple-looking photos on FB and don’t change your FB relationship status—Hello!

2. PDAs okay if/as mutually agreed on.

3. Be honest with each other about where our feelings are headed. Falling in love might happen, but isn’t a requirement—Hell no!

4. Monogamy agreed on unless/until mutually agreed otherwise. Nonetheless, play safe, wrap it up.
For whatever time feels good for both parties.

At the end of the summer, we parted ways. And even though there might have been potential for a relationship, I needed ‘me’ time. No commitments, no obligations, no pressure, no Face-timing, no checking in, no ‘who did you meet today,’ no courting, no trying, no expectations, no wondering, no shaving, no nothing.

Ultimately, I think most people are looking for something romantic, or, intimate, whether long term or short, and there seems to be no point in wasting time with the opposite sex (assuming you’re heterosexual) if there’s nothing in it for them.

I ask my housemate, Mermaid, who is tall, lives in the ocean, has a mass of curly blonde hair if she’s ever done the FWB or Fling thing.

She laughs and huffs as though I’ve asked if a dolphin poops in the sea, “Oh, of course!”

Me, “How did that work out? Did anyone get hurt or were you both cool?”

Mermaid, “Well, with this one guy, I couldn’t get rid of him, but it all worked out.”

I ponder the idea and determine that a Fling and Friends With Benefits are two different things. I categorize Flings to be exclusive with the potential to lead to a monogamous (or otherwise mutually agreed to) relationship, whereas Friends with Benefits is generally non-exclusive and often only leads to the bedroom, or kitchen or hallway or well, you get the idea—they have an expiration date.

Whether we Fling or do FWB, both options have an up side: sex with a real, live person; a sense of intimacy even if sheet shallow; a way to pass the time if we’re bored; a potential expanded social circle (more so with FWB); exercise and release of feel good hormones that uplift the spirit and reduce stress. I suggest the parties partying play by the rules, feel free to use mine, as noted above.

For the ladies: Prefer a banjo solo show? Here’s a page from my intellectual playlist for self-administered foreplay: things I would like to do with you in my bed.

What have I (re)learned?

1. Honesty is the best policy, don’t assume. This includes being honest with ourselves about what our needs really are. Being honest with ourselves and others also helps people decide if they want to move on to their next connection sooner.

2. Sometimes, what seems perfect on paper isn’t right simply because of timing. Best not to hold out on hope, but there’s also no sense in throwing out a perfectly good friendship; if there was something real in the relationship, maybe just friends is enough. Bonus, expanded social circle can lead to finding your ideal mate!


Relephant reads:

These Kinds of Relationships Have an Expiration Date.

5 Signs We’re Being Used for Sex. {Adult}

Generation Hookup.

Before these rules are relevant, find your fling (mindfully):

Love elephant and want to go steady?

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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo: Gabriela Kulaif


About Anna Jorgensen

Anna Jorgensen Dating, love and relationship coach. A lumberjack's daughter, I spent my formative years surrounded by virgin forest and hungry grizzly bears in remote forestry camps. The crews were mostly hard-working, good-hearted scruffy men. There was plenty of naked-lady wallpaper, which explains my naughty sense of humour and understanding of how men think. (Hint: It's not only about sex.) In 2010, after several "practice" relationships (and a hella lotta "I need help" self-study), I rewrote my self and my life and now wear the cape as "Wingmam." Yay! My super power is providing one-on-one coaching and study-at-home-in-pj's online programs that entertain-ucate singles on how to understand the opposite sex, get unstuck, navigate the modern dating world and fast-forward to the fun bits of their happily ever after. (I don't ask anyone to use cheesy lines or made-up words like I do.) Love IS the answer, people! ;) Find Anna here: link to love and laughs. Connect with Anna's real, unfiltered Facebook page here (Love IS the answer!). Watch Anna's fun-ucational videos on: WingmamTV.


17 Responses to “Flings vs. Friends with Benefits: Some Restrictions Apply.”

  1. virtualjp says:

    Awesome read! You pretty much summed up how I have come to see relationships and sexual encounters between the opposite sexes (said in the context of your article).
    It's about sharing something special that mutually benefits both parties in the moment, for how ever long it lasts.
    It's nice to hear this in a feminine perspective, coming from a woman 🙂

    Thank you Anna

  2. perola7dance says:

    Yes. I like the revised rules. I always wonder how other people are supposed to know I am actually available, if I am showing up in public with my FWB.

  3. Thank you, virtualjp! As long as everyone knows the rules and where they're at, there's really no reason not to enjoy whatever kind of sex you're having! I appreciate your comment! Anna

  4. Exactly! And if you're not feeling like your 'special friend' is someone you want to share PDAs with, probably a good indicator that's it's for a good time not a forever time – totally cool. Share the rules and you'll both be fine! xo Anna

  5. Martha says:

    "sheet shallow" love that !

  6. Thanks Martha! :))

  7. Paul says:

    I don't want to think that hard! Just enjoy life and go with the flow. If it feels right then do it, don't think about it.

  8. Kate says:

    This is something I have been feeling I have wanted for a while now- I really appreciate your article as it gives perspective to where I go from here.

  9. That's my motto, Paul, if it feels good do it, if it doesn't feel good, knock it off!

  10. JULIE says:

    I sooo want this right NOW!

  11. bruisednotbroken says:

    Never again! I had one experience with FWB and ended up heartbroken. I thought I was getting involved with a mature adult (and we too had ground rules), but he turned out to be a callous, cowardly, control freak. After 5 months, when he wanted to end it, that was it … no communication, no acknowledgement, he just acted as if I never existed. It was nearly a year before he spoke to me again. That experience messed me up so bad I haven’t been involved with anyone since.

  12. rich says:

    So, about the Friends with Benefits thing having an expiration date and the fling not having one, I find that either 100% backwards OR firstly realize every relationship has an expiration date. Marriages, flames, friends with benefits and one night stands. I am 40 years old, was married for a couple years, now divorced and having a lot of fun. With women, not with girls.

    I am perplexed by women who are constantly in one committed relationship. Who aren’t sure if they want to be intimate with the guy but won’t date anyone else until it’s over. Nevermind that things had just begun, it’s constantly one monogamous potential romance after another and constantly ending in heartbreak. Constantly changing facebook statuses. Constantly quote in or out of a relationship. never single and dating, never being an adult and having fun. Fun can be different things to different people, but everything has an expiration date, so you get to choose when it comes.

  13. MsA says:

    That perfectly sums up my personal present experience. I've always wanted to be single and dating (lots of men), but only now have I given myself permission to do it fully. I'm having the best time of my 31-year-old life and I believe everyone should get to try this out once in their life. All I have to do is be honest and state my intentions to each man.

  14. lov says:

    if only I've read this before…I fell in love with this guy and I thought he's serious…I even lost my year of celibacy to him. Why can't he just tell me he only want FWB…how could he? Now, I'm lost in the void and on the healing process of my broken heart. If only you could read this "bae"…i did love you.. but now I must really let you go…you're just poison to my heart and chaos to my soul…

  15. Lov says:

    having the same experience too..if only I've read the signs early…I thought he's into a mature relationship…I texted him I loveyou…sending cards…giving tokens…dates..and he just keep on telling "relax" ….i thought he just want us to go slow the process but then it was FWB after all he wanted…I'm such a stupid person..Never will I be friendly again with guys…I've learned my lesson…

  16. Sue says:

    I recently ended my 20 year marriage to my high school sweetheart. I am now in 2 FWB relationships (with rules) and had a fling. In no hurry to jump into a serious relationship, just getting started having fun!

  17. Anonymous says:

    Don't fall in love with him…I am not cabable of that it seems and haven't even seen him in person yet. I am already his soulmate and we are likely to get married. Don't laugh at me. 😉 I felt it all and when he is angry with me or sad I break into many pieces. I am not cut out for no strings attached connections it feels like sometimes. What was that he said about being under the ocean again…sigh…