Friends with Benefits? Yeah…no.


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I’ll never forget where I was the first time I heard a man describe his relationship with his on-again-off-again lover as “friends with benefits.”

Typically, jarring events leave a lasting impression like that on me.

I remember I wasn’t sure whether to be embarrassed or just embarrassed for him—so, I decided instead to be embarrassed for the entire world for a moment.

I mean, I guess I had heard the term being used by people in their early sexual life but by a guy approaching middle age? That was uncomfortable.

Beyond the ridiculous quality of the phrase itself or its equally preposterous acronym—FWB—the concept is a flawed status that hardly ever works the way it was initially intended.

Consider it: two people—most often a man and a woman—are going to carry on a friendship and, in lieu of the common sexual tension that usually goes along with these types of arrangements, they are going to skip right over that into no-strings-attached sex.

In rare instances, yes, I’m sure this can work—but then again, the same can be said for most of Trump’s cabinet picks and I don’t need to expand any further on that, do I?

There are a few reasons why this is always just a bad idea:

1. The phrase itself. Okay, we already went into why I can’t stand the idiotic nature of the term “friends with benefits,” but even more than its obvious juvenility, it’s simply a contradiction of terms.

The person is probably not your friend and the sex will be of little benefit.

A friend texts you and asks you how your day was—this kind of thing is off the table in an FWB arrangement. At that point, it becomes too much like a relationship.

Try navigating your way through that.

2. Your brain won’t play along. The expression “friends with benefits” is just that: an expression. It is comprised of words. Unfortunately, 90 percent of what takes place in the brain has absolutely nothing to do with the English language—or any spoken language.

(Want to test this? Watch a German or Punjabi film for 20 minutes without subtitles. There’s a reason you know exactly what’s happening.)

You can try to tell your mind you’re in a special kind of relationship, but it’s still going to release oxytocin (the brain chemical responsible for falling in love) and get you all confused.

3. Finding something real gets more difficult. Yes, we’d all like to believe that we can fulfill our biological urges in a convenient and zipless fashion until something more meaningful shows up.

Unfortunately, this is not realistic. When you are involved in one of these setups, it becomes increasingly difficult to put the time or energy into becoming engaged in something healthier.

The amount of headspace involved in trying to regulate the strange and unnatural arrangement of FWB, along with a full-time job and the business of managing your life, leaves little room on one’s plate to do much of anything else.

4. It will inevitably end…well, badly. The one constant in life is change. Everything is dynamic and breathes and transforms and gets old and dies. The one thing I’ve noticed in the one or two nontraditional romances I’ve had, is that usually when it ends—and it invariably does—it never ends well.

One person feels one way, the other person feels another, and the person who falls in love (yes, this always happens too) winds up feeling rejected and hurt.

When all the smoke clears, it’s a lose-lose all around.

I’m certain that some people have had positive experiences with this atypical arrangement, just as everyone has had a grandparent who smoked three packs of cigarettes a day and lived to be 90 years old.

For myself, I can’t make decisions based on the hope that I will be included in some kind of strange anomaly. For the most part, you can almost guarantee that someone is going to feel weird, jealous and used somewhere along the line.

Life, in its most natural form, is nice and confusing all on its own. There really is no need for us to go out of our way to make it any more so.


author: Billy Manas

Image: Toa Heftiba/Unsplash

Editor: Naomi Boshari


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Billy Manas

Billy Manas is a poet, singer-songwriter, and truck driver from the Hudson Valley in New York, where you can catch his act at wine tastings and breweries. His distinct voice in both song and poetry is likely the result of his degree in literature and his teenage years spent outside of CBGB’s on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. His new book “Rockstar Recovery” will be available everywhere Fall 2019. Catch up with Billy on his website.

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maryf.scott Jan 8, 2019 9:15pm

8 years friends- 1 year with benefits. So far, so good. I went into this eyes open. I do love him- but I love dogs, cats, trees, wind, life. I love him. I love to make love to him. He is ‘too young’ for me, so I don’t see him as partner material. He is not going to be what I call ‘my morning coffee’. He is an extravagance, and a joy. He is not my first either- the first was 45 years ago, and we stayed friends until the day the man died. So, yes, unicorns. Don’t live in fear, people.

Pat Freeland Jan 8, 2019 7:10am

Would have a better article witgout the snide remarks about the President.

Lois Kruse Theisinger Oct 21, 2018 9:41pm

Apparently, it is impossible to write an article for Elephant Journal without taking a shot at the President.

Sal Cuciti Oct 9, 2018 2:44am

The irony is in a marriage you either end up best friends - or enemies.

Kelly Yeager Sep 20, 2018 1:07pm

Billy Manas You bet. Looking forward to the next one!

Billy Manas Sep 20, 2018 1:53am

I totally get you, Kelly. And thank you so much for the compliment!

Kelly Yeager Sep 19, 2018 11:57pm

I have a tendency to view a man differently when I am made aware they’re in a FWB situation.**

Kelly Yeager Sep 19, 2018 11:51pm

Another great article, Billy. Love reading your stuff! I’m amazed how many males continue to try to convince this is the perfect arrangement. It’s nice to see a man look at it from this perspective. I remain firm in my belief. It rarely ever works out. One of the parties always becomes more invested than the other. You are 100% correct. It does interfere with the potential to start a real relationship with someone. Granted I acknowlege we are all human with wants, desires and needs, but I do have the tendency to view the man differently. Maybe not so much many years ago. But now, at my age. Ya, I do. Okay, maybe that’s harsh of me. It is what it is ...Wanting sex without putting any effort, work or money into it. Commitment issues ..not much is just a frivolous activity to them...Sooo many ways to interpret if one chooses 🤨

Billy Manas Sep 14, 2018 10:25pm

My friend (a woman) just schooled me to the fact that she stopped trying this because the people would always text or call the next day. So, I guess either party can get emotionally attached as either party can wish to be left alone afterward. It’s not good either way, though.

Jennifer Evangelista Sep 14, 2018 1:41pm

Why not call it what it is? It's a non-committed hook-up. The use of "friend" is a euphemism to dumb down the reality of a non-relationship where yes, I imagine one person is led to believe that there's something of substance in the last minute arrangements for an hour here, once or twice a week. I imagine one party gets misled into emotional confusion on the whims of these consistent, yet random trysts. They should call it "f#%cking with baggage." I don't get it all. Wouldnt it be more honest to hire a prostitute?

Billy Manas Sep 14, 2018 12:11pm


Heidi Evans McArdle Sep 14, 2018 11:50am

"Someone's going to feel weird, jealous, and used." Ha, that's the best.

Marilyn Regan Sep 13, 2018 10:21pm

Yup...that type of relationship ends badly for one person. The longer it goes on, the worse it ends.