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What Does “Friends With Benefits” Mean?

Fuck buddies, bum chums, FWBs: Learn the ins and outs of “friends with benefits” relationships, aka pals getting together for some no-commitment hanky panky.
Editorial team
July 15, 2024
min. read
friends with benefits relationships
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It’s a relationship so ubiquitous that it’s a pop culture trope. In a straight-up case of sex imitating art, Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutscher both starred in separate films about buddies who bang (Friends with Benefits and No Strings Attached, respectively) only to strike up a friends-with-benefits relationship themselves. Following in the footsteps of their on-screen trysts, the couple did end up getting together for real, but let’s not talk about that.

Everyone gets insatiable urges once in a while, and hooking up with a stranger is just so much work! Sometimes, your bestie is also your best option to satisfy your needs. We gays are a highly evolved species that know all too well the advantages of this type of relationship, where everyone gets something out of it (an orgasm, with any luck).

6 types of friends-with-benefits relationships

Every friendship is unique, so there are all sorts of ways to forge a physical connection. Here are the most common types of FWB dynamics:

1. The actual friends

You know how it goes. It’s a hot day, you’ve all had a few cocktails, “Padam Padam” is playing seductively in the background, and you’ve got the itch. Perhaps you steal a glance at a handsome buddy and decide they could be the one to scratch it. Next thing you know, it’s become a friends-with-benefits situation where you can enjoy the comfort of one another’s company thanks to your existing friendship, but with the added boning bonus of casual sex. What does BFF mean? Best friends fucking, apparently.  

2. The fuck buddy

Here, the term “friends” is used very loosely. This is someone you’d call exclusively for hookups or casual sex, which can be great for people in open or long-distance relationships — or for anyone looking to keep it strictly business (more on that below). Many people find this compartmentalized approach much simpler; a go-to booty call helps avoid any complications caused by romantic or even platonic feelings.  

3. The stepping stone

How many of us have hooked up with someone, then become buddies afterward? Just because your first meeting ended with gagging and gushing doesn’t mean you can’t be lifelong friends later. We’re happy dating apps like Grindr can connect men all over the world and help spark lasting friendships. You’re just the kind of friends that happen to know what each other’s jizz tastes like.

4. The natural order

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage. Wait, what? Forget those painfully straight nursery rhymes that send a shiver down your spine; when it comes to the gays, things often move in a very different order.

Every person is different, of course, but we know better than anyone that often it’s: First comes screwing, then comes a romantic relationship. Remember, you’re not a couple yet, so you should be wary of treating it as such, but a friends-with-benefits situation might actually be a pit stop on the road to a committed relationship. You know each other’s dark corners (literally and figuratively) pretty well, after all.

5. The exit strategy

As anyone who has ever had sex with an ex will attest, this is also how some relationships are phased out. It’s the circle of life. Just because things haven’t worked out romantically for you, that doesn’t mean you can’t satisfy your other needs via a FWB relationship. Think of it as a slow goodbye. Slow, then fast, switching position a few times before building to an explosive goodbye. But not before one last cuddle.


6. The back-up plan

You know how it goes. You’re in the club, you’ve all had a few cocktails, “Padam Padam” is playing in the background (again). Alas, neither of you has managed to reel in any fresh fish — but it’s OK because you’ve got a safety net. It might not sound like the sexiest of propositions, but as long as everyone gets laid at the end of the night, it’s certainly better than a slap in the face with a wet kipper.

Some basic ground (and pound) rules

There are three fundamental rules to live by when establishing a successful friends-with-benefits relationship. They can be applied to any of the above types, so listen closely.

Rule 1: Be on the same page

It’s no different from the need for clear communication in a romantic relationship, really. Be open about your intentions with one another from the start. The magic FWB formula can only be successful if everyone agrees it’s the right alchemy for both of you.

That dreaded little talk about “where you are” in a relationship could rear its ugly head in even a casual arrangement like this one. If you’re genuinely friends and you start sleeping together, the stakes are a bit higher; you’ve got something to lose. If one of you wants more and starts to bust the other’s balls — and not in a good way — then there’s a real risk of hurt feelings.

Rule 2: Set ground rules

“Friends with benefits” has its own corporate-style acronym, FWB, meaning — in our dirty-yet-pragmatic minds at least — you should approach the whole ordeal like a business arrangement. Try to see it as a gentlemen’s agreement where “handshake” means a very different thing.

Like in any professional relationship, you need to set terms and conditions: You might want to establish if you’re dating other people, whether you have multiple sexual partners, and if you’d like your friends to know you’re playing hide the sausage in your spare time.

Begin your partnership by asking, “What does FWB mean for us, exactly?” Then, you’re in a business with a bright future.

Rule 3: Check in with yourself

Casual sex might be somewhat of a misnomer, and sustaining a relationship like this actually requires hard work. It necessitates emotional intelligence, boundary setting, and the capacity to leave your feelings at the door. That isn’t for everyone, and that’s OK.

Only keep on keeping on if it serves you and your mental health. Otherwise, don’t be afraid to nix the whole thing and save yourself some heartbreak.

How long do most “friends with benefits” last?

It’s impossible to know — some friends-with-benefits situations go on for years, while others burn bright and fizzle out early for any variety of reasons. It all depends on the people involved. There’s always a risk that somebody starts to catch feelings, and it often increases over time.

If you’re fooling around with someone in an open relationship, you might be playing second fiddle to — borrowing from polyamory vernacular for a second — the primary partner. Even if you’re both single, one of you might fall into something more serious with someone else.

So pleased to meet you

When it comes to gay dating, it turns out the friend zone can be a pretty sexy place. From potential BFFs to FWBs, find whatever you need among the 10 million monthly users on Grindr. Download the Grindr app, or browse hands-free with Grindr Web — the same Grindr you know and love, now available on your laptop or PC with no download required.

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