Weighing the benefits

David Neff

It starts innocently enough with a night of sex, but after that, comes the hard part of dating and maintaining a relationship.

Or does it?

An ever-growing number of people are foregoing the monotony and expense of wooing a potential mate in favor of a friends with benefits (F.W.B.) relationship, which focuses on sex without romantic involvement.

In a recent study, re searchers found nearly 60 percent of people had been involved in a similar relationship at some point in their lives.

“The main reason we’ve found people enter into a friends with benefits relationship is precisely so they won’t have to deal with a boyfriend or girlfriend,” said Timothy Levine, professor of communication at Michigan State University. “These relationships generally start as a normal friendship and end up as a mechanism to have sex without being tied down.”

One of the main attractions to a F.W.B. relationship is the seemingly perfect setup: not only are two people friends, but now they can have sex when they’re feeling a bit horny.

However, like most situations in life, people can rarely have their cake and eat it too.

“A big issue with this phenomena is the tension it can actually cause between people,” Levine said. “After you have sex with someone, it can be very difficult to go back to a normal friendship without always having certain, awkward topics.”

According to Levine’s research, 30 percent of people maintained their F.W.B. relationship indefinitely, 35 percent remained friends without sex, 25 percent ended all contact with each other and only 10 percent of friends with benefits couples evolved romantically.

Unfortunately for people involved, there is a stigma attached by some that labels these people as unscrupulous or immoral.

One such girl, who wished to be known by her initials A.F., said although she didn’t feel there was a problem with being involved in a F.W.B. relationship, she felt uneasy about being labeled.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with what we’re doing, but it’s still so taboo to lots of people,” A.F. said.

She added that “Even [my friend] acts like it’s strange to be public with how we act.”

Another factor that affects people’s feelings toward their sexual partner is the fear that one person may become romantically attached, while the other only wanted to stay friends.

“In some ways, it’s not much different from a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship,” Levine said. “The only issue is when one individual wants to take it to a romantic level. That’s when problems arise and the friendship may fall apart.”

The study indicates that although people’s need for sex hasn’t decreased at all, their desire to maintain romance with a partner is becoming less of an issue.

“Most romances usually include intimacy, passion and commitment,” Levine said. “However, more people seem to be getting involved in the intimacy and the other two are no longer as important.”