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The Differences Between Boyfriends & Friends With Benefits

by Sarah Casimong

Although a traditional boyfriend-girlfriend relationship is more familiar, the idea of having a friends-with-benefits relationship can be intriguing and even favorable for some. Studies have been done on friends-with-benefits relationships and highlight how boyfriend-girlfriend relationships differ. Both types have their pros and cons.

Friends With Benefits

A friends-with-benefits set-up has been the center of many romantic comedy movie plots. The idea of having a friend with benefits is that it provides the sexual intimacy and companionship that a romantic relationship between a boyfriend and girlfriend is expected to have, but without the expectation of commitment or deep feelings. According to “Romantic Partners, Friends, Friends with Benefits, and Casual Acquaintances as Sexual Partners,” published in the “Journal of Sex Research” in 2011, the “friend” part of the title is ambiguous. People could be friends, strangers or acquaintances at the start of a friends-with-benefits relationship.

Public and Private

When you’re dating somebody, it’s common to tell your friends and family about your boyfriend, and later introduce him to them. But being in a friends-with-benefits relationship is usually not publicized. Most people in these relationships either keep it a secret or only disclose the relationship to a few close friends. With a boyfriend, you may go out in public and hold hands, displaying your relationship status and affection for each other, whereas, with a friend with benefits, you may not be as affectionate in public.

Monogamy and Commitment

A boyfriend is expected to be monogamous and committed to you. Depending on your age and stage in your relationship with your boyfriend, you may even look forward to a marriage in the future. With a friend with benefits, the expectations are not as strong. There is generally no commitment or exclusivity in this sort of relationship -- it is a “no strings attached” interaction. “Experiences and perceptions of young adults in friends with benefits relationships: A qualitative study,” published in “The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality,” found that 65 percent of participants expected that going into a friends-with-benefits agreement meant that neither person could get jealous or angry if one of them hooked up with somebody else.

Love and Emotions

When in a relationship with an exclusive boyfriend, the idea is that you at least like each other romantically and eventually fall in love. In a friends-with-benefits agreement, while both parties may have a romantic attraction to each other, they are not expected to have romantic feelings or act like a couple outside of the bedroom. In fact, romantic feelings must be avoided if the set-up is to continue successfully. A common problem that participants mentioned in “The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality” study was “unequal feelings" -- one person starts to develop stronger romantic feelings and the desire to move into a traditional monogamous relationship, while the other wants to continue with things as they are.

References

  • Journal of Sex Research; Romantic Partners, Friends, Friends with Benefits, and Casual Acquaintances as Sexual Partners; Wyndol Furman and Laura Shaffer
  • The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality; Experiences and perceptions of young adults in friends with benefits relationships: A qualitative study; Angela D. Weaver, et. al.

About the Author

Sarah Casimong is a Vancouver-based writer with a Bachelor's degree in journalism from Kwantlen Polytechnic University. She writes articles on relationships, entertainment and health. Her work can be found in the "Vancouver Observer", "Her Campus" and "Cave Magazine".

Photo Credits

  • Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images