Help! I've caught feels for my FWB

By The HUD App Team

What do the films No Strings Attached and Friends with Benefits have in common? Other than the fact that they both feature ridiculously good-looking actors, both exist on the premise of an “unconventional” sexual friendship wherein the pair are startled to learn (spoiler alert) they actually have more-than-good-mates feelings for each other.

In real life, however, the feelings aren’t always two-sided. The cliché of friends with benefits falling for each other just isn’t realistic in a world so often filled with unrequited love.

Catching feels for a FWB (friend with benefits) is pretty common, according to many sex experts. As love and sex expert Dr. Sheri Meyers argues, “You may enter the situation going, ‘I don’t want commitment, this is so much easier,’ but the minute you start kissing, the oxytocin stars flowing and your emotions can get in the way.”

Dr. Suzanne Lachmann, writing in Psychology Today, distinguishes between the “friends” and the “with benefits” aspects, noting that there is a difference between having a casual, sex-only relationship with someone and actually being friends with them (with the accompanying trust, stuff in common, shared history, etc). “Since it takes time to cultivate a friendship, it logically follows that it should require time and dedication to find out if one can or should cultivate a friendship with benefits with someone,” she suggests. “Why? Because the benefit is sex, and any time sex is involved, it complicates matters – even when both people try to maintain communication and mutual respect.”

The bittersweet truth is that there is no one-size fits all solution to navigating a “Let’s be more than friends with benefits!” relationship. The easiest way to push someone away is to put an expectation on them to feel the same way you do, but equally, it’s important that you can be honest and upfront with your FWB about how you really feel.

When you’re involved in a FWB situation, but your feelings have changed, the label “friends with benefits” doesn’t quite fit anymore. You might even feel like your romantic hopes and dreams need to be hidden or denied, or like you are somehow not allowed to feel the way you feel. And if your FWB partner doesn’t share your feelings, you might feel like you have to hide your heartbreak under the guise of, “Well, I expected too much – they were only FWB, not my boyfriend.” This can feel incredibly devaluing of something that was important to you which has ended, and which deserves to be processed and grieved.

It might sound like we’re getting ahead of ourselves, thinking about the negatives before even entertaining the positives, but FWB is a backwards-ish way of moving into a relationship – at least, by traditional standards.

You’re responsible for your own feelings, and it’s important that you have respect for how you feel – just as much as the respect you have for your FWB. There’s nothing shameful about developing feelings for your FWB. It happens! So what should you actually do?

Honestly, honesty is the best policy here. Be honest with yourself. Is the current situation serving your needs? Or do you feel like you want something more, and you aren’t going to be satisfied if your FWB just wants to keep things casual? You don’t have to start planning the wedding – just take a genuine look at your needs, wants, and desires here. Get clear with yourself first. This includes looking at the possibility of heartbreak, and making sure you have good supports in place no matter what. (Yes, it’s okay to go to therapy to talk about this if it would help you to have someone unbiased to bounce your thoughts and feelings off of!)

Next, it’s time to be honest with your FWB. This is the tricky part, because it could go either way. It might be a good idea to have the conversation in a neutral but comfortable and private place, and not in the haze of a post-sex glow. Be forthright, tell them you’ve enjoyed how things are between you and that you’re interested in taking the next steps, and ask what they think. It’s probably going to feel like an emotional rollercoaster, but try to stay cool. If it gets to be too much emotionally, you’re allowed to say, “You know what? Thanks for letting me be honest with you, but I’m overwhelmed, and I need to go focus on self-care.” And go. Maybe have a good friend nearby to be your chauffeur (and emotional cushion, if needed).

Depending on how the conversation goes, you have choices. You might be thrilled to find out your FWB sees things the same way, and that will lead you in one direction. Your FWB might be uncertain, in which case, good communication will become even more important. Or you might be rejected – in which case, we’re sorry, because we’ve been there and heartbreak SUCKS. It’s okay to decide that actually, you don’t want to continue seeing your FWB if they’ve turned down the chance of making it something more. They have no right to make you feel guilty about that – or about any of your feelings.

Above all, avoid ultimatums, and don’t give the other person control of your future happiness. Falling for someone when it was supposed to be casual is natural, not a character flaw. The dating world is a big place, and you will be okay no matter what. The most important thing is that you’re true to yourself, and that you aren’t living with regret. Take the chance – with support, with open eyes, with self-love in mind.

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