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Singles in America: Is There Hope for Your “Friends with Benefits” Situation?

Last weekend I trudged through the aftermath of the snow storm from my apartment on the far side of the middle of nowhere in Brooklyn to listen to the results of a survey done by about Singles in America. Dr. Helen Fisher  presented the data to a room full of single and not so single women. I was quite eager to hear what she had to say. My reason was that I was hoping to hear some stats about singles that didn’t end with the “you will eventually die alone because America is not set up for single seniors” findings that I’ve heard and read about ever since I was thrust into the single world.

Sometimes it seems like all we do in this country is talk about sex but apparently in comparison to other countries we are quite “sex negative” according to Dr. Helen Fisher. Meaning some of us are not as open about talking about it or trying new things. Maybe, I just talk about sex too much. Oh well… no shame here. However, was still able to find at least 5,000 volunteers who were  a mixture of both married and single people who were open about their thoughts and experiences with everything from initial attraction to how often they have orgasms.

Watch Dr. Helen Fisher talk about more data on singles here

The crowd seemed to agree with some of the data, and was slightly surprised about other findings. One piece of data that stuck with me since I heard it reported by Dr. Helen was that there was an increase in the amount of friends with benefits situations that actually turn into a relationship.

I had two reactions to this:
I do think it is possible to transition from friends with benefits to a committed relationship on a rare occasion. Simply because there are a lot more people who are taking the “friends” part of the phrase more seriously. The key though is that the effort is mutual at some point. Somewhere in between the sex, conversations started to happen. Common interests were discovered. They share a laugh or healthy debate over a political issue. They meet each other’s friends. A parent stopped by and someone didn’t have to wait naked in the closet. They actually become friends and then somehow transition from sex buddies to dating. Then 44% of them get long lasting relationships out of the deal.
I am a firm believer in that a relationship will not last long if you do not have a friendship with that person. When things aren’t going so well, the strength of the friendship you formed is what can save the relationship. People who have figured this out have found success.
My second reaction was:

2) I worried that the data may give hope to the people who can’t tell the difference between a one night stand or casual hook up, and a situation with relationship potential.

After two movies were released with the friends with benefits theme and then a weekly television series bearing the same title, it would seem like everybody is taking this route and most of the time it works. The data shows that it does work 44% of the time. However, not everyone you have random sex with is thinking that it could go further. People are racking up notches on their bed posts hoping that maybe one will stick. I’m all for sexual freedom but with common sense. It would appear that our society is becoming more relaxed in how they view sex without titles while perpetuating the urban myth that if the sex is good and it happens more than once, then the person you’re sleeping with might start to fall in love with your personality. This is happening slowly but there are still 56% percent of people who are stuck single and unsatisfied after engaging in this type of relationship.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to a girl say “yea, for now we’re just sleeping together but it will get serious”. Even worse, how many people I know who have had a friends with benefits situation but was oblivious because it was not on standard booty call terms. They were confusing coffee before the sex as a date or giving more meaning to a conversation that entailed more than a place and time for them to hook up.

What bothers me is seems that more people are misinterpreting the success of others who have drifted through the flow chart of random boinking and ended up with a commitment as an actual method to get a person to commit to them eventually. They consider it to be just a part of the dating boot camp process. It can be fun if you call it what it is, but it can be painful or embarrassing if the lines aren’t drawn.

Of course there are times when a one night stand materializes into nothing. Though the data shows that most of us are more open about our sexcapades there are still many people who actually feel ashamed during their walk of shame. They (mostly women according to the data) rather build up this one night of passion that transcended all things they have ever experienced than admit that it was just sex.

Check out how this girl reacted when she ran into her one night stand:

Not as many people are clear in the beginning that all they want is a sex buddy. When both people know this and truly only call each other to fulfill that need then I wholeheartedly believe it could work. I get that booty call sounds harsh but sometimes that’s all it is and will ever be. Last year only 22% of people reported turning a friends with benefits situation into a relationship. So, yes the number is growing. I wouldn’t be surprised if next year the number is 75%. If the end result is true love then I’ll celebrate for those lucky people. I’m sure that there is data out there that shows that some married men leave their wives for their mistress. But the women clinging to this data are waiting in the wings increasing the statistics regarding what I like to call the “side chick culture”. As it relates to this data, the ones who were hoping for more from their friend with benefits but got nothing end up in the pile of stats that report an increase in “hook up culture” by other studies. I’m not knocking it. Different strokes for different folks (no pun intended). Just be clear about what it is you’re doing or looking for.

There are so many people having great sex with no titles (meaning boyfriend/ girlfriend). While there are others who have a title but the only thing they have going for them is the sex. I feel like the friends with benefits label actually fits people who are in a working commitment more than those who are just meeting up randomly, and have an occasional conversation before getting naked. If I’m in a great relationship our friendship is important, the great sex is the benefit.



Jeffrey Forbes

Do you think we can take the “friends with benefits” term in the literal sense? I think of it in a glass half full situation. A lot of men and women have “friends” that they’ve been attracted to but never took it to that level. Being that our society is frightened by any title or commitment related theme they make an addition of sex to the “friendship” and because they were already such good friends already the “benefits” were exactly just that to they’re relationship.

Simone W.

I think we are saying the same thing right? That the friends with benefits title is given way more weight and that good friends who are attracted to each other can add the benefit of sex and transition to full on relationship…

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