Friendship After a Friends with Benefits Relationship: Deception, Psychological Functioning, and Social Connectedness

Abstract

Friends with benefits (FWB) relationships are formed by an integration of friendship and sexual intimacy, typically without the explicit commitments characteristic of an exclusive romantic relationship. The majority of these relationships do not transition into committed romantic relationships, raising questions about what happens to the relationship after the FWB ends. In a sample of 119 men and 189 women university students, with a median age of 19 years and the majority identified as Caucasian (63.6 %), we assessed relationship adjustment, feelings of deception, perception of the FWB relationship and friendship, social connectedness, psychological distress, and loneliness. Results demonstrated that the majority of FWB relationships continued as friendships after the sexual intimacy ceased and that about 50 % of the participants reported feeling as close or closer to their FWB partner. Those who did not remain friends were more likely to report that their FWB relationship was more sex- than friendship-based; they also reported higher levels of feeling deceived by their FWB partner and higher levels of loneliness and psychological distress, but lower levels of mutual social connectedness. Higher levels of feeling deceived were related to feeling less close to the post-FWB friend; also, more sex-based FWB relationships were likely to result in post-FWB friendships that were either more or less close (as opposed to unchanged). FWB relationships, especially those that include more attention to friendship based intimacy, do not appear to negatively impact the quality of the friendship after the “with benefits” ends.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    There were 14 participants who were in a relationship in the prior 12 months, who also reported a FWB in the prior 12 months, and where there was no infidelity in the relationship and they were not dating their former FWB partner.

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Correspondence to Jesse Owen.

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Owen, J., Fincham, F.D. & Manthos, M. Friendship After a Friends with Benefits Relationship: Deception, Psychological Functioning, and Social Connectedness. Arch Sex Behav 42, 1443–1449 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-013-0160-7

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Keywords

  • Friends with benefits
  • Friendship attraction
  • Cross-sex friendships
  • College students