Friends with benefits, a no-strings-attached relationship strictly based on sex is common among early twenty-somethings. But why is this carefree non-relationship relationship so difficult if it doesn’t involve any emotional investment in the first place? According to social scientists, they have yet to gain a great sense of exactly how these relationships are formed, maintained, and cut off.
To get down to the nitty gritty, one researcher studied the behaviors of the most notorious friends-with-benefiters: college students.
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For a new study published in Emerging Adulthood, Kendra Knight, a communications professor at DePaul University, interviewed 25 students with friends-with-benefits-relationship (FWBR) experience. For the qualitative study, she interviewed each of the students to develop a sense of their subjective experiences with FWBRs.
Of course, communication in an FWBR doesn’t exist. Most of the students explained that a FWBR can be enticing because it seemingly requires less emotional effort than an actual relationship. One interviewee stated specifically, “You’re not supposed to work at it.”
The key question that she prodded the students with was “[W]hy relational talk, if valued, should be so difficult to enact in FWBRs?”
Her interviews revealed some surprising (yet not so surprising) conclusions.
Several female participants shared a fear of coming off as the “crazy girl” if they tried having a conversation about the boundaries of their FWBR. Some male interviewees also admitted that they didn’t want to come off as clingy or possessive.
Dr. Knight also found that when someone does try to have a conversation with their FWB, they usually get shut down — or the FWB gets defensive and tries to shame the other person into ending the talk prematurely.
So, while it’s nice to believe that having a friend available for casual sex hookups doesn’t have its consequences, FWBRs are not as simple and carefree as they seem. [New York Magazine]