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Alexander has been contributing for THS for over a year! While he attained a major in communications at SFU, he also recieved a minor in Psychology. Despite those accomplishments, Alex has also never had a full cup of coffee (crazy right?!). Alex is a lifelong sports fan and will defend his Seattle Seahawks to the death, especially if faced against a 49er fan. While Alex's long-term goal is to become a marriage counsellor, he also has a strong passion towards writing that he looks forward to exploring.

Starting a Relationship: Friends Versus Friends With Benefits

Photo Credit: Sony Pictures

There is no ‘best way’ to meet your partner. Sometimes you may come across your partner when (or where) you least expect it. Other times you may find yourself actively searching for a partner. For some individuals, being single may present an opportunity to realize that someone you considered a friend could become something more.

For others a more casual start to a relationship or a ‘friends with benefit’ might fit their current lifestyle. Someone that you engage in a casual relationship with is often not a friend beforehand. While everyone has different expectations for their casual dating partner, some may look at the partnership as being purely physical. Others may look at their FWB as a more casual dating situation with little pressure, but also not shutting down the idea of exclusivity in the future.

There are advantages and disadvantages in your new relationship that may be impacted by your history together (or lack thereof). The more time you put into deciding who your potential partners are, the better chance you have of making a smart and informed decision.

A huge advantage is the realization that you know how your partner supports you. Their support as a friend is most likely a huge reason to have confidence in them as a partner. Everyone wants to believe that your partner has your back, but sometimes there are no examples to go off of. As a long time friend their loyalty and devotion to supporting you will already have years of experience. You will know what you are getting yourself into and you will hopefully know that they help you when you are down. It is hopeful that over time you would have also come across situations where your partner was stressed or angry. Experience may be the biggest assistance to future areas of conflict, and it is important to be able to help without damaging your sense of self.

Photo Credit: Warner Brothers

Photo Credit: Warner Brothers

Another advantage of a long term friend is that there are bound to be common interests. Whether it is a TV show you both love, each others sense of humor or other traits, you already know your partner. You know what they like, and you know that you (ideally) like some of that stuff too. There are reasons why you are friends, and the relationship may be a natural progression of events. As the relationship gets started, your common interests can help make for some really memorable and personal dates.

There are also disadvantages when you start to date a friend. A relationship that starts with one of your best friends already begins with high expectations. While you can tell each other that this is casual, you both know the implications of starting to date. You may have mutual friends that also increase the pressure for your relationship to succeed. If the relationship does fail, it is possible you have now lost one of your long-term friends. This can increase anxiety in the relationship when disagreements occur. If you have also lost the support system of a ‘best friend’, who do you now turn to when you need outside advice?

The sexual chemistry may also be difficult. In contrast to a FWB in which sexual chemistry is paramount, sexual activities with your long-term friend could be awkward. Just because people are great friends does not mean they would make great lovers. Factors like libidos and preferences come into play with any new sexual partner. This can become more stressful to connect on, if you find you aren’t compatible, and yet have such a great connection as friends.

Other individuals may realize that dating someone you were friends with does not work. This may be based off past experiences or general preferences, but for whatever your reason, there are advantages to dating someone new too. One of the biggest advantages with a successful FWB should be a strong level of open communication and trust. These relationships are not always exclusive and as a result, you need to trust that your partner will be open with telling you who else they are seeing. It is not always easy to discuss how you are seeing other people, but being able to have that conversation can be so important. Through having open conversations you can know that if your FWB ever turns into an exclusive relationship, that you can be honest with each other.

Another advantage of starting out as casual dating is the lack of stress that should hopefully be in the arrangement. Relationships can be rewarding, but they can be incredibly demanding of your time and mental energy. This may be even more prominent if it was a friend first. In contrast, FWB relationships are built on the idea of not having drama and keeping things low-key. This may reduce the intensity of the connection at first, but you do not always want to ‘fall in love’ with this partner, unlike a long term friend that you have started dating.

One of the more apparent risks of casual dating may be that you open yourself up to more sexually transmitted diseases. Having multiple partners is inherently more risky than just having one partner that you know is clean. This is further complicated if neither of you are being exclusive and thus increasing the overall number of partners. There are steps you can take to reduce this risk, but it is absolutely something to keep in mind as you interact with multiple people.

Casually dating can also be incredibly taxing mentally if you are keeping or forging connections with multiple people. As you get to know different individuals, you may find it lessens any strong connection that would be focused on just one person. It can be great to kind of like 5 people, but you may quickly find it is more rewarding to really love (or devote attention) to 1 person. You also run the risk of hurting individuals if they start to want something more exclusive, but you are not yet ready for a commitment.

There are ups and downs to the reason behind why any relationship starts. For people that fall in love with a long-term friend, their start to the relationship could be drastically different to someone going on a first date off Tinder. The advantages and disadvantages to both types of interactions are worth considering before moving forward. Sometimes life puts you in a place where casually dating seems like the most logical move. If that is the case, you owe it to both you and your partners to engage in the process respectfully.

For those who are falling for their long-term friend, be cautious but also excited. The advantages to this ‘method’ are outstanding, but it can come with some unexpected stress. Use the potential stress as opportunities to talk about your concerns in your new relationship dynamic, and as a result you will gain a deeper understanding of each other.

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