Dating & Relationships

No Strings Attached? Many Friends with Benefits are Actually Looking for Love

September 4, 2019 by Justin Lehmiller

When people become friends with benefits (FWBs), what is it that they truly want from that arrangement? Are they just in it for the “benefits” (that is, sex)? Or are they perhaps looking for more? I’ve conducted some research on this subject and here’s what I found.

I surveyed 411 adults online, all of whom said they currently had at least one FWB. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 65 and most (86%) were heterosexual. Everyone was asked what they hoped would come of their FWB arrangement in the future, which could mean staying FWBs long-term, becoming romantic partners, becoming friends only, or having no relationship of any kind.

It turned out that men and women provided significantly different answers to this question. While the vast majority of women (69%) wanted their relationship to change in some way, the majority of men (60%) wanted to keep things just as they are. In other words, women were more likely to see their FWBs as a temporary state, whereas men were more likely to see their FWBs as an end state.

For a look at which specific types of relationship changes men and women were most interested in, check out the infographic below.


As you can see above, nearly 1 in 4 men and 2 in 5 women expressed hope that their FWB would eventually turn into a romantic relationship. So while women were more likely to go into these relationships with the hope of finding love, a significant number men clearly do, too.

What this tells us is that, while a lot of people describe FWBs as having “no strings attached,” there seem to be strings quite a bit of the time. Perhaps that’s why these relationships often become complicated.

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To learn more about this research, see: Lehmiller, J. J., VanderDrift, L. E., & Kelly J. R. (2011). Sex differences in approaching friends with benefits relationships. The Journal of Sex Research, 48, 275-284.

Image Source: 123RF (photo) and Dr. Justin Lehmiller (infographic)

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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