The 4 Stages of Every Friends with Benefits Relationship
In Colt's piece on female intrasex competition, several commenters asked about the problem of getting a girl into a casual relationship, and keeping her there. To quote Sam, one of the commenters there:
“Very few of them were ok with a strict lover arrangement. All others wanted more than that and whenever I had the nerve to show or say to them that I was not into more than a lover arrangement I simply lost the girl either because she would cut me off or because I would not further pursue her.”
The problem, of course, is that "friends with benefits" is not an end goal for most women. That is to say, a casual sexual relationship - where you are a lover and nothing more - just ain't enough.
You can maintain casual relationships for varying lengths of time, depending on a number of factors, mainly having to do with the stage in her life a girl is at, and your value relative to hers in the relationship. We'll talk more about both of these below.
But the main gist of this article will focus on the four (4) stages that every friends with benefits relationship must follow:
- The Fun Stage
- The Relaxed Stage
- The Restless Stage
- The Decision Stage
... and the varying details on each.
Below follows quick primer on what the four different stages of every friend with benefits relationship entails, from fun to relaxed to restless to decision.
Today, we're starting with the what, and wrapping up after with the why.
Here's stage #1.
Friends with Benefits Stage #1: Fun
The fun stage is the first initial foray into the new relationship you take with a girl. You've gotten her into bed, the two of you have slept together, and now you're seeing each other, maybe on a booty call basis, or maybe on a more rapidly gelling regular schedule.
Either way, the fun stage of a friends with benefits relationship is defined by the uncertainty of this new relationship, and the excitement of it.
The uncertainty stems from these questions:
- How far will this relationship go?
- Might it transform into a passionate romance?
- Is the sex going to get better and better?
- Will you meet one another's friends?
- How long will this last?
... and the excitement is related to the high uncertainty / unpredictability levels coupled with exploratory sex with a new partner. Even if all you're doing is missionary, it's still at least somewhat exploratory, because she isn't used to you (and sex with you), and you aren't yet used to her (and sex with her).
During the fun stage, some girls will fish around to see if they can
finagle you into more committed relationships; some
will pelt you with questions like, "What are we?" and, "Are you seeing
other girls?" and, "Where do you see this going?"
Meanwhile, others (usually a smaller minority of others, unless you're
in, say, a particularly liberal social circle or university setting)
will be totally fine with the setup - they've done this a hundred times
before, it'll seem like. They know the drill.
Even though there's not much pressure aside from (sometimes) the girl trying to steer you toward something more serious, the fun stage is nevertheless an important stage for the relationship - because this is the stage where you're setting the expectations and the precedent that will impact the course of the remainder of your time as friends with benefits with one another. Do a bad job here, and the arrangement can be in for a bumpy road - or end prematurely.
Normal lifespan for this stage:
about 3 weeks.
Friends with Benefits Stage #2: Relaxed
The relaxed stage is when everything seems perfect. The drama (and much of the excitement) of the fun stage has passed, and you and your friend with benefits have fallen into a routine - you know what the deal is with her, she knows the deal with you, your expectations are more or less in line with one another's, and you're both having a great (or, at least, good enough) time together.
The relaxed stage is the stage that every man wishes his friend with benefits relationships could just stay in forever. If only he could cryogenically freeze them in the relaxed stage, or give these relationships some kind of drink from the fountain of relationship youth... things would just be perfect.
During the relaxed stage, your friend with benefits comes over to visit, the two of you chat for a little bit, and then you have sex.
If you're running things properly, she maybe brings some food with her when she comes to visit, and she leaves shortly after sex, provided you want her to leave.
You really, honestly treat her like just a friend of yours... whom you sleep with.
And best of all, she's totally,
unequivocally FINE with it, and COOL about it.
She never causes drama.
She's always happy to see you.
She comes over and provides sex whenever you want.
Everything is just so damn peaceful and relaxed.
Why can't women be this way all the time?
The unfortunate thing for the man here is that a relationship like this perfectly meets the needs of most men out there... but imperfectly meets the needs of their female companions.
So, while she does enjoy it for a while, a woman's emotions are things of majestic impermanence; and, like the sea, at some point the tides will change, and what were calm waters before become first turbulent, then tempestuous.
Normal lifespan for this stage: about 2 months.
Friends with Benefits Stage #3: Restless
The restless stage is the first sign you start getting that your
nirvana of romantic tranquility and unlimited sexual access to this
nubile belle, free of concession or commitment on your part, is not
much longer to last.
During the restless stage, you begin to pick up on a mood shift in your friend with benefits.
This sometimes starts out with her being sweeter than usual, even more accommodating, and even nicer.
You wonder what's up. What's up is that she's following the "You catch
more flies with honey than you do with vinegar" line of reasoning - you
haven't proposed a more serious relationship with the current
relationship setup so far, but maybe if she makes herself into an
even better catch, you'll realize what a great girlfriend she'd make
and will put her in that role instead of just keeping her as a friend
While the sweetness boost doesn't always happen, the fall off that follows it (assuming it doesn't result in proclamations of love) does. When this occurs, she becomes less calm, less accommodating, and less available than she previously was. She begins to slowly but surely withdraw from the relationship... but when you ask her if everything's still fine, she tells you it is (or, if she's bold, tells you she just needs something "more serious than this" or "needs to know this is going somewhere").
The problem here is women's inherently restless nature. While a man will look for a relationship setup that makes him happy, find it, enjoy it, and worry about it no more, a woman will look for a relationship setup that makes her happy, find it, enjoy it for a while, and then want something completely different (and usually, something more).
Women are designed, biologically, to always seek more from their mates:
- More attention
- More comfort
- More security
- More passion
- More involvement
- More conversation
- More adventure
... more everything.
And a friends with benefits relationship, stable, minimal, unchanging thing that it is, is the absolute antithesis of this. A friends with benefits relationship is the ultimate "man-friendly relationship." It's designed to give as many of the benefits of a sexual relationship (sex, companionship) with as few of the drawbacks (drama, time commitments, culling of freedoms) of a committed romantic relationship as possible.
In other words, friend with benefits relationships take what most men like about relationships, and throw out what they like least, and say to women, "This is the kind of relationship we'll have."
Why do women agree to this? We'll discuss that more below. For now, the main point to keep in mind though is this: FWB is ideal for you... it is NOT ideal for her.
And because of that, while it may be your dream to keep her in an eternal friend with benefits relationship that never changes, never becomes more involved, and never falls apart, it simply isn't a dream that's going to be realized with 99.95% of the female population out there.
Normal lifespan for this stage: about 1 to 3 weeks.
Friends with Benefits Stage #4: Decision
Ah, decision time. Right when you were thinking how great it is to be in this nice, calm, pressure-free relationship. Now, suddenly, you're being asked to decide - or compelled to.
During the decision stage, a woman is talking herself out of a friends with benefits relationship - and giving you a "last shot" to realize that she's the one for you, and hold onto her.
She can't just jump ship, because by this point she's pretty invested; she needs to gradually wean herself off of the relationship, and get far enough away from it that she can examine it with a clear head from a more objective point of view (it feels like).
Often during this stage, you'll hear things like:
- "I don't know if I can keep doing this if it isn't going anywhere"
- "I need to start looking for someone more serious than you"
- "This is great, but I'm starting to realize I need more than a casual relationship"
These are her ways of prompting you to propose a solution - something along the lines of, "Then be my girlfriend."
Of course, if you're legitimately having a friends with benefits relationship (and not just following the template we discussed in "How to Start a Relationship with a New Girlfriend" to ultimately end up with her as a girlfriend), you don't want her as your girlfriend - if you did, you'd have her as a girlfriend, not a friend with benefits.
The decision stage is when you do one of three things:
- Let her go calmly and peacefully, with understanding and without
- Struggle to hold onto her without giving in, to keep things what
- Capitulate to her need for a more committed relationship and give
#s 1 and 3 are the "solutions"... #2 only delays the inevitable and gives you a little more time to figure out what you're going to do, but is not in and of itself a solution.
Ultimately, she's reached a point where she's unhappy - and you've either got to give her what she wants, or let her go.
Normal lifespan for this stage: anywhere from 1 hour to 1 week.
Wouldn't it just be swell if friends with benefits just stayed in the fun or relaxed stages forever?
Asking this is silly though - and it betrays a certain naïveté about what women really want out of relationships.
True, women want to be with the strong, dominant, alpha male - but they don't want to be in relationship limbo with him forever... any more than even the nicest of nice guys wants to hang out in the friend zone for all eternity.
And, women aren't nice guys. Even the homeliest of them has options. They almost never stick around in unfavorable situations too long once they realize things aren't going the direction they want and need them to.
But if a woman isn't necessarily happy with a friends with benefits relationship, why's she even enter into one in the first place?
Reason #1: She Wants It... For Now
Some of the women who enter into friend with benefits relationships do so because they are free spirits, and they legitimately want a casual sexual relationship at the time they enter into it (and nothing more than that, either).
These are genuinely:
- Younger women in the midst of their sexual awakenings
- Girls on the rebound from a boring, stifling long-term relationship
- Women with high sex drives who have little need for monogamy
These are the women you'll have the longest friend with benefit lifespans with, because, at least at the outset, your goals and their goals are aligned.
These girls just want to have fun... and if you're engaging in FWB, most likely so do you.
Of course, time changes everything, and as she invests more and more of her time in you, she's usually going to come to want something serious with you... or, she may decide that she definitely does not want something serious with you, but she almost certainly does with someone - which means she's going to be looking for a boyfriend candidate, even while keeping you around to satisfy her baser needs.
Either way, don't be surprised when she either begins acting a lot warmer, then a lot cooler, and confesses that she wants something serious with you now or this isn't going to work... or she announces that she's seeing someone now, and won't be able to keep seeing you in this capacity, but she really hopes you'll stay friends.
Reason #2: It's Her Strategy
The other reason women enter into FWB relationships is because this is simply their strategy for roping a man in.
It may be that this is her standard strategy, and she's just always friends with benefits with men first before gradually working her way into a relationship... or, it may be that you just seem too high value and too hard to get for her to feel confident about getting you into a relationship any other way.
If it's her standard strategy, that usually means self-esteem issues for her, and low confidence levels - confident women have little trouble making most men pledge commitment to them fairly early on.
If it's a strategy she's running unique to you though, and you are a powerful, dominant fellow who finds that most women resort to bending the rules for him because that's the only way they can get him, well, that's kind of just part and parcel with dating you, and you realize by now that it reflects nothing on her ego and everything on the practical realities of dating a guy like you, and the value imbalances this includes.
At some point though, if the friend with benefits relationship still hasn't turned into a real relationship, she's going to start feeling like her strategy is not working, get upset, and burn out of the relationship.
In this case, the reason the casual relationship ends is because the casual relationship was never her desired outcome in the first place... it was, rather, just a means to an end.
And if she starts feeling like that end is out of reach, she then starts feeling like it's time to throw the towel in and try again with someone new.
Where Value Differentials Come Into Play
Your value (or, your desirability) compared to hers determines the nature of the friend with benefits relationship, as follows:
If you're of roughly equal or lower mate value, she'll enter into a friend with benefits relationship with you to have her sexual needs met while she waits for someone better to come along
If you're of slightly higher mate value, she'll enter into a friend with benefits relationship with you if you insist, but she won't stick around in it long if it isn't expressly what she wants - you're not high value enough that she's going to waste much time waiting for you to give her a serious relationship
If you're of significantly higher mate value than she is, she'll enter into a friends with benefits relationship with you and just tough it out for a while, because she knows you're out of her league, gets an ego / status boost from being with a guy like you in any capacity, and is willing to stick it out longer in hopes that you become comfortable with her / attached to her / let your other options dry up enough that you kind of fall into or settle into a relationship with her
For this reason, the longest lasting friend with benefits relationships you'll have are the ones with women whose leagues you're clearly out of. This includes women who are:
Much less attractive than you are
Of much lower social status than you are
Significantly less socially skilled than you are
Note that I didn't include "much poorer than you are"... because even if you're a multimillionaire and have a casual relationship with a woman who's destitute, if you're not also attractive and dominant, or otherwise providing some other kind of value (e.g., paying for lots of things for her) that more or less renders what you have with her not a pure friends with benefits relationship, resource differences do not much move the line on friend with benefits relationship longevity.
Rather, it's all about how you stack up with her. If you outclass her in sexual market value, you can pull off longer-running friend with benefits relationships.
That doesn't mean you have to be Brad Pitt and she has to be
Quasimodo. She could be beautiful but shy, while you're so dominant and
powerful compared to her that you're leagues above her.
An example of one of the more extreme value disparities I've seen: a very handsome natural friend of mine mostly preferred to sleep with and date chubby and/or ugly girls. His explanation for why he chose them, when he could and did get far prettier girls too, was that attractive women are "too high maintenance", and indeed, his multiple ongoing relationships with homely women lasted on average 6 to 9 months - a healthy bit more than the more typical 2 to 4 months of a standard friend with benefits relationship.
Maintaining a constant number of friend with benefits relationships means keeping your pipeline full - just as Ricardus talks about in "How to Date Multiple Women (with Zero Drama)." Unless you're dating down, like that friend of mine did, you're going to have high turnover rates among your friends with benefits - it just isn't a relationship most women remain in for any lengthy period of time.
Maybe think of an FWB relationship as test driving a new (or used; as you like it) car - sure, there might be a couple salesmen out there who are super cool and will hang out in the passenger seat and let you drive the car wherever you want to take it; and, there are salesmen out there who are desperate to sell you that car, and are going to be a lot more lenient about how many miles they let you put on it and how long they let you drive it for; but most salesmen just aren't going to let you drive the damn thing to work, park it there all day, and then drive it to the happy hour after work to go get sloshed with the boys.
You've got a limited amount of time to test drive - and once that time is up, you've either to got to buy, or hand the keys back over and get out of the car... because the free ride is over.
Don't be Alarmed: Friends with Benefits Do That
So, don't beat yourself up about your friends with benefits quitting the relationship after a few months; that happens.
If it's happening to you a lot faster than a few months, and regularly, that's probably a sign you're setting the wrong expectations with women (i.e., they think you're going to be a boyfriend to them), or you need to do a much better job screening out girls who are looking for Prince Charming.
It can also be that you need to up your value as a lover enough that women want you in that capacity... if you're not yet a sexy enough man, women may sleep with you to nab you as a boyfriend, but may not be all that interested in you as a lover. Hank with the six-pack abs still does a better job than you in that department. When this is the case, the solution is the same as for getting women in the first place: get back to work on your fundamentals, and work harder to turn yourself into the kind of man women want to have friend with benefits relationships with.
Most of the time, what men end up getting distressed about is just the normal progression of FWB relationships: these just aren't relationships that last. That's because they don't serve women's needs over the long term; while they may make a girl happy in the here and now, over time, every girl gets restless, and every girl needs more.
When addressing your casual relationship situation, keep the four stages in mind:
- The Fun Stage
- The Relaxed Stage
- The Restless Stage
- The Decision Stage
... so you won't be surprised, and enjoy them, anticipate them, and don't sweat them, and always remember to keep the pipeline full, and you won't worry when girls announce they need something more and can't do this anymore... because you'll know, that's kind of just how it goes.
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