Chantal Heide was 21 years old when she decided to take a break from committed relationships.
She had just left her abusive partner of three years, and on top of that, her job required a lot of travelling, so another serious relationship just wasn’t in the cards for her in that moment.
“I had no interest in sparking another committed relationship,” she says. “There is a lot of seriousness involved in a committed relationship. There are expectations regarding how time is spent together and how money is spent – among other things – at which point the friends will move in together and other long-term relationship where friends with benefits exclude all those negotiations. The only thing people need to establish is mutual attraction and co-ordinating schedules.”
Having a friends with benefits relationship is a great escape from life’s problems, as Heide found out, and it was a situation that helped her move on from her past.
Now Heide is a relationship expert and she says there are benefits – both physical and mental – to having friends with benefits arrangements.
And it looks like people are catching on as a new survey by DrEd shows 57 per cent of people admit having had a friends with benefits relationship.
According to the survey, which polled 500 Americans and 500 Europeans, women are more likely than men to engage in this type of casual sex.
In fact, women were more than twice as likely as men to say these arrangements were just strictly about sex.
And the most cited reason for getting into these arrangements was that both parties had a mutual desire to be friends with benefits (46 per cent), followed by alcohol being involved (38 per cent). The most cited reason they ended, however, was that one of the parties moved away, followed by wanting someone else.
The results, Heide says, aren’t surprising.
“This is how we naturally are,” she says. “We are not monogamous by nature and are built to enjoy sex. But because we’re not always ready to invest the time, money and emotional resources required by a friends with benefit relationship, it is an ideal way to ensure we can be the humans we’re designed to be – to be able to enjoy the pleasures our body can provide without the stress committed relationships bring on due to added responsibilities.”
Friends with benefits arrangements, Heide says, tend to be a “rest stop,” something that people enjoy between point A and point B and happens when both parties are familiar with each other but agree that neither are pursuing a commitment. If the parties haven’t taken the time to establish familiarity, then it’s simply just a hookup.
However, these types of arrangements may be misunderstood by some and seen in a negative light, but they’re more natural and beneficial than we might think.
“The chemicals our bodies release during sex are extremely rewarding,” Heide says. “The dopamine and serotonin our brain release act as anti-depressants, while the oxytocin our bodies make during physical contact has pain relieving properties. In essence, sex makes you happier and healthier and we subconsciously know this, which is why we pursue sex as much as we do.”
A common concern, however, is that arrangements like these tend to become complicated – but is it true?
A finding of the survey found that although men are more likely to get emotionally attached during the arrangement (52 per cent versus 44 per cent of women), women were more likely consider dating their friends with benefits partner (51 per cent versus 48 per cent of men).
Despite that, Heide says it is possible to have a friends with benefits relationship that doesn’t get complicated as long as both parties know what they’re in for and are on the same page.
“Most of these arrangements happen without a hitch,” she says. “Both parties get their sexual desires met and eventually move on. The complicating factor happens when one of the people involved begins to want a committed relationship, leaving the other partner feeling like they need to make a decision about something they weren’t prepared to consider.”