Situationship vs Friends with Benefits: Which Is Better for You?

Relationship Rules
19 Jul 2023
10 min read
Situationship vs Friends With Benefits: Is There Any Difference?

If the question about situationship vs. friends with benefits comes to mind, it’s clear that it’s time to define your relationship. Otherwise, you can become the victim of inflated expectations or end up in conflict with the person on your relationship status. Don’t let ambiguity ruin things.

Defining a long-term relationship is easier than a casual one. Two monogamous people in a committed relationship are just more likely on the same page about future plans. If you are equally uncommitted, defining casual relationships will be pretty easy too. But when the level of commitment and expectations differ, problems with defining the relationship status appear.

If things between you two have become more complicated, let’s make them clear. In this post, we’ll discuss two most common casual relationship models, situationship vs friends with benefits – what are they, which pros and cons each possesses, and how to navigate that hard talk to make things clear.

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Situationship vs Friends with Benefits: What Are They?

Friends with Benefits Definition

A friends-with-benefits relationship starts with two friends who develop a physical attraction toward each other. They come to an agreement that they will enjoy no strings attached to physical intimacy. This involves maintaining the friendship, avoiding awkwardness, and a commitment to avoid developing feelings.

Signs You Are in a Friends with Benefits Relationship:

  • You will generally know that you are in a friends with benefits relationship.
  • You have an established friendship before things get sexual
  • Neither of you commits to anything beyond friendship and casual sex
  • There may be an agreement to keep the sexual nature of your relationship quiet

Situationship Definition

When comparing a situationship vs friends with benefits, a situationship is much harder to define and more complicated. Unlike friends with benefits, it is by nature a situational relationship that is subject to change. It may also mean something different to each person. You may be involved in a situationship from the start. Your situationship relationship might evolve from something else.

The most important distinction is that both of you know what you are getting into, at least at the beginning.

Signs You Are in a Situationship:

  • External factors get in the way of your relationship stability
  • You and your partner disagree about the definition of your relationship
  • Neither of you has even had a defining the relationship conversation
  • What you have between the two of you changes regularly
  • There are often other people involved that add to the stress
Situational relationship examples

Situationship vs Friends with Benefits Examples

Here are some examples to help you understand the differences between situationship vs friends with benefits.

Friends with Benefits Relationship Example

You hang out with your regular friend group every Saturday night. Daniel is part of that group, but the two of you aren’t exactly best friends close. There’s some emotional connection. You think he’s funny. Every once in a while, you text one another about friend group-related stuff. Then, out of nowhere, you notice it. Daniel is really sexy. So, you flirt, and he flirts back.

Neither of you is in a committed relationship, so you both go for it! The sex is great, and it becomes a semi-regular thing. Both of you agree that things would get really awkward if there were other parties involved. So, you agree that you won’t tell the rest of your friends about this.

More importantly, the two of you agree that there’s no room for romantic feelings here. You have a clear understanding that this is casual and will probably only last until one of you finds someone to get serious about. There is no commitment involved. That is a mutual understanding.

Related reading: 11 Friends With Benefits Rules to Keep Things Chill

Situationship Example

You’ve dated Jane before. Once, you even had a serious commitment together. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out. Despite that, it’s clear that you both have strong feelings for one another.

She’s gone back to her ex a few times but admits she doesn’t feel the same way about him as he does you. Throughout all of this, you both continue to go on dates with each other and have sex. You want a commitment but are just okay enough with things as they are to dodge any conversation about the status of your situational relationship.

There is definitely some emotional depth to what you have with Jane. You might even be in love. Still, it isn’t a traditional relationship. Also, when you are honest with yourself, you realize this is emotionally draining.

Your Attitude Is the Key

Emotions are the key differences between FWB relationship and a situationship. As the name implies, friends with benefits are just friends. But in a situationship, you might have a deeper emotional connection or even fall in love. Your situational relationship might also be defined by the fact that you don’t know exactly how you feel.

More accurately, they can be both. That happens when one or both people involved catch feelings. They begin yearning for a more committed relationship. To put it bluntly, things get weird.

Related reading: What Are the Signs Your Friends with Benefits Is Falling for You

Sometimes, it works out. Both of you might feel that same emotional connection and you decide to pursue a serious relationship. But, what if those feelings aren’t mutual and it causes drama within your friend group? Then you are in the undefined relationship zone known as the situationship.

So, when things between you two become messier and more complicated, there is a chance your friends-with-benefits relationships turn into situationships.

Friends with Benefits Relationships: Pros and Cons

Advantages: Fun with a Bit of Depth

  1. When the timing is right and you are both in synch, friends with benefits can be great fun. Both of you get sexual fulfillment without any strings attached
  2. The distraction friends with benefits bring can be a good thing. It can keep your mind off of other romantic situations that are causing you stress.
  3. Some people get a bit of a thrill from keeping their sexual relationship secret from the rest of the friend group.

Drawbacks: When Being Friends with Benefits Is More Trouble Than It’s Worth

  1. The risk that one of you will develop feelings while the other one doesn’t.
  2. The possibility that something will happen and your sexual relationship will end badly. Sometimes, friends-with-benefits relationships end badly because of jealousy.
  3. Your friend-with-benefit relationship might impact your other friendships. People may feel a need to take sides or be offended that you kept your friends-with-benefits relationship a secret.

Be aware of these risks, and then decide whether it’s worth the risk to have your sexual needs met.

Related reading: What is NSA in Dating? Let Freedom Ring!

Situationship: Pros and Cons

Advantages: An Enjoyable Undefined Romance

  1. A situationship can work well for you as long as what you get out of it is worth the uncertainty.
  2. You are not ready for a committed relationship yourself but still want some romance.
  3. You have the patience to understand when the other person isn’t in a position to define your romantic relationship.

A situationship is often a “right now” relationship. As long as you have mutual respect and a deeper emotional connection, you may look back on your situationship fondly, even if it never materializes into a long-term relationship.

Drawbacks of a Situationship: It’s Emotionally Challenging

  1. Situationship is often unbalanced. It’s one thing if both of you decide that you want to enjoy the other’s company without putting a label on things. Unfortunately, all too often it is one person who is unwilling or unable to engage in a committed relationship while the other person gets their hopes up.
  2. One person can end up feeling used because they felt an emotional connection whereas the other person was simply seeking out physical intimacy.

If you say you are in a situationship, take a step back. Are you really okay with that? Be careful that you aren’t convincing yourself to stay in a non-committal relationship that is emotionally exhausting for you.

Talks on situationships tend to be hard

Can You Change the Definition of Your Romantic Relationship?

Once you can decide you don’t like the way your relationship, the challenging part is there is another person involved. They may be okay with the status quo, wanting to maintain an open relationship with no real relationship commitment.

Conversely, it may be you who decides that you are okay as friends with benefits or being part of a situationship. What will you do when you want to keep things surface level, but they are asking for a clear commitment? It may be time for an honest and candid conversation about your feelings, plans, and intentions. Here are some thoughts for your guidance in this regard.

Related reading: How Many Dates Do You Need to Start a Relationship for Real?

3 Tips for Having Relationship Discussion

It doesn’t matter what kind of undefined romantic relationship you have. Both of you should be able to communicate openly. Relationships, even those that are casual or loosely defined, can have an impact on your mental health. It’s more important to know how and when to talk about your relationship than it is to understand the difference between situationship vs friends with benefits.

1. Be Clear Why It Is Important to Talk About Your Relationship

It’s never good to hold feelings in.

Despite their key difference, situationships and friends-with-benefits relationships have something in common. They are the same in wanting to enjoy physical intimacy without having difficult conversations.

Unfortunately, this approach rarely works in the long run for these relationships. Eventually, something will cause you to talk about your relationship. Even if you want to keep things loose and casual, every healthy relationship needs at least a minimal conversation about expectations.

There’s also a matter of respect and safety. By nature, situationships and FWB are casual. This lack of commitment means there is a good chance that at least one of you sees multiple people. If not now, this may happen in the future. Thus, at a bare minimum, there needs to be some disclosure and frank conversation about safety and respect regarding dating multiple people.

2. Choose the Appropriate Time to Talk About Your Relationship

It’s good to have conversations from time to time, even when things are going smoothly. These little check-ins can be casual and light. What they do is make sure that both of you are on the same page about your relationship. This way, neither of you is taken aback if your relationship status changes.

You should also plan to have a more serious convo if one of these important events happens:

  • One of you is ready to move on to something or somebody else
  • Someone catches feelings
  • You feel as if the other person has developed an emotional attachment that you can’t return
  • There are concerns about unsafe sexual activity
  • One or both of you needs to define your relationship after all
  • A third party has become a factor in your relationship
  • It’s time to talk about a real commitment
  • A boundary has been broken

Remember that discussing with the other person about your relationship doesn’t mean you have to concede to what they want. It’s simply giving space to one another’s feelings and thoughts.

3. Practice Emotional Intimacy for a Healthy Conversation With Your Sexual Partner

This conversation doesn’t need to be painful or combative. Make it mature.

It’s just a matter of time before you will need to have a conversation with your friends with benefits or situationship partners. That’s because even the most physical relationship is going to involve some feelings or emotional attachment. There’s also the inevitability of change. But the good news is that you can do it.

Be Prepared to Listen Actively

The most respectful thing you can do in a conversation about your relationship is allow the other person the time and space to fully express their feelings. Engage in active listening.

Don’t simply wait for your turn to speak. Listen. Don’t spend that time formulating the perfect counter-response. Even if you don’t agree with them, that sets a respectful foundation for the conversation.

One way to do this is to ask the other person to expand on what they are saying. For example, if you are in a friends-with-benefits relationship with someone who wants a more emotional connection with you, don’t dismiss by reminding them you both agreed that this was nothing serious. You might be right, but you are invalidating their evolving feelings.

Here is what you can do instead:

  1. Ask open-ended questions about how they started feeling differently.
  2. Acknowledge them – even if you can’t give them what they want.
  3. Understand what it must be like to develop emotions for someone who may not return them
  4. Thank them for being open and honest about their feelings.

State Your Needs and Desires Unequivocally

When it is your time to speak, don’t let fear of conflict or rejection stop you from being fully authentic. Whether you want a long-term relationship or save your friends-with-benefits situation, don’t be unclear. The last thing you want to do is walk away from the situation and risk miscommunication.

Related reading: How To Maintain Your Individuality While In a Relationship

Don’t Focus on Winning

If all you care about is getting your way, you don’t care about the other person. They are simply an object to fulfill your needs and wants.

If you do care about them, you will want a good outcome for both of you. This doesn’t mean you must give in. It simply means you treat them with respect and take a team approach to come to an agreement.

This is particularly important when it’s friends with benefits. If this ends badly, and the other person feels disregarded or disrespected, you can be sure that is going to ripple through your circle of friends.

Repeat and Clarify Their Feelings

It’s easy to develop strong feelings during a tough conversation. It’s also easy to project your own feelings onto the other person. To avoid doing that, never assume. Instead, seek clarification.

If you perceive that your friends with benefits is frustrated with your current arrangement, say, “I think you are upset with the way things are going. Is that correct?”


Set an Action Plan for What Is Next

Don’t let the conversation end without both of you agreeing on what to do next. Even if you decide to leave things just as they are, make sure that is what both of you want. Remember that deciding to do nothing is also a plan of action.

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Only You Know Which Is Best for You

Nothing can be more fun than a friends-with-benefits fling if that is what you really want. Likewise, that situationship could genuinely meet your needs right now. The most important thing is that you have good insights, communicate honestly, and act in your own best interests when things change and you begin to strive for more clarity.

Love&Sex Expert
Cherie Hamilton
I’ve always been inspired by women who are outgoing, very sure of themselves, and not afraid to be who they were, including their sex lives. Under their tutelage, I gradually shed my old self, hung out and socialized with them, and, over time, became the empowered, self-confident, and sexual woman I am today. Happy to share my insights with other women today!

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