Sex and Friendship: It’s Complicated

Sex changes a friendship. We’ve all been there. We’ve all told ourselves our friendship can weather a few benefits and stay in tact, but then find the aftermath uncomfortable, awkward, or worse.

Why Friends Have Sex

There are many reasons why we might decide to have sex with a friend, but the three main ones are giving in to a long simmering sexual tension, succumbing to deeper feelings of love and desire underneath he surface, and convenience or happenstance.

Read: 4 Tips for Healthy Friends-with-Benefits Relationships

While some people may be able to enjoy casual sex with casual friends and not have any fallout, this is seldom the case for closer friendships, even if the sex really is casual. Everyone’s different of course, and sex isn’t necessarily a big deal. And if the friends in question are more “friendly” than they are in a close friendship relationship, the sex can be positive and uncomplicated and fun.

Sex-with-Friends Rules

There’s an unwritten rule for threesomes, for example, that rings true for most other sexual dalliances with friends, too: better to invite your acquaintance than your best friend when you and a lover are looking to add someone to the mix.

Sex changes the dynamics between people and means sharing and showing parts of yourself that are usually private, or parts not intended for your friends. If a relationship starts off sexual, but the chemistry is fleeting or not intense, lovers can become friendly and then friends as their attraction takes other turns. This is often a natural process and many of us have friendships that started off as dates that didn’t quite click, or click for long.

Read: Dos and Don’ts for Hookups with Friends

Sex-with-Friends Risks

When the foundation of a relationship is a deep bond of friendship, bringing sex to the mix can often ruin the comfort and connection. It changes it, and things become more emotionally volatile.

Perhaps the main reason why sex with a friend most often turns the friendship sour is because sex between friends is often the realization of underlying sexual tension or love. It can be something that one or both friends are waiting for in a way for a long time. They have likely made a choice already not to act on it, perhaps because it would complicate things at work, perhaps because they are committed to others.

It’s a simple fact of life that we are attracted to many people, but that doesn’t mean we always sleep with them. It’s natural to be attracted to people you work with, people you meet, people you love, and that can include your friends. You might be close friends because she is married to your friend! You might work together and know dating will make that awkward if you stop dating.

Read: Tips for Hookups with Co-workers

Of course, many of the best love relationships result from friendship. The sex with a friend thing often turns into a great relationship, and that’s one reason we often “go there.” It can be a very wise bet when looking for lasting connection to look at the people you care about and get along with as potential partners! The problem is that the risk of fallout has a price when it’s a close friend.

Sex-with-Friends Fallout

If you’ve given into deeper feelings but one or both of you are not really free to pursue the relationship, now you suddenly have a decision to make or a responsibility to others—spouses, jobs—a burden the relationship didn’t have before.

You may be friends and not lovers because of something non-negotiable that isn’t external as well. For example, a friend who is a recovered alcoholic has been attracted to a man she works with for a long time, but he is a big drinker. She made a choice a long time ago that she won’t date men who drink because it will put her at risk. You may have an intense attraction to a friend you love, but you intentionally have not taken things to the next level because she is not good for you in some way.

Casual sex that “just happens,” because you’re both a bit drunk after an office party or because you’re both horny at the same time and decide why the hell not, doesn’t have the same complications as sex that results from long-buried feelings. But it can still make a friendship turn awkward fast. Sex can be clumsy and embarrassing, and after, you both feel naked even when you’re not!

Read: How to Stay Friends without the Benefits

Another complication that is toxic to friendship is when yielding to the desire and attraction turns out to be anticlimactic. Sometimes we have built something in our minds and it isn’t there at all. Another friend was in love with a friend from work for years. She kept things friendly because he was happily married and longed for him in secrecy. After they’d changed jobs and his life went through some changes, and he divorced, they ended up hooking up.

She had not been waiting for that moment, but hoping for it nonetheless, and there it was. And it was more like sleeping with her brother! Now the tables were turned and he was experiencing “things I have never felt before” while she was yawning and hoping to get back to her crochet project. Needless to say, the friendship was awkward after that.

Friendship that has gone south after sex can be salvaged, but it is not easy! It seems wise to have a don’t-sleep-with-friends-rule. But sex and love are messy and tricky. Life is! Such a rule would prevent a lot of fantastic sex and a lot of great love connections. How many happy people can say “I married my best friend!”

There is no simple answer. As with all things in love and sex, proceed with caution, but not too much caution!

Have you had sex with a friend? Please share your experience!

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