Friends with Benefits
"You've already won me over in spite of meBest friend with benefits"
And don't be alarmed if I fall head over feet
You're the best listener that I've ever met
You're my best friend
—Alanis Morissette, "Head Over Feet"
Alice and Bob enjoy getting together for sex. Wild, rampant, unrestrained bed-shaking, so-loud -it-annoys-the-neighbors Hollywood Sex. With this much enthusiasm going on, you can just tell that these two are perfect soulmates, bonded for life.
As it turns out, their intense attraction for each other ends outside of the bedroom. Maybe their personalities clash, or neither of them wants a long-term relationship. When they're not doing the horizontal hula, they could be Just Friends, quietly indifferent, or even argumentative. If they're on good terms, they might share relationship advice to help each other find true love.
Some draw a distinction between "Friends with Benefits" and "Fuck Buddies". In this view, "Fuck Buddies" are couplings with no emotional relationship, but simply
good great sex. "Friends with Benefits", by contrast, provide sex and friendship, but not as much emotional intimacy as a full-blown romance.
In fiction, such relationships are a convenient starting point for drama and Angst. The setup isn't usually sustainable, as one or the other eventually decide they want a real relationship. This results in either a Relationship Upgrade or a breakup.
Also see Everybody Has Lots of Sex. Contrast with Will They or Won't They?, Just Friends, and Unresolved Sexual Tension. Compare with Stupid Sexy Friend, when one is trying (often in vain) to suppress sexual thoughts about a friend.
The term has been around for a while, but it was repopularized in the nineties by the Alanis Morissette song "Head Over Feet".
No real life examples, please; This is All The Tropes, not Tropes After Dark.
- The (very explicit) Yuri manga Maka-Maka is about two women who insist they're just this - though it's blatantly obvious to the reader that they're way beyond just friends.
- The aptly-named Sex Friends Hentai.
- Akkan Baby focuses on two extremely naive Friends with Benefits who had zero idea of the potential consequences of what they were doing. Pregnancy ensues.
- Japan and Greece from Axis Powers Hetalia, who wind up having sex mainly because Japan ranked last place in a sex frequency poll and Greece (in first place on the same poll) decides to teach him how to enjoy doing it more. Though there are hints that Greece harbors genuine romantic feelings for his friend and it hasn't escaped shippers' attention that Japan doesn't seem to be the kind of person who'd sleep with someone on a whim alone.
- In the one-volume manga version of Heat Guy J Clair has a Hot Scientist around that is implied to be this.
- In Virgin Love, Kaoru and Daigo have what is supposed to be an anonymous one night stand, but then meet again at work. Kaoru doesn't want a relationship but thinks the sex is too good to give up so he and Daigo become sex friends instead. Daigo quickly falls for Kaoru.
- Lupin III: Lupin and Fujiko have this sort of arrangement in an unspoken capacity, due to the on-again/off-again nature of their relationship; usually because they're at odds with each other. Plus she's prone to use and betray Lupin when it suits her. She mentions this briefly, to Clarisse, in The Castle of Cagliostro. And, in Lupin III: The Secret of Twilight Gemini she and Lupin go at it twice.
Comic Books[edit | hide]
- Shortly after One More Day, Spider-Man tried having a Friends with Benefits relationship with the Black Cat. It didn't last long.
- This trope is the best definition of the relationship between Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy in Harley's New 52 comic, though they've also been written as being in an open-relationship. They are not dating but it is more than implied that their current relationship is sexual. Harley even has a dream where she married Bruce Wayne is and Ivy was invited to the honeymoon. This trope applies to pretty much every work where Harley and Ivy appear together, to the point where it would be considered out of character if it didn't happen.
- Deconstructed in the iCarly fan fic iNever Knew and its sequel, iNever Knew This Would Be So Hard. While Freddie wants to be boyfriend and girlfriend, Carly wants to be friends with benefits, which they attempt, albeit by experimenting sexually but not sleeping together again. It doesn't go too well.
- More accurately, Carly is scared of a Relationship Upgrade because she's used to her and her brother wrecking their relationships and never speaking to the other person after they break up, so feels if they keep it casual, she can avoid hurting Freddie whilst still giving him what she believes he wants most. Freddie gets concerned that because Carly doesn't want to tell anyone, and that they haven't slept together again, that Carly thinks it's a mistake. It's also something of a deconstruction of the Girl of the Week format and how a real person would be affected by seeing and being part of relationships which seem to only last one night, days or barely weeks.
- This is the relationship between Jia-Chien and her ex-boyfriend in Eat Drink Man Woman. They get together regularly to chat and to knock heels, but otherwise prefer to see other people.
- Also Tomas and Sabina in The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
- In Jackie Brown, Louis and Melanie have this sort of realtionship. However, Melanie is a bit of slut, although she seems to like Louis- he's an old friend whom she hasn't seen in a long time. This all goes to shit when Louis shoots her for trying to take the half million for herself, plus being overly annoying, even for her.
- In Vanilla Sky, the main character has a "F*** Buddy" relationship with a model. The "buddy" in question takes things a little more seriously and when she finds out the true nature of the relationship, it doesn't end well.
- In the comedy No Strings Attached, Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman star as one of these. You can really tell because (a) They're both getting redressed on the movie poster and (b) It actually says on the poster "Friendship has its benefits".
- In the TV movie Stone Cold, Chief Jesse Stone and Abby have this kind of relationship until she's murdered by a serial killer.
- French Sci Fi novel Malevil features Emmanuel and Birgitta. Emmanuel is a rancher and she was a German girl who would spend time in town and work for his uncle. After the uncle's death, she turns her eye on Emmanuel and makes their relationship very clear: recreational sex and nothing more. They have a happy affair for a while before she leaves for home and writes to announce her marriage. Emmanuel takes it harder then he should have, and has to remind himself of what their relationship was.
- The titular Fire and her childhood friend Archer from Kristin Cashore's Fire.
- Spoofed in parody self-help book Oh the Humanity, in which all of the Unreliable Narrator's relationships like this supposedly end with the sexual component curtailed for fear of "damaging the friendship". The actual phrases they use?
I never want to do that again. You have the muscle tone of gravy, but your caress has all the tenderness of a nail gun. I'd rather eat you - literally, cook and eat your flesh - than find myself in your arms again.
- In Against the Wall, Abby wants her and Brody to stay as Friends with Benefits. He wants a Relationship Upgrade. They negotiate an in-between stage.
- Discussed in The Big Bang Theory.
- Brad and Denise end up in this trope towards the end of season 2 of Boston Legal. Possibly lampshaded with Denise repeatedly claiming they are "only friends... with benefits."
- But the Friends With Benefits does lead to the two eventually getting married and having a kid.
- At one point on Boy Meets World after Shawn and Angela break up they try to have no strings attached sex but Shawn gets too emotional about it and Angela calls it off before they can even get past the makeout foreplay.
- On Community this becomes the eventual arrangement between Jeff and Britta.
- On Farscape Aeryn suggests she and John have one of these. Because he's in love with her, he turns her down.
- It should be noted that this verges upon being a Hat for the Peacekeepers, as their SOP requires that sex remain strictly recreational or procreative (when assigned). FWB is their default relationship state.
- Aeryn's mother was ordered to kill her lover (and Aeryn's father) when their relationship was discovered.
- Walter and Isabela start off as this on The Finder though a Relationship Upgrade is on the cards.
- Monica and Richard attempt this in Friends, after their breakup, but it doesn't work out.
- Also, Monica and Chandler's romantic relationship started as no-strings-attached sex (only in London, mind. Then... only while on London time. Then...), which developed into love.
- Chase and Cameron on House. Eventually leads to Sex Equals Love.
- On How I Met Your Mother Barney and Robin have this sort of thing going for a while. Then Lily holds them prisoner until they decide on being either friends or boyfriend/girlfriend. They eventually choose the Relationship Upgrade.
- Ted and Robin had this type of relationship in "Benefits", as part of the writers' continuing efforts to have them hook up at least once a season. In a neat little twist, neither of them ends up being hurt by the arrangement: Barney does.
- What Dyson and Bo try to have in Lost Girl, but they both develop feelings for each other.
- Sonny and Gina on Miami Vice, for a little while.
- Kyle and Jade tried this on Neighbours, though Jade was already in love with Kyle by this point.
- On Scrubs, J.D. and Elliot attempt a "sex buddies" * FANFARE* type of relationship, but it doesn't work out.
- Ricky and Adrian from The Secret Life of the American Teenager had this kind of relationship on and off for nearly two seasons before finally calling it off for good.
- Jerry and Elaine try to do this on Seinfeld, "The Deal". They propose a set of ground rules by which they can have both "this" (with a gesture at the space between them as they sit companionably on the couch) and "that" (pointing towards the bedroom). They soon find that it doesn't work out without having "this, that, and the other"—i.e., a full romantic relationship.
- It's subverted on Seinfeld, with George telling Jerry An Aesop message about how "it can't be done--" and that people have tried to do it it throughout history, to no avail. Naturally, he's proven right.
- In Sex and the City, Carrie Bradshaw gets into a detailed discussion on the distinction between Friends with Benefits and Fuck Buddies.
- Nate and his friend in Six Feet Under, lampshaded by his sister ("So you're like, what, Fuck Buddies?"). They eventually get a Relationship Upgrade.
- In Wonderfalls, Mahondra believes this is what she and Aaron are engaging in; Aaron wants more. Mahondra does too, but she's in denial.
- In Defying Gravity, astronaut Nadia Schilling is in a "friends with benefits" relationship with a fellow astronaut. She even uses the term on several occasions.
- In Friends With Benefits, the series starts off with Ben and Sara as friends with benefits, who ask each other relationship advice after each session.
- The Sparks' "All You Ever Think About Is Sex":
In a world of lovers
we don't love each other much
Fact is we're too busy
to love each other much
- Get Mine Get Yours by Christina Aguilera is about a relationship like this.
I want your body, not your heart
- In The Dark by Jojo is about this type of situation.
- Jojo is weary of growing feelings for her bed buddy though.
Try to stay desensitized / Keep my feelings out of mind
- "Urgent" by Foreigner. The speaker seems to want a Relationship Upgrade, even though he tells himself he just wants sex.
- Played for a gag in one Pearls Before Swine strip:
Woman: (talking about her boyfriend) We're 'friends with benefits'.
Pig: It's good to have affordable medical insurance.
Video Games[edit | hide]
- The female Shepard's relationship with Garrus in Mass Effect 2 at the beginning fits this to a T. There is neither any romantic attraction between them at first: Shepard just offers to sleep with Garrus in the middle of a conversation and Garrus replies "Well, why the hell not?". The dialogue that ensues is initially all about reconciling the fact that it's an Interspecies Romance but the focus rapidly and subtly shifts to Garrus revealing how lost and lonely he really is, how he's filled to the brim with self-doubt and how Shepard is the only person in the galaxy who can give him even a moment's solace.
- Morrigan and Zevran both view a relationship with the Warden in Dragon Age to be this at first, though in both cases it evolves into something deeper if you pursue it.
- One option with Isabela in Dragon Age II is to not mention love at all and just keep on having sex.
- If neither of them is romanced, Isabela and Fenris seem to develop this kind of relationship.
- This pretty much sums up the relationship between Telia and the Wanderer in Visions and Voices, at least in the Backstory. Their in-game relationship follows the standard Belligerent Sexual Tension pattern, except for the minor detail that they're already screwing like rabbits before love and romance even become an issue.
- Combined with A Worldwide Punomenon in the Portal 2 achievements. There's an achievement called "Friends List With Benefits" for hugging three people on your Steam friends list. Although hugging is the closest thing ATLAS and P-Body get to romance or sex, at one point GLaDOS asks the bots if they know what could happen as a result of hugging...and makes it sound for a moment like it could result in STD's.
- In The Sims 3, it's possible to make your Sims be friends with benefits, and will react slightly differently after woohooing. In fact, unless they choose to go steady, they can have sex without actually considering themselves in a romantic relationship. This is quite different from The Sims 2, where just chatting each other up can result in them basically making it official, and you need a Game Mod for them to ever have sex outside of a relationship.
Web Comics[edit | hide]
- Stan and Brandi in Penny and Aggie are this trope on and off for over a year, until their failed attempt at a Relationship Upgrade (apparently prompted, however, by Stan accidentally kissing his Friendly Enemy Penny and wishing to avoid the ramifications). Subsequently, Stan and Lisa become friends with benefits.
- Sven and Faye from the web comic Questionable Content have a thing like this for a while.
- It's implied in a guest strip that their intimate moments involve intense amounts of hostility. Which makes it better.
- Though it's obvious Faye thinks of it as more than just random sex: when Sven sleeps with another girl she gets all heartbroken and stops seeing him at all. Sven seems to have become very attached, though he seems to be telling himself it's just the sex.
- Candi had a few characters trying this out, but it eventually gets too complicated.
- In this comic, Desirae of Alone In A Crowd suggests this to her niece Sara and her best friend Marty much to their mutual annoyance.
- In El Goonish Shive, Noah tells Elliot that he and Melissa "provide comfort and pleasure to each other" while Melissa is still in love with Justin.
- Elliot and Nanase's early relationship wasn't exactly romantic.
Nanase: Besides, you and I know this relationship was little more than two good friends giving each other privileges.
Elliot: I never liked to think about it that way.
Nanase: But that's what it was. Name one romantic thing we ever did together.
Elliot: Does making out in the car outside the movie theater count?
- Most notably, Miriam and Steven, post-breakup, in Out There. A few other pairings have taken place (or are implied to have taken place) as a part of the back story: Sherry and Steven, Miriam and Wally, and possibly even Miriam and Sherry; there is also a reference to a Friends With Benefits relationship between Miriam and a character named Carlos in one of the flashback stories in the third Out There book.
- An ambiguous case between the succubi Fuchsia and Baby Blue in Sinfest. They both regularly tempt men with gay-for-pay shows, and they clearly have a friendship with each other beyond what they do for their jobs, but it's very different from Fuchsia's chaste but romantic relationship with Crimnee.
- Kickback and Lazorbeak in the Insecticomics.
Web Original[edit | hide]
- Zeke and Lizzie of Seeking Truth.
- Played for drama since Zeke only admits his love for her after she's murdered.
- This was the premise of College Humor's former show "Full Benefits", where this sort of relationship occurred between fictionalized versions of staff members Sarah and David. Later they tried to "take it to the next level" by becoming romantically involved as well.
- In The Wulf Archives, Wulf has a few serious lovers, but the other woman are this trope who like him and make no demands on him beyond an open invitation to their beds when he comes around.