Hooking up and friends with benefits

Being sexual with someone, but not really dating them, is known as hooking up.

Hooking up doesn’t necessarily mean having sex. It can also mean kissing or making out. Hook ups can be a one-time thing or something that happens more than once with the same person. Here’s what you need to know.

Emotional risks of hooking up

Hooking up with someone can be exciting, but it can also be emotionally confusing. You may not know what the other person wants from the hook up and it can be easy for either person to feel upset or hurt afterward.

Here are some things to think about when it comes to hooking up:

  • •    Expectations: what are you hoping may happen as a result of the hook up? If you want a relationship with the other person, think about how you’ll feel if they’re only interested in hooking up. Make sure you both agree about what you want. 
  • •    Pressure: some people hook up because it seems like everyone else is doing it. If you feel pressured, give yourself time to think about what you want. 

Physical safety and hooking up

It’s important to also consider your physical safety when planning a hook up. Here are some things to consider:

  • •    Your limits: know what you are and are not willing to do with your body. It’s always OK to say no or change your mind at any point.
  • •    Location: avoid hooking up in secluded places, especially if it’s with someone you don’t know very well.
  • •    Backup: tell a close friend where you’ll be and who you’ll be with. If you feel uncomfortable, call your friend for backup. You could also ask your friend to call you at a certain time to make sure you’re OK. If you feel unsafe or threatened and need immediate help, you can call 9-1-1.
  • •    Drugs and alcohol: these substances can affect the way you think and make you less alert and more vulnerable. Teens who hook up while high or drunk are more likely to engage in unsafe sexual activity and to feel regret afterward.
  • •    Protection: protect yourself if your hook up includes sex. If you need information about safer sex, talk to your doctor or visit a sexual health clinic. 

More ways to stay safe

Here are some other ways to be respectful and stay safe when hooking up:

  • •    Be honest with the other person and yourself. Don’t lead them on and say that it’s the start of a relationship if it isn’t.
  • •    Never force someone to do something they don’t want/consent to do. Don’t try to hook up if the other person is high, drunk or going through an emotionally rough time.
  • •    Don’t try to convince the other person to hook up with you if they’ve already said “no.”
  • •    Always comply if the other person says “no” or “stop.” It’s a person’s right to say “no” to sexual activity at any point. There is no grey area.

Remember, you can always call Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 if you need to talk.

Friends with benefits

A friends with benefits relationship can be tricky to define. It’s somewhere between a dating relationship and a friendship.

Usually, friends with benefits means that two people engage in sexual activity without being in a committed dating relationship with each other. It’s different from hooking up. Hook ups tend to be a one-time thing, but people in a friends with benefits relationship usually know each other and are sexual with each other regularly.

How is a friends with benefits relationship different from dating?

Generally, when you’re dating someone, you have special feelings for that person. In friends with benefits scenarios, you’re just friends — friends who hang out and sometimes kiss, make out or have sex. People in friends with benefits relationships are free to date other people because the physical stuff is “no strings attached” and because they’re not committed to each other.

Why do people want to be friends with benefits?

There are different reasons why friends with benefits may appeal to some people:

  • •    It can feel safe to explore sexuality with a trusted friend.
  • •    Friends with benefits relationships can be a good alternative for people who don’t want the commitment of a dating relationship.
  • •    Some people think friends with benefits relationships are a way to avoid the emotional intimacy of dating relationships.
  • •    People who have strong romantic feelings for a friend may hope that a friends with benefits relationship will evolve into a dating relationship.

The downsides of friends with benefits

In some friends with benefits relationships, people have different expectations, or their expectations may change over time. For example, one person may want a more serious relationship, while the other person may want to stay as friends with benefits. When two people want different things, one or both may feel confused, disappointed or angry, and their friendship may change or even end. 

If you’re thinking about having a friends with benefits relationship, here are some things to think about:

  • •    “No strings attached” is often easier said than done, so it’s important to consider how you might feel if the person starts dating someone else. 
  • •    Friendships often change once sexual activity is added to the relationship, so if the friendship is important to you, you should consider how you might feel if the friendship ended.
  • •    Expectations around friends with benefits can be challenging. Be up front with your friend about your feelings and what you want from the situation.  Talking openly can be awkward, but it’s crucial to making a friends with benefits relationship work.

If you would like to know more about this topic, feel free to speak or chat with a counsellor.