It's risky! But if you want to, here's the best way to do it.
You're playing with fire when you have sex with a friend.
That’s not to say it always ends poorly, but there’s a high likelihood that either you or your partner will get burned. There runs the risk of one of you “catching” feelings—it’s difficult (or even impossible) to return to a place of friendship when you’re in love with a friend who doesn’t feel the same way. Maybe things just get awkward after being intimate, no matter how hard you both try to keep it “chill.” For those and a number of other reasons, having sex with a friend is risky.
Still, sometimes you want to hop into bed naked with your best pal and see what happens. Or perhaps sex wasn’t even your intention, but the two of you went out for drinks together, got a little tipsy, and before you knew it, your lips were on theirs. We’re only human, after all.
So what should you do if you decide to (or drunkenly) have sex with a friend? We spoke with Vienna Pharaon, a licensed marriage and family therapist, to learn how to mitigate the chance of having a bad outcome after sleeping with a friend.
Be honest with yourself about your intentions and desires.
“A lot of times, when we're negotiating the boundaries and expectations of the relationship with ourselves, we wind up subtly manipulating ourselves," Pharaon says. "We tell ourselves we're okay with something when we're not."
This speaks to your motivations for originally wanting to sleep with your friend. Think about it: Odds are you don’t want to sleep with all your friends. So why is this friend different? Is it because you may, deep down, want to be more than friends with them, or at least want to give the possibility of a romantic relationship a chance?
If you think you do (or will) want something more, you need to be honest to both yourself and your friend. “We play with the possibility that a dynamic can start off as just sex with the hope that it will transition," Pharaon says. "More specifically, we think that once that person spends more time with me, they'll want to be in a relationship."
Don't assume anything about your friend's feelings. You’re misleading both yourself and them, and setting yourself up for a painful rejection if they don’t ultimately “come around” to falling in love with you.
“The goal is to be really clear with yourself and with the other. And the hope and expectation is that the other does the same,” Pharaon says. “Sometimes we can rely on that and other times we can't. That's the risk. Sometimes sex is sex, and sometimes sex has a lot more connected to it and attached to it.”
That said, it's reasonable for feelings to shift and be a bit fluid, which leads to what to do next when sleeping with a friend.
Address your feelings when dynamics in the relationship evolve.
“If something changes, notice it and name it,” Pharaon says. Sure, these conversations are awkward, but you’re going to have to gather your courage and communicate honestly. (Hopefully, it’s easier to have these more vulnerable conversations with your friend, since you already have a solid foundation of mutual trust and respect.)
“You don't have to overdo the communication and check-in with each other all of the time, but if you're moving into this space, you're going to want to have an open line of communication as well as the courage to name changes if and when they happen so that you're honouring yourself, the other person, and the dynamic,” Pharaon says.
Understand your relationship may implode and you may no longer be friends after you have sex.
Is that a risk you’re willing to take? That’s why it’s typically not worth sleeping with them if you think your attraction to them is a passing phase; if you just think your friend is “super hot” and it would be a ton of fun, maybe it’s worth reconsidering.
On the other hand, if you find yourself unable to stop thinking about them romantically, and you think there’s a possibility that you too could be in a serious relationship together, then maybe it is worth the risk.
But also, you know the type of person your friend is.
Does your friend sleep with different guys often with seemingly no emotional attachment? Are they friends with previous hookup buddies? Have they had friends with benefits type deal? How did it end? Use your knowledge of your friend to speculate how they would respond to having sex with you. Sure, you can’t always predict how they’re going to feel after sex, but let’s say they seldom have sex with guys, and when they do, they fall really hard in love. You, however, are only looking for a casual fling—maybe sex a couple of times—and then you want to return to a place of friendship. You should definitely not sleep with your friend if this is the situation.
So, is it a good idea to have sex with your friend?
Since we don’t know your specific friendship dynamic, we can’t tell you with certainty, but we can say that if you decide to have sex, be honest to both yourself and your friend about what it is you want. If you're on the same page, go for it. If not, maybe you should hop into bed with someone else.