As a psychotherapist, I get questions about this topic from my clients, a few of whom have asked me to write a column about it. It’s a highly polarizing subject, but I’m up for the challenge.
Bring up this topic at a party, and you’ll probably find that people have strong opinions about it. For some people, having sex with their friends is no big deal, something that’s normal in their social circle. For other folks, it’s hard to imagine such a thing: friends are friends, not people to have sex with. And some people would like to have sex with their friends, but fear that it’s a death wish for a platonic relationship.
In this column, I’ll try and be objective, looking at the pros and cons of having sex with your friends. So, whatever your preference, I invite you to keep an open mind…and read on.
To start, here are some questions you might consider:
- What do you want from sex?
- If you or your friend have a partner, are they okay with the two of you having sex?
- What if you and your friend have sex and you want to do it again and they don’t? How will you handle that rejection?
- What if you have a great friendship but the sex is mediocre? Will that have a negative affect on your friendship?
- What does sex mean to you? It is just for fun, or something more?
- What if – after having sex – you start to fall in love with your friend?
- How solid is your friendship? Is it strong enough to withstand the waves of emotion that a sexual encounter may bring?
From talking with people who have sex with their friends, two factors became clear to me: (1) your intentions – and those of your friend – need to be clear and (2) kindness and honesty are crucial at every step of the way. Otherwise, you may end up in a situation where sex ends your friendship:
“I thought we had something good going on between us but, after we had sex, he ghosted me the next morning. We never talked after that. He wouldn’t answer my texts. Whenever we saw each other, it was really awkward. The friendship was over.”
Sometimes, two friends have a lot of love and affection for each other, and it seems like there could be more. But, ultimately, the sexual chemistry doesn’t click. Then what? Can the friendship overcome the (temporary) discomfort?
“It was uncomfortable after we hooked up, but soon our friendship was back to normal. The sexual attraction faded with no hurt feelings. We’re both okay with it now and can even laugh about it.”
It’s hard to predict if your friendship will survive a negative sexual encounter, but you can minimize the drama by making sure that you and your friend talk about it ahead of time. You may not feel like talking about it before anything happens, but, in my experience, it works out a whole lot better than two friends who, one night, get super drunk and then fall into bed together.
If a friendship really matters to you, don’t let sex mess it up. A lot of the problems that come from hooking up with a friend result from a lack of communication. Ideally, this is something you two can talk about beforehand, but a lot of times it doesn’t work out that way:
“My friend and I went out drinking and hit the bars hard. In the Uber home, we started making out. It felt weird at first but, once we realized that we were both on the same page, we just went with it. Back at my house, being naked together for the first time was cool because we know each other so well. We’ve talked so much about sex with other people that we even know what each other likes! Once it was over, we fell asleep in each other’s arms. Yeah, the next morning was a little weird, but our friendship kicked back in and we went to brunch and had a good laugh about it. Sometimes, we still hook up, but it’s no big deal: our friendship is solid and that’s what really counts.”
It’s great that these two friends made it through a drunken encounter and emerged happily the next day. I asked some people who had sex with their friends, “What advice would you give to people who want to have sex with their friend(s)?”
- “Be respectful, it has to be okay for either party to say ‘no’ or ‘I’ve changed my mind” at any time.”
- “Make sure you and your friend are comfortable as the sex progresses, from the initial making out to final orgasm.”
- “Be as sober as possible so your communication is clear and there are no misunderstandings.”
- “Don’t try to manipulate your friend into doing something that they don’t want to.”
One of my clients told me that they found that sex with a friend can be a lot more relaxed than a Tinder/Grindr hookup: “You already know the person, so a lot of the awkwardness and uncertainty is gone. You can relax: you trust this person and vice-versa.”
When this topic comes up in a therapy session, I ask my clients questions like: Is this something you want to make a regular part of your life? Do you have a specific friend you’re attracted to? Did a friend express a desire to hook up with you and now it’s on your mind?
Instead of having the whole thing be one big, confusing emotional mess, if you’re clear about what you hope your sexual encounter will be like, it’s easier to check in with the friend you want to sleep with and make sure you’re both up for it.
On the other hand, maybe you don’t want to sleep with a friend who suggested it and you want to find a kind way to say “No thanks”. Or perhaps you’d like to start sleeping with your friends but you’re a little nervous about it so you’re going to brainstorm the idea with some friends that you trust.
Most people value their friendships too much to risk them, and if sleeping with a friend would end the friendship, most of us wouldn’t do it, no matter how high our libido.
After you’ve slept together, what comes next? One client told me, “We don’t talk need to talk about it, it’s no big deal. If we want to do it again in the future, then we’ll talk about it.” However, some people need to talk about it, to process all the emotions that may have been stirred up. When in doubt, a simple check-in will let you know which way to go. “Is there anything you want me to know about our hooking up last night?” or something as simple as: “Are we good?”
Once you and your friend are “good”, check in with yourself to make sure you feel good about the experience. You may want to do it again or maybe once was enough.
Don’t be surprised if having sex with your friend(s) brings up emotions. As a psychotherapist, I encourage you to pay attention to your feelings and listen to what they’re telling you. For example, if you or your friend start having romantic fantasies about each other, or begin to be jealous of each other being with other people, take note. If you feel that having sex has changed how you feel about your friend, pay attention to that too.
I recommend that you not talk with your friend immediately about any stirred-up emotions. Instead, sit with them for a few days and then, when you feel grounded and calm, consider bringing them up. Be patient and gentle with yourself and your friend: you may be in uncharted territory. Whatever you do, be kind and don’t ghost them just because you sense some uncomfortable emotions. Remember – you’re friends! Treat each other accordingly.