The Heart Beat The Heart Beat blog

Study Finds Friends With Benefits Can Lead to Long-Term Love

If Harry and Sally were sex buddies, they could've still ended up together.

By Kristin Wong Jul 12, 2012 2:46PM

Photo: Lise Gagne/Getty ImagesIt might be an awkward "how I met your mother" story, but a new study shows that couples who start out as casual sex buddies can later make the shift into long term partners without their histories getting in the way.

In fact, the study's lead author went so far as to assert, "friends with benefits may actually be the new form of dating."

Jesse Owen, a professor of psychology at the University of Louisville, led the study along with Frank Fincham from Florida State University. Owen and Fincham researched the behaviors of 764 men and women who were in serious relationships. They sought to find out whether a "friends with benefits" (FWB) past had any impact on a couple's ability to thrive in a blossoming, exclusive relationship. They found that although a FWB relationship is unconventional and stereotypically tumultuous, couples who start out that way are no more likely to fail than any other couple.

"Commitment is a foundation of any relationship," Owen told the Vancouver Sun. "And friends with benefits are really unstable, almost by definition. We thought that would carry forward but it didn't happen."

Of the 764 participants, 20 percent started out as FWB. Researchers tested relationship satisfaction, communication quality and relationship status ambiguity (not answering the "what are we?" question). They were surprised to find that FWB histories were "basically a non-factor in the health and viability of those people's relationships."

Four months later, Owen and Fincham checked back in with the couples to see who had broken up and who was still going strong. They found that FWB couples were no more likely to have separated than non-FWB couples.

There's no denying the instability and complexity of the FWB relationship, so it's understandable that Owen was surprised by the results. He offers two possible explanations.

First, there's the chance that the FWB couples entered the casual relationship with the hopes that it would blossom into something more serious—and it did.

A second explanation Owen offers is that the couples must have had a serious talk about changing their relationship status at some point, and that conversation set the course for healthy communication in the future.

Either way, Owen concludes:

"Just because people start out as friends with benefits, doesn't necessarily mean a doomsday scenario for their relationship."

Good news for sex buddies ready to settle down.

Photo: Lise Gagne/Getty Images

More on love & sex from MSN Living:
The 10 Worst First Date Ideas of All Time
The Most Memorable Star-Crossed Movie Couples
10 Rom-Coms That Won't Put Your Guy To Sleep


love: friendships, dating, sex & marriage

  • Lies wives tell

    7 lies your wife tells you

    How to flag her little fibs. By Laura Tedesco

  • A new study on attraction may help explain why fashions change. AFP Photo, ©Serg Zastavkin, shutterstock.com // A new study on attraction may help explain why fashions change. AFP Photo, ©Serg Zastavkin, shutterstock.com (A new study on attraction may help explain why fashions change. AFP Photo, ©Serg Zastavkin, shutterstock.com)

    Being the odd one out may make you more attractive

    A new study on attraction may help explain why fashions change.

  • The Viceroy Anguilla

    Great getaways for a spring-summer honeymoon

    As a general rule, any island that offers great weather year-round is going to attract the most visitors in the winter (high season) when we’re all trying to escape the snow. Once summer rolls around, many islands see a sharp drop-off in tourism since many people have beach weather right in their own backyards.

  • Getty Images

    The top 10 complaints from unhappy husbands

    And how you can attack the issues together.

  • 25 wedding photo bombs

    25 wedding photo bombs

    A wedding is an exceptionally special day. Sometimes, an opportune photo flub makes the occasion even more memorable. Here are 25 awesome wedding photo bombs.

  • He takes you on nondrinking dates.

    7 signs he’s getting serious about you

    Somewhere between the first few butterfly-inducing dates and the committed-for-life stage, there’s the period of wondering if you’re both on the same page about how serious you feel about a future together. If you’re not quite at the point of "that talk" but you’re looking for a few clues you’re heading in that direction, here are some signs he’s in it for the long haul as your relationship progresses.

  • 'Have you tried online dating?'

    15 things single people are tired of hearing

    What’s that sound? It’s white noise blocking out the well-meaning person proclaiming groundbreaking news about where you can meet someone, asking why you’re still single, or bugging you about when you’re getting married already. Don’t be that person. Here are 15 annoying things all single people don’t want to hear.

  • 1. New Hair Color

    11 things to avoid the week before your wedding

    With just a few days left before the big day, you already have a mile-long checklist of to-dos—now meet the don’ts! From impromptu skin treatments to all-night movie marathons, here are 11 things to avoid at all costs.

  • 'It’s a Wonderful Life'

    13 movie romances we can learn from

    A new study shows that watching and discussing romantic films can drastically reduce your chance of divorce. These flicks more than fit the bill.

  • About you and someone else

    10 things he’ll never forget you said

    These seemingly innocent phrases still have the power to wound… big time.

  • He or she is the first one you want to tell

    6 signs your marriage will last a lifetime

    Making "I do" last forever is one of the biggest challenges you'll ever face—and it's normal to worry about how you'll do it. But, if your connection involves any of these things, rest assured that you're in it for the long run.

  • Simone Becchetti, Getty Images // Simone Becchetti, Getty Images (Simone Becchetti, Getty Images)

    Can you stay together after a marital affair?

    Ultimately, as hard as it may seem at the beginning, a marital affair can be a turning point.

buzzing now on msn living
The Heart Beat is a Great Dating Blogs Winner The Heart Beat is a Great Dating Blogs Winner
relationship videos
editor's picks
the heart beat