“Netflix and Chill?”: Are Friends With Benefits Relationships the New Norm?

In decades past, “dating” was the primary way people developed relationships – people would get a feel for each other and, if things felt right, they would eventually engage in physical intimacy. Recent research, however, suggests the sequencing of sex in a new relationship has changed. Sex has begun to function as a screening device that people use to determine if a relationship is worth perusing. In fact, research shows that over the past 30 years, the amount of time between first date and first sexual encounter has decreased steadily1. Because sex is such an important element of relationships this leads researchers to reconsider what constitutes “normal” relational development.

Enter the friends with benefits relationship (FWBR). If you’re under the age of 25 and you’re reading this you may be thinking ‘nobody does FWBRs anymore, that’s what our parents did.’ Before you judge, consider the following study conducted by Mongeau and his colleagues2. They had a feeling that FWBRs were not as simple as people think they are. In fact, the researchers let their participants (in this case, college students) define what a FWBR is. The results revealed that FWBRs do not represent one type of relationship – they represent seven (see the Table below for types and descriptions).