5 Reasons Queer People Are Better at Being Friends With Benefits

Takes notes.

Making a friends-with-benefits situation work well for everyone involved can be tricky, but rewarding when done well. So, how does one do it well? For one thing, it turns out cishets could learn a thing or two, or five, from LGBTQ people, who do it better.

That is, according to Michael Ian Rothenberg, Ph.D., LCSW, a psychotherapist and sex and relationship counselor. He spoke with NewNowNext to give us insights into how to make this kind of pairing successful, as well as some clues to why queer people seem to pull it off more easily than their straight, cisgender counterparts.

gay couple
Getty Images

The handful of studies that exist looking at the topic primarily focus on heterosexual couples, and show that while many report a good experience, a not-insignificant portion also walk away from the experience feeling the opposite.

In fact, a study from 2012 found 40% of respondents said they did not wish to enter another friends-with-benefits relationship. A yearlong study presented in 2014, which was also predominantly heterosexually focused, found 31% had cut off all contact with their former friend with benefits partner.

So, obviously the stakes are high, and there remains room for improvement.

  1. The Impacts of a Smaller Dating Pool

    friends
    Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

    Okay, so not all of these are necessarily going to be actionable for non-LGBTQ people, but one of the reasons queer folks are better at making friends-with-benefits relationships work appears to be down to existing in a smaller dating pool. That results in many needing to find a way to cultivate a higher emotional intelligence in order to avoid unpleasant feelings like jealousy.

    “Because [LGBTQ people] have a smaller dating pool, chances are that they’ve already dated friends, or dated the exes of friends, or friends of friends,” Rothenberg notes. “So, there’s some exposure to it to start with.”

  2. Understanding Sex =/= Love

    lesbian sex
    BDLM/Getty Images

    Sex and love are a great combination, but they are certainly not the same thing. According to Rothenberg, LGBTQ people seem to have a better grasp of this concept.

    He reports his LGBTQ clientele seem to have a greater ability to not conflate the two.

    Doing so erroneously “creates challenges down the road.”

    “One of the rules of thumbs is you probably shouldn’t get into a friends-with-benefits relationship with someone you actually want to have a long-term relationship with.”

  3. Communication Is Key

    lesbian friends
    Carey Kirkella/Getty Images

    The LGBTQ community is full of talkers. Turns out, all that sharing and caring is especially useful when communicating wants, needs, expectations, and boundaries in relationships.

    “It seems that LGBTQ people are more likely to talk about sex. Where some of my cis, hetero clientele, they struggle with it, they struggle talking about sex and sexuality, and they kind of think it’s one of the things that’s just gonna work itself out down the road,” says Rothenberg.

    “But in reality, sex in a form of communication, and it’s the type of communication that a lot of people struggle with. Within the LGBTQ population, things have to be talked about, and people are more comfortable talking about it.”

    This makes sense, especially in a world where we have cause to ask questions like, “Top, bottom, or vers?”

    Rothenberg notes that “honesty, trust, and communication” are the building blocks of any good relationship, and encourages those thinking about becoming friends with benefits to ask themselves questions like: “What happens if we move on?” and, “If we meet other people, can the friendship survive?”

  4. Apps, Apps, and More Apps

    Grindr
    Leon Neal/Getty Images

    Of course, straight people have apps too, but nobody does dating and hookup apps like queer folks; especially hookup apps.

    “I think the advent of the apps has made it easier to find friends with benefits,” Rothenberg says. “It just facilitates contact in a whole different way.”

    He adds that he thinks “Grindr informed Tinder,” because Tinder was presented more as a dating site, whereas Grindr “has always kind of had the rep of being a hookup site.”

    “Tinder has kind of moved more in that direction,” he continues. As a result, he feels cishets are beginning to feel less shame around using apps to find hookups, be they one-offs or a more consistent affair.

    “Maybe there is a little less stigma in the last couple of years. I would say I’m seeing that actually reflected in the office,” he reports.

    You’re welcome, straights.

  5. Less Shame

    Folsom Europe
    Emmanuele Contini/NurPhoto via Getty Images

    While feelings of shame and guilt around sexuality are no one demographic’s exclusive domain, when you exist in a subculture that has been historically looked down upon by the masses around the topic, where even the most vanilla of same-sex acts is seen by many as aberrant behavior, the outlook is a bit different.

    “The straight couples and individuals that I work with, when they’re in a friends-with-benefits situation, they don’t talk about it with people. They keep it a secret,” Rothenberg observers. “There’s a lot of guilt and shame attached to it for a lot of people.”

    He says feeling like they must keep the relationship to themselves makes it harder to navigate, and also more difficult when it comes to an end.

    “I’m going to see more secrecy, more guilt, more shame, and more difficulty after the end of the friends-with-benefits relationship with the straight couples and individuals. Because they have more emotion attached to it,” he adds.

    And not being able to express those emotions to those closest to them can only make the negative emotions more intense and more difficult to make sense of and navigate.

    It is just one of many reasons it pays to have at least one gay friend in your life.

Journalist, editor, and artist.