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Can Just Sex Relationships Work? The Perks And Pitfalls

Couple in a just sex relationship lying in bed under duvet and smiling at each other.

Chances are that you’ve either dabbled in or fantasized about a just sex relationship. Who hasn’t? Whether you call it a casual relationship, friends with benefits, sex friends, or no-strings-attached, the idea sounds great. In theory. Imagine getting all your physical needs met by someone you’re attracted to without having to argue about silly things like who’s taking out the trash this week.

Unfortunately, just sex relationships are often better in theory than in practice. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t have their place. Especially when you don’t feel ready for a serious commitment. Before diving in though, it’s important to consider the benefits and drawbacks of this type of relationship. Below, we’ve put together some perks and pitfalls of just sex relationships that are worth keeping in mind for your next casual rendezvous. 

The Perks and Pitfalls of Just Sex Relationships to Look Out For

Perk: You’re less likely to hurt others’ feelings in the pursuit of sex

When sex is involved, things tend to get complicated. There’s always the awkward moment after a few hookups where you’re like, “Is this just a sex thing? Or does this person want more?” If you know that sex is all you’re looking for, being honest about it can help you stay true to your needs. In turn, you’ll hopefully avoid hurting the other person’s feelings in the process. 

Having a just sex relationship will ideally meet your needs so that you don’t have to waste the time of people who might want more. When in doubt, tell your partner that you’re looking for a casual relationship. Don’t feel ashamed about this. It’s way easier on everyone if you’re honest from the start.

Pitfall: You might develop feelings for your casual sex partner

The problem with just sex relationships is biology doesn’t always want us to have them. No matter how clear you are about only wanting a “no strings attached” situation, our body chemicals may have other plans. When you have sex with someone, the body releases a chemical called Oxytocin. This brain chemical can lead to feelings of attachment. If you’re having sex with the same casual partner repeatedly, these feelings of attachment can grow stronger. 

This might get you thinking, “If I’m having such a good time with this person, why don’t we just make things more serious?” Or, worse, “I’ve been sleeping with this person for six months now, why don’t they want to be more serious with me?” These intrusive thoughts can arise even if you know that your friend-with-benefits wouldn’t be a suitable long-term partner for you. The mind works in mysterious ways. 

Perk: You’ll have your physical needs met by one person consistently 

There’s no shame in wanting a just sex relationship. Most humans need sex or some form of physical affection to feel fulfilled. If you’re not in a serious relationship, getting your sexual needs met might be difficult, unsatisfying, or just plain awkward. 

Having a just sex relationship with one person can feel safer and more comfortable than jumping from stranger to stranger. Not to mention, the more you have sex with one person, the more you’ll get to know each other’s preferences. 

Pitfall: There tends to be a lack of communication

The problem with these types of relationships is that many people don’t view them as relationships at all. They think to themselves, “If I’d wanted rules, I would’ve been in a serious relationship.” The other partner might worry about starting any serious conversations because they know that this isn’t a serious relationship. But, just like in serious relationships, communication is key. 

Pitfall: Everyone has different expectations 

Your idea of a just sex relationship might involve texting your partner on Saturday night to see if they’re down to meet up once the bars close, and that’s it. Your partner’s idea of it may also include daily texts during the week to check in or calling them an Uber in the morning instead of just saying “see ya” and expecting them to figure it out. 

Even if your just sex relationship is just that, there’re a lot of things that you and your partner may have different views on. For example, are you okay with cuddling during the cold winter nights or staying at your partner’s place after sex? Would you be okay if your partner had sex with one of your friends? Should your partner communicate with you if they aren’t interested anymore, or can they just ghost you? 

Of course, you probably won’t tackle these issues right away. But once you start hooking up with someone, these are good things to chat about before they become an issue. 

Perk: There’s space to push your sexual boundaries in new directions

People always say that sex is better with someone you love. While I don’t disagree, there’re perks to casual sex too. Mainly, you might feel more comfortable trying something you wouldn’t within a serious relationship. 

For example, you may never want to have a threesome with your boyfriend due to jealousy of seeing him with another girl. But this might be something fun for you to try with a random couple from the bar that you’ll never see again. Similarly, you may feel more comfortable getting experimental in the bedroom when it’s with a casual partner. 

Pitfall: You might end up in a more than just sex relationship 

The thing about just sex relationships is there tends to be a lot of scope creep. When you get intimate with someone physically, you might end up venting to them about your latest work drama. Or, you may find yourself wanting to ask your hunky hookup buddy if he can build your new IKEA shelf next weekend. 

This is why rules and boundaries are so important. There’re way too many stories about people who chose a partner based on sexual connection, only to end up in a serious relationship with them even though they weren’t compatible.

Work Out What’s Right for You

Before jumping into anything, be honest with yourself about what you really want. It may seem easier to say that you’re just looking for a just sex relationship. But if you find yourself wanting more, it’s a sign that a more serious relationship is a better path.

If that’s the case, date with purpose and try to connect with people who have qualities that fit your long-term wants and needs — not just the people with who you think you’d have great sex. Whichever way to choose to go, remember to be positive and enjoy the adventure!

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