Examining Rules in Friends with Benefits Relationships

Lisa J. van Raalte, Lori A. Bednarchik, Mark A. Generous, Paul A. Mongeau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Establishing communicative and behavioral boundaries in romantic relationships provides partners with a greater sense of relational stability and certainty. For romantic relationships, these boundaries, such as sexual exclusivity, are relatively straightforward. For casual sex relationships, however, the relational rules are less stable and certain. This exploratory study examined rules in friends with benefits relationships (FWBRs) for 109 college students in the USA. Responses to open-ended questions were collected through an online questionnaire, and data were qualitatively analyzed through an inductive thematic analysis. The data were structured into communication rules, sexual rules, and relational definition rules. Results provide overlap and extension of previous work investigating rules in FWBRs. Notably, participants reported sexual exclusivity as an important rule. Additionally, potentially competing discourses in FWBR rules were best understood through the lens of relational dialectics. Findings reflect a tension in terms of relational work, as partners struggle with maintaining their sexual and friendship relationship while not falling into the “territory” of romantic relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1783-1792
Number of pages10
JournalArchives of Sexual Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2022


  • Friends with benefits relationships
  • Relational dialectics
  • Relational rules
  • Relationship talk
  • Sexual communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology


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