Keeping it Casual: What You Need to Know About Casual Sex in Your 20s
Your 20s are a time to explore and experiment with many notions of life including sex, love, and friendship. By seeking out and sampling new experiences, you can narrow down your desires to focus on what you truly want.
Whether you call it “friends with benefits,” “sex friend,” or some other term, having a sexual relationship with a friend seems to have many advantages. In your 20s, casual sex with friends may seem like a good idea, but is it right for you?
The Benefits of Friends with Benefits
When people think about casual sex, a rush of positives floods their mind. You might think:
- I could have sex more often with little effort
- I could avoid all of the drama and games attached to relationships
- I can practice and perfect sexual techniques to use with the right person in the future
- I can spend more time focusing on school or work without being distracted by relationships
- Sex feels good, so more sex would be better
Few things feel more fun than sex because your brain is wired to seek out and engage in sex as a primary reinforcer as a way to reproduce and continue the human race. Like eating food and drinking water, sex is a basic need of life.
When you have sex, a flood of neurotransmitters – chemical messengers in your brain – rush throughout the system to produce feelings like:
- Calm and relaxation
- Happiness and satisfaction
- Closeness and connection to others
With no strings attached, you are free to live your single life, have sex, and avoid the pitfalls that sour other types of relationships. For many, friends with benefits are like skipping past the commercials in your favorite TV show or only eating your favorite foods so that you can focus only on the good stuff.
After all, relationships are hard. Two people coexisting happily for an extended period of time in a monogamous relationship seems like an archaic idea, or at least, it’s an idea that you are not ready to accept yet.
You believe this time of your life is about having fun, being selfish, and focusing on what you want now. There is plenty of time for a serious, boring relationship later.
The Risks of Friends with Benefits
On the surface, friends with benefits might seem like the perfect alternative to a traditional, sexual relationship. Unfortunately, the “more fun, less drama” label may not last because casual relationships are still relationships, which means the same problems can seep in and create division.
You wanted to get married. Now, you’re not so sure. How can you be absolutely assured that you are ready for marriage and that marriage is ready for you?
Primary risks of casual sex include:
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Unplanned or unwanted pregnancy
- Hurt feelings
- Losing the friendship
In all relationships, each person’s goals and expectations must be aligned to find success. If you want one thing a certain way but the other wants something different, the relationship will fail in the short-term no matter the level of seriousness, and your friendship fails too.
For example, some people enter casual relationships with the goal of it becoming more serious in the future. Eventually, frustration will grow if the partner does not share the same hopes for the relationship.
Casual affairs can negatively influence future relationships as well. By blurring the lines of sex and intimacy, love, and friendship, you may struggle to meet the goals and expectations of future relationships consistently.
Lasting relationships require a lot of patience and selflessness, but casual relationships have a way of training you towards instant gratification and selfishness. This difference makes transitioning from casual to serious relationships challenging.
It’s like playing soccer your entire life and then deciding you want to play basketball. Some facets of the game will transfer over, but there will be many new rules and skills you need to develop to be successful in the new sport.
Are Casual Relationships Right for You?
There will be numerous factors that determine if casual, friends with benefits relationships are a good idea for you. Some factors include:
- Your religious upbringing. People who see casual sex as immoral will surely develop strong feelings of guilt and shame over time.
- Issues of self-esteem and self-worth. People with low self-esteem may use sex as a way to improve their self-worth, which leads to a problematic cycle.
- Feelings of trust and jealous. If you have issues trusting others, casual relationships are likely to end with hurt and strong feelings of jealousy.
- Your relationship goals for the future. If you only want fun, casual relationships will be good for you, but if you are interested in long-term, monogamy, friends with benefits will not accomplish your goal.
If you conclude that you are comfortable with this type of relationship, you must do the same for your partner. Just because you are open to casual relationships does not ensure your partner is as well.
Determine their goals and motivations for pursuing this relationship with open, assertive communication being at the center of all you do. If their desires match your own, the relationship has a chance of being successful.
This decade of your life is a time to experiment and have fun as long as you stay safe and consider the needs and feelings of others. Casual relationships will not be for everyone, but it will be a good fit for some people, especially those in their 20s.