While they may not represent the ideal relationship structure, a “friends with benefits” relationship may promote safer sex than traditional monogamous relationships – at least as far as condom use goes.
A recent online survey, conducted by Harvard researcher Justin Lehmiller, questioned 376 people on their dating and sex lives, approximately half of whom were in traditional monogamous relationships and the other half engaging in a casual friends-with-benefits relationship with at least one person.
While neither group reported perfect condom use, those in casual relationships were far more likely to use condoms when they had sex than those in monogamous relationships.
“Though friends-with-benefits couples use condoms
more often, they are more likely to have multiple partners.”
However, Lehmiller cautioned that increased condom use among casual relationships didn’t necessarily make those relationships healthier. While individuals in casual relationships may use condoms more often, they’re unlikely to use condoms all the time. Considering the fact people in casual relationships are far less likely to be monogamous than people in traditional relationships, Lehmiller concluded, “Larger numbers of partners, combined with far-from-perfect condom use and limited discussion about sexual health matters, suggest that [friends-with-benefits relationships] carry some inherent degree of risk.”
Lehmiller also noted his research suggested that individuals in casual relationships indicated lower degrees of sexual satisfaction and less communication regarding sex between partners than individuals in traditional relationships. Furthermore, Lehmiller suggested less frequent condom usage between partners in a traditional relationship is due to increased trust levels more than a decreased sense of responsibility.
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