You’ve been content with your “situationship” so far, but lately, you feel like something is missing. Every time you see your friend with benefits, you leave feeling worse than when you came in. Don’t worry – you’re not alone. Recent studies explore the psychological effects of casual sexual relationships, and the data might surprise you.
What the Science is Saying
VeryWellMind explains that anywhere from 40%-50% of singles in their early 20s report engaging in casual sex with a partner that they’re not committed to. Meanwhile, a 2022 dissertation finds that single heterosexual adults are more likely to prefer romantic relationships despite engaging in casual sex. So are those casual sexual relationships making anyone happy?
One recent study covered the reasons that men and women engage in casual rendezvous, from kissing to sex. Women were more likely to report having a casual hook-up because they were sad, lonely, or pressured by their casual partner. After the hook-ups, women also reported regret, loneliness, rejection, or external judgement. Men, on the other hand, were more likely to report sexual satisfaction, happiness, and increased confidence.
This isn’t to say that men feel great after a fling with their situationship, and women feel like garbage. In fact, the main predictor of how one feels after a hook-up is how one felt beforehand. Both genders were more likely to feel negative emotions if they engaged in the hook-up to deal with negative emotions. Both genders were more likely to enjoy the hook-up if they went into it already feeling happy, sexy, excited, and connected.
What Does This Mean About Commitment?
The science says that commitment is the goal but not always the reality. It also says that casual sexual relationships can either turn out great or make someone feel awful. So would it make you happier to lock down your friend with benefits? Or is that so 2022?
Ultimately, it’s less about the name you give a relationship and more about how you feel. One more recent study from the University of Denver found that personal dedication is “associated with (though independent from) relationship satisfaction.” This means that to be happy in a relationship, one must feel that commitment is desirable to them rather than a constraining or categorizing label.
Additionally, how you feel about a hook-up is almost completely dependent upon how you went into it. If you keep calling up your friend for a night of canoodling every time you feel lonely or have low self-esteem, maybe it’s better to think about why you feel that way than to try and fill that hole in your heart with kisses. Before you make that call, think about why you’re doing it – and if you don’t have a positive reason, put the phone down.
Whether you want to cuff your sweetheart or not, the main predictor of happiness is that you’re hooking up for the right reasons.