While we’ve all seen plenty of examples on-screen flings-turned-long-term-romance, the real-life numbers actually seldom stack up in the same way.
In fact, a 2020 study that followed friends-with-benefits for a year found that of all the pairings, a mere 15 per cent ended up in a committed relationship (that’s 1.5 out of every 10 pairings). Of the remaining arrangements, 26 per cent continued on in their friends-with-benefits relationship, 28 per cent remained as friends, and 31 per cent stopped interacting altogether.
This suggests that — while hookups certainly work for some and help address certain needs and desires — for those hoping to simply slip into a committed relationship, friends-with-benefits simply may not be an effective strategy.
What those who ended up in a committed relationship did differently
The study further found that, of the 15 per cent who did end up in a committed relationship, those involved communicated more about their expectations and about commitment in the future; they discussed growing into a committed relationship before having sex, rather than just hooking up and leaving it to chance.
However, those in friends-with-benefits arrangements who were looking for long-term relationships who did not have such discussions and didn’t openly communicate their long-term desires before introducing sex to the mix seldom saw this spontaneous transition towards a committed relationship. Many of these individuals were, as a result, disappointed when the relationship didn’t grow into a monogamous one.
Not everyone is looking for the same type of relationship
The reason why communication (and knowing yourself and your ultimate goals) is critical to finding the relationship you want is because not everyone approaches dating and relationships the same way. Ending up in a mismatched pairing can lead to heartache.
As discussed in Psychology Today, a 1991 study found that people generally adopt one of two different approaches to relationships, dubbed “Sociosexual Orientations.” In this view, people tend to gravitate towards either “Restricted Orientation” – a long-term strategy that tends to see a low number of historical sex partners, and that prioritizes love and commitment before sex. Those seeking this type of partnership tend to want long-term, monogamous relationships.
See also: Sex Sessions: Curing STI stigma.
On the other hand, those who fall into the “Unrestricted Orientation” (short-term strategy) pattern tend to have a larger number of sex partners, which overall come from more short-term relationships (such as hookups, flings and friends-with-benefits situations).
Knowing which pattern you fall into can help you clearly communicate your needs, because following a dating strategy that does not suit your goals will lead to unhappiness. And furthermore, some research suggests, there is a genetic component to which camp we fall into, so we may naturally gravitate towards one orientation over the other.
Interestingly, both patterns also attract partners in different ways, so knowing your ultimate relationship goal can help you tailor your approach to dating, communication and flirting to attract the type of relationship mate you’re after.