The Myth of “Friends with Benefits”

646 defines “friends with benefits” as “two friends who have a sexual relationship without being emotionally involved.”

But, scientifically, that’s impossible. Let me explain why.

The deep limbic system of your brain is your emotional center. It, not the heart, is where emotion is stored. This part of the brain also stores sexual memory. It gets tuned in to a splash of cologne, a great love song, and the physical act of sex. One of the neurochemicals released during sex is dopamine. Dopamine makes you feel good; it creates a simultaneous sense of peace and pleasure. Anytime your body experiences pleasure—whether good or bad—the limbic system gets wash with this chemical, which causes you to crave more of what you just had. In essence, it creates addiction. Dopamine attaches you emotionally to the source of pleasure, even if he or she is “just a friend”.

More than 12 years of counseling sexually active teens has confirmed in my mind that there is a chemical bond created between two people who have sex—whether they consider themselves just friends or not. There’s no way around it. Having sex bonds you to the other person.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “And don’t you realize that if a man joins himself to a prostitute, he becomes one body with her? For the Scriptures say, ‘The two are united into one.’” (I Corinthians 6:16). Lauren Winner, author of Real Sex, says Paul is really saying, Don’t you know that when you sleep with someone your body makes a promise whether you do or not?

Friends with benefits? It’s a myth.

One of the most telling examples I have seen was a beautiful college girl who drove me to the airport after a speaking engagement. She told me how she had dated a guy for five years and they were big into purity. They would often share the testimony of their pure relationship. They broke up, and it was sad but they are still friends. Then, with tears streaming down her face, she told me of a six-month fling with a guy that became sexual. It wasn’t much more than a friendship that got out of control physically. But she couldn’t get over him. I was able to talk with her and help her heal using two steps.

What did I tell her? What do you do if your heart has been broken by a “friends with benefits” hook up or any other sexual relationship for that matter?

First, you need to tell someone. James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins one to another and then you will be healed.” It isn’t until we drag our sin into the light for other safe people to see that we find healing. Maybe tell your youth pastor or a trusted youth leader. Your mom or dad would be a great place to start, too. Scary as it may sound, there is healing in confessing sin.

Second, you need to ask that older, wiser person to pray with you to break off what I call “soul ties.” Remember what Paul wrote about being “united” with a prostitute. Well, the Greek word was actually “kallao”, which means “to glue together; to adhere.” According to God’s word, science aside, any time we have sex with someone we are glued to them. (That explains why the break up of a sexual relationship hurts so much.) When our emotional centers get all whacked out, we have to turn to God to fix them. Ask the person to set aside some specific prayer time for you to break those bonds.

You can do this by:

a.) Verbally expressing forgiveness toward that person to God
b.) Asking God to break off every unholy bond or soul tie that was created

Speaking of creation, it looks like we were created to be monogamous.

Dannah Gresh

Dannah Gresh is the best-selling author of books, such as And The Bride Wore White and Lies Young Women Believe (co-written with Nancy Leigh DeMoss). Her newest release, What Are You Waiting For? The One Thing No One Ever Tells You About Sex, traces God’s language of sexuality from Genesis to Revelation, and unlocks the truth found in the chemicals of sex. For more information, go to