8 rules for friends with benefits for single moms

I'm not fond of the term “friends with benefits.” I prefer, “Someone I'm sleeping with,” or “a lover.” My terminology suggests what people have been doing since God created penises and vaginas: Enjoying each other sexually and romantically without any social commitments. When all parties are evolved adults, it can be a very satisfying arrangement. But it is rarely without its complications. To keep weirdness and heartbreak at bay, play by these rules:

1. Understand what a lover is. A lover is not your boyfriend or a possible husband. He is a lover. Your arrangement is between the two of you, for mutual enjoyment — whether physical, intellectual, emotional or all of the above. It is not a public relationship.

2. Your kids, friends and family do not meet your lover.  He is not a social media connection or mention. See above.

3. No sneaking him into the house when your kids are asleep. I will write a separate post on this, but suffice it to say here that is a very bad idea and I will judge you for it.

4. Don't call him when your refrigerator breaks or you have a bad day at work. He is not your support system. That is a boyfriend. That is not this guy.

5. Relationship rules do not apply. Texting the next day and remembering birthdays are not the domain of an affair. Nor is monogamy. You are not entitled to get pissy if these things do not transpire.

6. Have fun. This is supposed to be a delightful arrangement. When it becomes abusive or tormented, get out.

7. Accept it for what it is. A lover is not someone you are trying to manipulate into a serious relationship. You mutually chose this arrangement because of any number of reasons: you have sexual chemistry but do not fit into one another's lives, or you need one another's companionship but are both otherwise not interested in a serious commitment.

8. Leave the door open to more. This is something that you do within yourself (i.e. do not discuss it with him). But reasons to have a friend with benefits is that you do not have the emotional bandwidth to devote to another person, you are terrified of commitment, or one of you is otherwise entangled in another romantic situation. But people change. Life changes. Time and place have a way of doing a number on us. Be open to the possibility that you and this man could be more.

About Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.


  1. DarthW on September 24, 2014 at 10:47 am

    LMAO: “or one of you is otherwise entangled in another romantic situation. “. So this FWB situation is supposed to also be cool for a single mom if she’s managed to entangle a Poindexter in her life: got him paying for all the dates, got him thinking he and single mommy might make a good “team”, got Poindy buying a bigger house and bigger car than he needs to accomodate she and her brood because she’s suckered him into believing in the fantasy of loving a single mom and her kids? Cause that’s how I’m reading it.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m completely cool with FWB, and have enjoyed the fruits of such, usually until she “wanted more”. However, I do aim not to find a woman who is “entangled” with a boyfriend, and especially a husband. I aim to have some type of integrity, albeit most of the single moms I’ve dated don’t know what “integrity” means.

    • Emma on September 24, 2014 at 10:56 am

      Darth, you are so transparent. You proclaim to only date casually and trick women into a fuck. But you also demand monogamy? (how does that work for one-off dates??)

      It is so obvious to anyone who follows your posts that you are a tender-hearted sweetie pie who has had his heart broken by a few single moms. Wounded, dear and needy, you erect a (self-proclaimed) phony macho veneer and publicly denounce relationships and women. Poor thing.

      My hug offer stands.

      • DarthW on September 25, 2014 at 11:46 pm

        LOL. Puhleze. Spare me your psychoanalysis. No, single moms didn’t “break my heart”. I finally wised up after seeing that most relationships with single moms only benefit the single mom and her brood.

        Firstly, I no longer try to pursue committed relationships or seek a spouse like most single moms pursue. FWB, as you describe here, is ideal for me, but often women will start FWB and then get all “touchy feely” and “want more” because I’m a steady earner, have a full wallet with all the “fixins” (house, cars, 401K).

        Secondly, I don’t trick women into a fuck. When we have sex, it’s because they also want it. Granted they may think there will be more, but I don’t tell them stories like “You’re the one.” or “Where have you been all my life?” If they think there is more to our dating than fun and sex, it is because they make it up in their own mind, not because I tell them such.

        Finally, I don’t “demand monogamy”….I also don’t sleep with women who I know are otherwise romantically involved with someone. Most single moms, however, demand a Poindexter’s monogamy because she wants all his time, attention, and money for her and her brood. But, of course, based on your article here, Poindy should not expect that single mommy should be likewise loyal and monogamous. That’s where the saying that single moms want “alpha fucks and beta bucks”; Single moms want the bad boys on the side for sex, while they have Poindexter at home babysitting her kids and paying for all the rent and groceries. If single mom wants to ride 100 cocks, I’m all for it; Just don’t sucker some poor nice guy into commitment and paying for you and your kids and not have the integrity to aim for your part in the commitment.

        Does your new beau realize that he shouldn’t expect you to have any loyalty to him if things get more serious?….HOWEVER he should still expect you to raid his wallet at all times.

    • Marissa on October 6, 2014 at 9:35 am

      Ok, yup. I was totally on board with all the points in this until “or one of you is otherwise entangled in another romantic situation”. That sentence should have been left out, in my opinion. For obvious reasons…like that’s a a-hole thing to do. Done, I’m not wasting my time discussing this.

  2. JT@The Faux Foodie Girl on September 24, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    I really needed a reminder of the definition “person I am sleeping with”…yes he is not a boyfriend. Something so simple can be so complicated and happy to have read this couple of times to remember what my current “friend with benefits” situation really is…
    You are an amazing voice of reason!!!!! Thank you!

  3. EQ on September 30, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    This is one of your most interesting posts. I adore it because it states so clearly and non-judgmentally one of the realities of life as a single mom, or a single woman in general. Dating is not like it was ten years ago. Often your goals around dating are entirely different. I’m not looking for a father for my children; I’m not looking for someone to take care of me, at least financially. (I don’t think I ever have – at least consciously- been looking for that.) Sometimes you can not find all of the things you want and desire in one person. I appreciate that you specify that a lover can be someone that you share other sorts of intimacies with, such as intellectual and emotional. I have to say that Europeans seem to have a healthier understanding of this concept than we Americans do. Sure, there is always room to be hurt in any sort of encounter where you make yourself vulnerable, but keeping the above in mind certainly helps to cushion some of the pain.

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