Hooking Up vs Friends with Benefits vs Dating: Key Differences Explained

by John Santana

Even with the company, we find ourselves having in today’s age, we still find ourselves kind of lonely. Sometimes we enjoy having a company of a sexual nature and nothing more. Or we find ourselves longing for the romance of a decade’s long marriage. Then you have the people in the middle who prefer having a friend with just casual sex.

There are many types of relationships out there we can find ourselves in, but the three main ones are hooking up, friends with benefits, and dating/relationships. There can be a lot of confusion between both parties if expectations are not cleared up at the beginning.

It is important to define what you are so that there are no hurt feelings and expectations are not high. Navigating among the “dating” world can be tough and there are a lot of different titles you can throw on something. Check out our list below to get an idea of what you might currently be tangled in.

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Hooking Up

If you really want to make sure there are no strings attached, hooking up is the way to go. As always, make sure to be very clear with your hook-up that you are not interested in pursuing anything further than the hook-up.

Hooks up are generally one-night stands and remain as such. Hook-ups tend to not see each other outside of the hook up times. They can come and go through all hours of the night or day. Sometimes not even speaking to each other for days at a time. Hookups are great when you need to relieve sexual tension without needing any kind of attachment or baggage that comes with a relationship.

Sometimes hookups are just one-time things. There are people that are fine with just filling in some time and releasing some sexual tension with a hook-up. There are really no long-term expectations with a hookup and both parties typically do not want to move forward. Hook-ups tend to not discuss life dreams, children, or long-term goals with the other person. If you are just getting started with hookups, here are the top hookup sites you can consider trying.

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Friends with Benefits

Friends with benefits move up a step from hooking up but remains below dating. Friends with benefits are technically filling a gap of a relationship without the relationship title and expectations. Friends with benefits can work if both parties do not catch feelings for the other. Friends with benefits is a level above hooking up because there’s some level of caring and respect for the other person.

You tend to be a good match in the bedroom but not anywhere else. You guys may run in different social circles, want different things in life, and have different expectations for significant others but do not want to pursue anything serious. They are content with where they are. In a friend with benefits relationship, you tend to not have any expectations or need anything romantic from the other person.

This is what separates hookups from friends with benefits. Hook-ups only get together for sexual relations where friends with benefits have common interests and are friends outside of the bedroom.

While some can move forward with their Friends with Benefits, it is wise not to. A friendship takes a time to develop and should be nurtured as a friendship. When you engage in a sexual relationship with your friend, there is a reason you guys did not make it mutually exclusive to begin with.

Keep in mind that if you decide to move forward into an exclusive dating relationship, that the shift may be weird from friends with benefits to exclusive. If you are new to the world of Friends with Benefits relationship, here are the top fwb apps & sites you can try today.

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Dating is where you make it exclusive between you and another person. This can be the end result of a hook-up that turned into friends with benefits to finally dating. While this does not typically happen, it is not unheard of.

Going from a hookup situation or friends with benefits situation usually only works if both parties are wanting the same thing. If both develop mutual feelings, then they can bring it to the dating stage. Dating is more serious in the fact that you get all the benefits with hookups and friends with benefits.

Moving up from friends with benefits will make you guys exclusive to each other, unless otherwise stated. If you are dating, then you may need to cut off any other friends with benefits unless otherwise discussed with your partner.

Dating is more serious than a hook-up or friends with benefits because when you make the decision to date, you are looking for someone to generally commit to over a period of time. Dating can move into two different areas:

  • Casually
  • Exclusively

When you date casually you have:

  • Hanging out at either’s place of residence
  • Going on dates like eating out, adventures, and trips
  • Talking regularly throughout the day
  • Having romantic feelings and with romantic attraction
  • Possibly still dating other people
  • Having sexual relations, but these are not required*

Most people do not want to mix sex at the beginning of dating because it risks the chance to turn into a friend with benefits or just a hook-up situation. If you find that you are mutually attracted to each other sexually but not romantically, you can make the decision to move on accordingly.

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When you are dating exclusively you have all of the above listed of dating casually but make it exclusive between the two of you. When you decide to date exclusively, you limit yourself to this one person that you think you can spend your life with.

Dating exclusively will sometimes lead to marriage and having a family if this is something that you both want. Most people tend to only date exclusively as they are looking for a lifemate and someone to share all of their experiences with.

Hooking Up vs Dating vs Friends with Benefits Comparison Table

Hook upsFriends with Benefits


No expectationsLow expectationsMedium to high expectations
No romanceNo romanceRomance
Not exclusiveSemi-exclusiveExclusive (needs to be discussed with partner)
Not going anywhere long-termCan still be friends long-term but may end “benefits” when someone enters a serious relationshipExclusively dating and has the potential to become invested long-term
Don’t talk often except when to hook upTalk frequently but no expectations of conversationTalk more with the expectation of receiving a response


When it comes down to it, even though most people do not like to admit it, great sex is one of the foundations to being in a good and healthy relationship. When you share intimate moments with someone, you feel that you can relate to them more.

We are all human and have needs that have to be fulfilled. Despite any of the titles that are listed above, you still need to communicate between both parties so that expectations are the same and no one is getting hurt. While you may think you just have a hook-up, the other person may want to talk to you more even though you are not interested. It is best to lay ground rules down at the beginning to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

In the simplest form, you make sure that whoever you are sleeping with understands where you are in the relationship. It may be easier to discuss these expectations and ideas with someone you are exclusively dating.

When you are exclusively dating, there is a mutual understanding that you need to communicate anything that makes you upset, life dreams and goals. There are people that prefer to date exclusively and not have any of the friends with benefits or hookups.

Friends typically hang out and have a connection anyways. You talk semi-regularly and understand that you do not really owe them an explanation and there is no obligation or intent of romance or sexual relations. When you bump this up, you get friends with benefits.

Once you move into the benefits part, you add the sexual relations but still remain with no romantic obligations. There are still no typical lovey feelings involved with friends with benefits. You go about your lives and still date if you want to but keep it open for each other.

Not everything can last long-term or move on to something bigger. There is nothing wrong with playing the field and experimenting to find out what you like in a person and what you like in the bedroom. This is your life and you are allowed to live it how you see fit.

While you are having fun, it is also important to gauge where you are in life and how you feel that you can move forward. There is nothing wrong with any of the above relationships and some prefer one over the other. While life is meant to be lived, you need to also make sure that you are living it kindly. It is important to communicate and be honest to avoid hurting each other.

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John Santana

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