Successful stories are driven by authentic and interesting characters, so it’s important to craft them carefully. But characters don’t usually exist in a vacuum; throughout the course of your story, they’ll live, work, play, and fight with other cast members. Some of those relationships are positive and supportive, pushing the protagonist to positive growth and helping them achieve their goals. Other relationships do exactly the opposite, derailing your character’s confidence and self-worth or they cause friction and conflict that leads to fallout and disruption. Many relationships hover somewhere in the middle. A balanced story will require a mix of these dynamics.
The purpose of this thesaurus is to encourage you to explore the kinds of relationships that might be good for your story and figure out what each might look like. Think about what a character needs (good and bad), and build a network of connections for him or her that will challenge them, showcase their innermost qualities, and bind readers to their relationship trials and triumphs.
FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS
Description: A “friends with benefits” relationship is not the same as a hookup or no-strings-attached scenario as the characters involved are friends, and if the sex stopped, that friendship should (hopefully) remain intact. Partners will have strong physical chemistry and develop a level of intimacy where they can share things about their lives as friends, but there’s no sense of ownership, obligation, or expectation of commitment.
Dynamics of a Healthy Relationship
Characters in this relationship value the friendship and respect each other’s autonomy
Partners have rules in place that both agree to (possibly to meet on a schedule, to never stay the night, to not “date” as a couple, etc.)
If one or both partners enter a committed relationship with another, all benefits are halted
Problems, challenges, and concerns regarding the relationship are discussed and worked through (good communication)
Both parties work to provide what the other needs in the bedroom and out of it
Personal boundaries and privacy are respected
Demands and expectations are not placed on one another
There is not an expectation of permanence
If the characters halt sexual encounters (perhaps because one enters a romantic relationship) they still check in on each other
The two practice safe sex
Dynamics of an Unhealthy Relationship
Rules not being followed (showing up unannounced, asking to stay the night, wanting to bring the partner to events as their date, or whatever else breaks the rules)
Showing up unexpectedly (at the other’s work, a family event, or somewhere else that was always off-limits)
Demanding to know what the other is doing when not together
Displaying jealousy, control issues, and possessiveness
Emotional volatility and drama due to one person wanting more than the other is willing to give
A partner’s request for distance not being respected
Making ultimatums and threats (one partner demanding the relationship evolve or they are out)
Failing to halt “benefits” when one or both are also in romantic relationships (leading to affairs and emotional dependance)
Keeping secrets (an STI is discovered but not disclosed, a characetr’s feelings have changed, etc.)
Conflicting Desires That Can Impair the Relationship
If one partner meets someone they wish to have a romantic relationship with and the other is too invested and unabe to give the F-W-B up
Wanting to have other friends-with-benefits relationships (or bring a third into the mix) yet the character’s partner does not
Changing needs in the bedroom that both aren’t on board with
One partner developing feelings and wanting to evolve the relationship while the other is happy with the status quo
Clashing Personality Trait Combinations: Adventurous and Timid, Generous and Selfish, Needy and Independent, Perceptive and Inattentive, Affectionate and Inhibited
Negative Outcomes of Friction
The loss of a friendship because both parties are no longer in agreement about what they want
A broken heart
Struggling with intimacy moving forward
Closing off to other satisfying relationships because this one ended badly
New emotional wounds involving relationships and trust issues
Secrets shared in confidence being made public out of revenge, damaging the partner’s reputation or their relationship with others
Ways a Healthy Relationship Can Encourage Positive Change
A character who is struggling with sexual dysfunction may find the right partner in this dynamic provides them with a safe way to work through their challenges without pressure
Characters looking to experiment sexually may find this relationship is a good fit so they can do so free from judgment so they better know what they are looking for in future romantic relationships
A character who has been deeply hurt in the past romantically may regain their confidence through a friends-with-benefits type relationship because they can set rules that discourage attachment
Scenarios That Could Turn These Characters into Allies
Characters feeling the pressure from family or society to have “a significant other” when they don’t want one can mutually agree to play the role of the other’s partner when needed
Characters who are incapable of intimacy and yet still have needs (both sexually and also to be understood or accepted) may find this relationship gives them what they need. This could be a good arrangement for sociopaths, for example (albeit closer to “allies with benefits”)
Characters who are friends and have no interest in romantic relationships and yet occasionally desire sexual interaction could choose this relationship as it can be a good fit fot both.
Themes and Symbols That Can Be Explored through This Relationship
Beginnings, Coming of Age, Freedom, Friendship, Journeys, Knowledge, Loss, Love, Obstacles, Transformation, Vulnerability
Need More Descriptive Help?
While this thesaurus is still being developed, the rest of our descriptive collection (15 unique thesauri and growing) is accessible through the One Stop for Writers THESAURUS database.
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The Bookshelf Muse is a hub for writers, educators and anyone with a love for the written word. Featuring Thesaurus Collections that encourage stronger descriptive skills, this award-winning blog will help writers hone their craft and take their writing to the next level.
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