You’re a Grown-Ass Woman and you do not want or need a romantic relationship right now, which is totally fine. But you do occasionally want (or need, it feels like, sometimes) to get your smooch/fondle/naked hug on, and one night stands are not for everyone. And that’s convenient, because your friend Steve is in a similar situation and you’ve always thought he was pretty cute. Your friendship takes on a flirty vibe and things seem like they are heading to two-consenting-adults-in-their-undies town, when all of a sudden you are at breakfast with other friends and they’re all freaking out because what if you RUIN YOUR FRIENDSHIP and it NEVER WORKS and DO YOU ACTUALLY JUST LIKE HIM, THOUGH? YOU CAN SAY. Ugh. Haters to the left on this issue. (Everything you hate in a box to the left.) It is totally possible to be someone’s friend with benefits, it’s just that most people do it wrong and also When Harry Met Sally. We’re going to walk through this step-by-step and, spoiler alert, not all the steps are, “Have great sex only when it is convenient to you and then never think about it again!” Sorry, that’s just life! Time for some hard truths and some helpful tips!

Hard truth first: This is a relationship

I don’t mean you guys are BF/GF 2GETH 4EV or anything, but you know that prolonged interaction with different humans is what relationships are, right? The number one fallacy of the friends with benefits ideal is that it is this easy breezy, oh-so-casual, no-muss no-fuss, no-communication-outside-of-3am-texts-saying-“sup” situation, and that is an obvious recipe for disaster. You work at your relationship with your mother, and your relationship with your best friend, and your relationship with that older lady from the office who wants to relate to you about Twitter but doesn’t quite get it and you don’t know how to respond ever—so don’t think you can get away without working on this one, too. Not calling someone your boyfriend or girlfriend is not an excuse to avoid having those mature emotion-conversations that boyfriends and girlfriends are supposed to have sometimes. Likewise, just because you don’t see someone when it’s light outside doesn’t mean you can treat them like a pile of garbage. If you like/want someone enough to get horizontal with them, you need to treat them with some Aretha-style R-E-S-P-E-C-T, mmkay? And you must expect respect back from them.

Make sure you’re on the same page

This means being honest with the other person—and yourself. If they say, “I do not want to go out with you, but I think it would be fun for us to sleep together,” and you say, “I agree,” you’d better actually agree, because otherwise you are setting yourself up for a world of hurt and confusion. And, gals, no offense, but I think at one point all of us have said, “I agree,” and finished that thought in our heads with, “…that we will keep up this farce of not having feelings but that one day you will be mine. It is foretold.” It is not! He will not! Probably! Mean what you say, everyone!

This is about F-U-N

The sex should be very, very, very good. I mean, it’s up to you, but I just don’t see the point in pursuing an ongoing limited emotions/bad sex scenario. It should also be pretty relaxed sex, i.e. you are comfortable doing it with the lights on/trying new things together and, most importantly, you feel good before, during, and after sleeping with this person.

Boundaries and communication

Remember how I said just now that you’re in a relationship of a sort, whether you like it or not? Well, like with all relationships, you’re going to need to establish appropriate boundaries, and you’re going to need to communicate really, really well and semi-frequently. Boundaries are especially important in an FWB scenario because you need to know exactly what you are not to each other, as well as what you are. You are not: a support system, a significant other, or even a particularly close friend. The two of you are just people who enjoy each other’s company and who do it sometimes. While sex can sometimes enrich a friendship and bring people closer together as buddies, sometimes sex is just sex—so make sure you both know what it is for the two of you. Also be 100 percent open and cool about other partners, if you have agreed you’re not exclusive, and what your friends-with-benefits scenario is. Make sure you know what they’re up to enough to be safe, but don’t go snooping out of jealousy or insecurity or whatever. Those emotions are not cute and if you have particular problems with either, the FWB relaish may not be for you.

Safety first

As mentioned above, you should have an idea of how active your partner’s sex life is outside of your set-up, and you should also be gettin’ tested and using condoms and all of that stuff that is such common sense I’m sure I don’t even need to bring it up. “Ugh, Monica, we get it! We all use condoms all the time, they are a very important total bummer that we are very aware of and use whenever prudent, which, as we have discussed, is all the time.” -Everyone, reluctantly. Maybe condoms are a bummer (they are) but you know what is more of a bummer? Borrowing money from your mom for chlamydia medication. Wrap it up.

Be open to things changing

Namely, your feelings. You might cool off, he/she might cool off, you might get romantic feelings for him/her, he/she might get romantic feelings for you…or for someone else. These are real possibilities and you should be okay with any and all of these outcomes. Things can change rapidly in this set-up, especially if one of you meets someone you are interested in romantically. Just be calm and cool and talk about these issues as they arise, and you can avoid the passive aggressive text fights and weird bar confrontations that we’ve all seen as the result of Friends with Benefits gone awry. If it starts getting weird or bad, end things gracefully, with an awareness that you’d like to keep your friendship intact. As everyone’s favourite wiseman/sociopath Adam from GIRLS puts it: “These things have an expiration date: six months or until someone stops having fun.” This is not always the case, but keep it in mind. Also keep in mind: Adam’s hilarious patchy goatee.

If you can figure out a Friends With Benefits set up that legitimately works for you, that’s the best. You might have some Doubting Tomasinas in your midst who will try forever to convince you that you are secretly super in love and you are just lying to yourself (you aren’t, though, because you checked in and were honest with yourself before you really got into it, as per my above tip, riiiiight?). But don’t worry about it. Maybe tell those pals that they’re being real friends-WITHOUT-benefits, and then laugh very hard at your good and funny joke. Don’t stress about it too much, but also don’t take no guff if you’ve found a fuck buddy you like, basically. Also, don’t use the term “fuck buddy,” it’s crude.

Follow Monica on twitter: @monicaheisey