What Really Happens When You Hook Up With a Friend

Your friend is awesome: He’s super sweet, he loves the same music you do and he always knows how to make you laugh. You spend so much time together, so you get the “are you two dating?” question at least once a week. And while you usually laugh it off, lately you’ve been feeling more than platonic toward him. You love being his friend, but now you’re questioning if you want to take it further than that.

Once you’ve realized that you’re physically attracted to your friend, there’s always the question if you should actually hook up with him or not. And if you do hook up, then you have to deal with the “what now?”

We asked collegiettes and the experts about what it’s really like to hook up with a friend, what to consider beforehand and how to deal afterwards.

What to consider before you hook up

Before the actual hook-up happens, there are a couple important things to consider. Clearly you care about the friendship, so you need to think about how much you’re willing to risk when exploring a new dimension of your relationship. Dr. Geoffrey Greif, a professor at the University of Maryland and author of Buddy System: Understanding Male Friendships, says that most romantic couples start as friends first, but it’s always important to think about how hooking up might negatively affect your friendship.

“[Hooking up] can be a natural progression to a long-term relationship, but it can also be the basis for misunderstandings and a lost friendship,” Greif says. “Are [you] willing to risk what will most likely be a profound shift in the relationship?”

Additionally, dating coach Sandra Fidelis says, “If it’s a friendship you don’t want to lose, take into consideration whether you’d be willing not to have it [if] after the hook-up things became weird.”

Pros and cons

To help you decide if hooking up with your friend is the best idea or not, consider these pros and cons!

1. Pro: Your friendship could become a relationship

Hooking up with a friend could confirm if you both actually want to become more than friends, something that you may have only realized because you did hook up.

“[After hooking up with my friend,] we were both open and our friendship was strong enough to recognize there was something more between us,” says Sara, a freshman from UNC-Chapel Hill. “We started dating after that.”

Because you’re already friends, you have a good foundation for a relationship and it could be an easy transition. According to Gabby*, a senior at the University of Delaware, hooking up with a friend might not be a bad idea if you see there’s potential for a relationship. “[When I hooked up with my friend,] it was awkward the next morning,” she says. “But then we talked about it, texted more and eventually started dating.”

2. Con: Your friend group will find out (whether you like it or not)

If you and your friend are in the same friend group, you might try to keep it a secret if it was a one-time deal and you want to move past it. Too bad word travels fast.

“I think [my] biggest problem was that literally everyone in [my] friend group found out about it,” says Clare*, a sophomore from Indiana University, of her friend hook-up. “Every once and a while it will come up and our friends make jokes about it.”

Whether your friends are weird because the dynamic of your group changed or they just want to push your buttons, be prepared to get the side comment or blatant joke about it. So much for keeping it on the DL.

3. Pro: It can be a fun, laughable memory…

If you’re not necessarily looking for a relationship afterwards, the hook-up can still be a good experience, whether it happens once or multiple times. “I’m more comfortable with someone I know than [hooking up with] someone I don't know at all,” says Kim*, a sophomore from St. Joseph’s University. “It almost feels safer.”

There’s also a distinct possibility that because you’re good friends, you can openly talk about what happened and have it not be weird. Clare says that despite hooking up with her close friend a few times, they were able to laugh it off because of their strong friendship. “I knew I could totally trust him because I knew him as [a] friend first,” she says. “Plus, I didn’t have to worry about him being a total jerk about it afterwards.”

Keith*, a senior at Villanova University, says, “It’s fun and convenient. [We] just kind of laughed about it … and then hooked up more after that.”

Whether you laugh it off or casually hook up more, there’s always the chance that you and your friend are totally cool with each other post-hook-up.

4. Con: …Or totally awkward

However, it could end up being totally awkward, even if you try to make it as non-awkward as possible.

“I tried to act normal, but he acted really awkward about it,” says Katie*, a senior from Gettysburg College of a former hook-up. “I regret hooking up with him now because we are not nearly as close as we were before we hooked up.”

You could have to deal with anything from forced conversations to complete silence. “[After hooking up with my friend], I didn’t see him or hear from him until I saw him the next week at the bar, and he completely ignored me,” says Steph*, a senior at Notre Dame University. “He acted like I wasn’t even there. It was pretty devastating to me because I feel like he completely disregarded the fact that we were friends and that we could continue being friends without the weirdness.”

While you may wish there was a contract stating that you can’t be awkward with each other post-hook-up, unfortunately, it can happen.

5. Con: Ultimately, it could hurt or end your friendship

Additionally, it can become a sticky situation if you’re not on the same page post-hook-up. “After ending a hook-up, it can be difficult to maintain a friendship, especially if someone becomes emotionally involved,” says Ryan, a sophomore from the University of Connecticut. “I’ve found it a lot harder to work at continuing the friendship, especially when it became more than a casual thing [usually on the girl’s end].”

There’s also a good possibility that your relationship will change, sometimes for the worse. “[My friend] and I hooked up regularly, so it was chill for a bit,” says Ralph*, a senior from Syracuse University. “Then it blew up. Now we only argue when we talk.”

The worst-case scenario is that a hook-up ends a friendship. “I tried dating a friend last year [after hooking up with him], and it got pretty messy,” says Isabella, a junior at the University of California, Los Angeles. “I had feelings for him and still do when I see him, but being with him didn’t feel right. We broke it off…and we drifted apart naturally. Although we say we’re friends, we rarely hang out.”

While it’s important to be aware of some of the negative consequences of hooking up with a friend, you can’t worry about everything that could go wrong. Ultimately, you do have some control of the outcome and how you handle it. 

How to deal

Whether the aftermath is positive or negative, communication after hooking up with a friend is key. Whether the experience was good or bad, you have to talk the next day.

“It’s good to set expectations [the day after] so both parties are aware of what to expect after getting physical [and moving forward],” Fidelis says. This means discussing if you want to tell your other friends, if it was a one-time thing or if you have feelings for each other.

It might be uncomfortable to have a conversation the morning after (especially if you both want to pretend it didn’t happen), but it’s better than leaving it hanging and it getting worse later on. By being honest right away, you can avoid that awkward “well, what now” period.

Because he’s your friend, talking about hooking up should be easier than if you were having the same conversation with a stranger. Use the fact that you know each other well to navigate the aftermath as smoothly as possible.

Whether you’ve thought about hooking up with your friend for a while or it spontaneously happens one night, there’s a lot that can happen when you take that next step. By weighing the pros and cons beforehand and knowing what to expect afterwards, you can successfully handle a friend hook-up, no matter how it turns out!

*Names have been changed.