The more accepting people become of non-traditional ways to approach their sex lives, the more popular “friends with benefits” relationships get, and it’s not hard to understand why. A friend with benefits can truly give a casual dater the best of both worlds. You both get the sexual connection you’re after, but without the need to make a commitment you may not be ready for. Plus, you’re already friends, so you know each other well and genuinely enjoy each other’s company – a true win-win.

In other words, being friends with benefit is great… until things are no longer working for one or both of you. Going from “just friends” to “friends with benefits” happens naturally enough, but is there a graceful way to go the other direction? Actually, there is, but there’s a fine art to doing things properly.

Acknowledge Why It’s Ending

The reason why you’re looking to end the benefits part of your friendship definitely matters when it comes to how you should approach things. If you know you’ve both been thinking about moving on lately, hurt feelings are a lot less likely. The same goes for a situation where you’ve met someone or are otherwise ready to graduate to a more traditional dating life. In fact, you probably thoroughly talked through that possibility when you first went FWB, so it won’t be a total surprise.

Things get a little tougher when you’re looking for end things for a reason the other person might take personally. Are they starting to develop feelings for you? Have they been dropping hints that they’d like things to transition to a real relationship, and you’re just not on board? You’ll have to be super careful of their feelings if you’re serious about keeping the friendship intact.

Stress the Value of the Friendship

If this is indeed a non-mutual decision, it’s important to emphasize to your friend how much you value your relationship with them. Be kind, but honest. Let them know that you think it’s time for the sexual aspect of your relationship to end, and be straight with them as to why, especially if another person is involved.

Then follow up by making sure they understand that they were (and are) more than just a ready source of casual sex to you. Assure them that this isn’t personal, but about you being ready to adopt a more serious approach to your dating life. If they’re upset, allow them to fully respond to you, and be sure to listen like a friend would.

Prepare Them for Anything That’s Coming

Resist the urge to lie to your friend about why you’re looking to go back to being platonic only. This is your friend, so they deserve to be fully prepared for whatever’s coming next, and they deserve to find out what that is from you.

Consider how you would feel if the shoe were on the other foot. Would you want to find out your former friend with benefits is ready to get serious about someone else by suddenly seeing pictures of the two of them together on Facebook, or would you rather they do the mature thing and tell you themselves? Your friend almost certainly feels the same way.

Give Them the Right Amount of Space

Even if both of you knew this was a temporary situation, your friend may still feel hurt or like they’re being dumped. If you feel either of you could use some space to process any feelings involved, let them know. Don’t simply assume that’s the way they want it and stop calling them altogether.

Definitely don’t avoid your friend. Give them space if they need it, but don’t ghost them or go out of your way not to cross paths with them. Stick to your normal routine in the understanding that things might be awkward at first. Sooner or later though, strong friendships have a way of falling back into their old groove.

Stick to Your Guns

Be prepared to treat your decision as final. If you’re ending your friends with benefits situation because you feel like you’re ready to go back to dating, make sure that’s still what you’d want if things don’t work out the way you hope. Don’t expect to go back to the way things were with your FWB when a few bad dates or frustrating experiences sour you on the whole idea. That would be confusing and stressful for both of you, not to mention anyone else involved.

In other words, approach the situation with integrity and treat your friend with dignity. If your friendship is truly meant to make the transition in one piece, simply trust that it will, and let things run their course. You may be surprised at how quickly things get back to normal.