A friend and I were talking about dating when she mentioned that she’d like her future romantic partner to be her best friend. She asked if that’s possible when it comes to dating. My answer: no. Dating follows exactly the opposite path. In typical “dating” scenarios, the pattern is:
- Meet each other a few times for dates
- Decide that this person meets your needs and continue dating
- Start a romantic relationship
- Eventually, become friends
Why can’t that friends part happen earlier? Simple. There’s way too much pressure and expectations. On the first few dates, you aren’t there to hang out and have fun, you’re there looking for someone that meets your needs. Your guard is up, and so is theirs. This is the exact opposite of what you need to make friends.
Friendship needs time in low-stress environments to flourish. When does that happen? After you’ve gotten comfortable with each other. That happens only after you’ve decided to trust each other enough to start a romantic relationship and spent some time together. Then your guard starts to drop. Slowly. Eventually you’ll share enough that you can become friends.
As a side note, this is why the “let’s just be friends” line is such BS. Remember all of those expectations? This is dashing all of those, which will always hurt. You have to get over that hurt in order to get back to a friendship. If you haven’t yet become friends, then you’re not going to spend the effort to do that. If you have gotten that far into the relationship, then the hurt is going to be a lot more but there’s a chance that once you get through it you can be friends.
Is there a different model? Yes. It’s the model for typical relationships in high school and university. In those settings, you’re typically hanging around in groups that are much more relaxed and have more frequent random interactions. Think about first year of university. Most everyone is coming from a different background, you’re spending all kinds of time together in both high and low stress environment. That’s the ideal time to make friends. Here’s how that process looks:
- Meet randomly because you’re in the same place
- Get to know each other by hanging around, chatting, and doing things together
- Become friends
- Decide that you want to be together
- Become romantic partners
That’s the difference between dating in our younger years in our later years. In our younger years, we make friends and then become more than that. In our later years, we treat the whole thing the way we would any goal and become more business minded.
I suppose that works if you’re looking for marriage and a family. In that case, you really are looking for a partner in what is the business of life. But make no mistake, this is not a friendship first model.