Do You Have to Be Friends First?

Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

You’ve probably heard the advice that if you really want a relationship that stands the test of time and the various turbulent events of life, it’s best to be friends with your partner first.

It is a great foundation on which to build a romantic relationship and it may even revolutionize the dating culture when it comes to how and who we choose as partners.

It’s something I’ve heard from dating and relationship experts. It’s something I’ve endorsed and enacted in my own life. And when you think about it, doesn’t it make a lot of sense?

Friendships are based on compatibility, connection and camaraderie. They aren’t as glamorized as romantic relationships and as a result, people don’t drum up bullcrap narratives and sensationalized stories to make money off of you or lead you into unrealistic expectations of what a friendship is.

We also don’t have to go through an assault of neurotransmitters on our brains and bodies which are trying to compel us into sexual activity. Friendships tend to be a lot easier and a lot less risky. Why wouldn’t we want to build on such a sober and secure relationship?

There’s even research that supports that being friends before being in a relationship is beneficial. Research from the University of Texas revealed that, “Our results indicate that perceptions of beauty in a romantic partner might change with time, as individuals get to know one another better before they start dating.”

But as much as this may be a reason as to why relationships that begin with the foundation of friends first is good, it also is one of several reasons that being friends first is difficult and why it may not be desirable.

I feel that this is ridiculously obvious. You may have been close to someone you found attractive, only for them to get with someone else. You may have even been close to someone who also liked you, and still nothing happened.

The notion that “friends first” is the way to go is a positive one, but it doesn’t mean that everyone is going to begin their relationship or marriage in this way.

As a matter of fact, you may find someone attractive, become friends, get together and then things fall apart!

Friendship may be a great foundation to a romantic relationship because the two people really know one another. However, without the key element of attraction, there will never be a romantic relationship.

The factors that lead to attraction vary from person to person, but if you are someone’s friend and you are unable to scratch their psychological itch that will cause them to like you, there will be no romance and therefore, no relationship.

The “friendzone” is the common label used to explain why one may feel attracted to their friend, but the friend doesn’t feel the same. It’s because one was mentally labelled as a friend (or in other words, put in the friendzone) due to their inability to be seen as attractive by their friend. Your friend may scratch your psychological itch, but you may not do the same for them.

Attraction is a hell of a force, and when it is present, it will certainly transform the platonic into the romantic. But it must be held by both people.

Remember when I said that friendships are easier and involve less risk? This then leads to friendships being highly coveted. If romance already proves to be such a challenge for many people, why would anyone want to run the risk of losing a great friend by changing the relationship dynamic?

Just because two people are friends doesn’t mean the relationship is going to work. Just because two friends grow to love another, that doesn’t mean that their romance is going to stand the test of time.

Like any relationship, life will throw many curve balls their way. If they aren’t handled well enough, it may spell the end of the romance as well as the friendship. Some friends are not willing to take the risk, and that’s perfectly okay.

There are times I’ve met someone and felt a connection with them. I knew I had found one of my people. When I got to know them, my suspicions were proven right. We fit well together and enjoyed spending time with one another.

The problem was that when I or they tried to take things in a romantic direction, there was rarely a time when things actually became romantic.

The reason for this is because friendship compatibility takes on certain factors and romantic compatibility takes on some of the same factors but also factors that friendship may not be concerned with.

Also, one may want a romantic relationship and love a friend so much that they invent romantic feelings for the friend. Suddenly, things feel very real but the friend feels nothing but platonic love. And no matter what one may do to coerce their friend into romance, it doesn’t work.

Instead of being friends with someone and then possibly getting pigeonholed into the role of lovers, what might make more sense is to get into a romantic relationship with someone you feel attracted to from the jump but ensure that you both can be friends as the romance progresses.

And by that I mean get to know one another, find common interests or create new interests together, communicate about each other’s inner and outer worlds, celebrate each other’s victories and defend each other when problems arise.

If you start with attraction, you know that the ingredient for romance is already present. However, if you start with friendship, you may have a great foundation for more, but no proof that the friendship will ever become romantic.

The downside to the attraction-first option is that your partner may never become one of your best friends. Some people really want that and will choose to make friends and hope that something can become romantic.

Others may have tried being friends first with little to no success. As a result, they will go into romance with the fuel of attraction and as long as the relationship gets a secondary fuel source of kindness, finding shared interests and conscious love, the attraction-first/friends-second relationship can become something just as special as the “friends first” relationship.

Former Edu. Psychologist | Current Writer | Constant Learner | “By your stumbling the world is perfected.”

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