Why I’m (Nearly Always) Friends First

black and white photo of a hand pulling back a curtain
Image by Kristina Kupstienė / CC BY

It’s a standard piece of dating advice: “Be friends first.”

But it’s not automatically true just because people say it a lot.

Until rather recently I never followed this advice. I thought it inadvisable to be friends first. Maybe even a bit stupid. If I’m physically attracted to someone, why wait to explore that connection?

And dating my current friends seemed terribly risky. Breakups are bad enough when they’re of the casual, near-miss variety. Add in wiping out a friendship at the same time and potentially affecting other people in my friends circle at the same time? No thank you.

It wasn’t until I was not only polyamorous but polysaturated that I was actually friends with someone for a while first before dating them.

Not because I even chose it. It was a coincidence, really. The timing was all wrong for us to pursue a new relationship. We were both more in the market for someone to talk with about our other relationships. So even though we were really attracted to one another, we tabled dating until later and became each other’s confidants instead.

And that person? Turned out to be immensely compatible with me when the timing was finally right.

Clear-Headed Vetting

Any time since that I’ve deviated from this pattern of being friends first, I’ve regretted it. Sure, I’ve done the traditional dating thing. Followed sexual attraction through a series of encounters while at the same time I’m getting to know them. How they operate. What’s important to them. How they treat others.

And while I’ve had a great fling or two this way, I’ve also been ambushed by dealbreakers that I would have spotted a mile away if I’d had the opportunity to get a better handle on who they were before I flung myself headlong into hormonal soup.

Seeing Behind the Curtain

Plus, it doesn’t help that so many people put up façades when they’re dating, striving to be an ideal partner only until they seal the deal, at which point they can get comfortable and relax because once we get emotionally invested it won’t matter they aren’t who they pretended to be.

But when these same people are with their friends? The façade just isn’t there.

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I used to think that not knowing the new person I was smooching was precisely what made it fun. The mystery. Connecting with the unknown.

But I’ve come to realize that if something has to be mysterious to be exciting, there’s not a lot there.

I prefer the shape of the passion that is familiar yet at the same time unfamiliar, ported from one context to another. And there are plenty of things to discover about a person who isn’t a stranger to us. We never really know anyone completely (even those we know quite well are ever-changing). There is mystery everywhere, even in our best friend.

That’s why I believe that when being friends first ruins the connection, it probably wasn’t that great of a connection to begin with.

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This is not to say that a relationship that starts without a prior friendship is doomed to failure. I’ve seen plenty of them work out.

But as much as it pains me to admit that I was wrong before, I’ve learned that I really do better when I’m friends first.

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Books by Page Turner:

A Geek’s Guide to Unicorn Ranching

Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory 

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