I used to be a person who scoffed at the advice that it was better to be friends first with those you’d date. It seemed rather untenable. Why wouldn’t you start dating someone right away if you felt a strong spark? Why wait?
And wouldn’t it be kind of weird to date your friends after knowing them for a while? Plus, wouldn’t ignoring that initial spark cause it to die down, forever, never to be revived?
I was quite skeptical and thought it was silly.
I Didn’t Understand the Advice to Be Friends First Until It Accidentally Happened to Me
It wasn’t until it actually finally happened to me — completely by accident — that I understood this advice. In my particular situation, I met a guy that I found very physically attractive, a friend of a friend, at a time when I was polysaturated (dating multiple people but full up on capacity). It really didn’t matter anyway since he was busy himself.
And I was long distance at the time anyway, preparing to move to his area in several months. I ended up establishing a friendship with him anyway — as he was in my friends group, and it made sense to.
The more we talked, the more I realized we had in common. And not just superficial stuff. But deep stuff. Things that mattered. Our values aligned eerily well.
Before I knew it, he’d basically become my best friend. We confided in each other about the difficult parts of our respective lives. Gave one another advice — some of it advice about our relationships. He was the person I could count on to check in on me and make sure I was doing okay. And I was that person for him.
And then one day, about a year after we first started chatting, we went out to dinner, and it went so well that he eventually become my boyfriend and then my husband.
But the most surprising part of it all is that he never stopped being my friend. And I never stopped being his.
Why Being Friends First Is Amazing
Friends first isn’t just about establishing a foundational base of friendship (although that’s great), it’s also about getting to know who that person is when they have their guard down.
When I started dating Justin, I already had a lot of information about him. I got to see him get into a fight with other friends (a nasty one in which everyone involved called one another names). I got to see how he handled conflict. As a close confidant, I got a front row seat to the kind of care and concern he took when it came to his romantic relationships.
I came to know his general honest reputation among people who knew him well (someone I trusted a lot called him a “total sweetie,” and they weren’t wrong).
The reality is that I had already seen peeks of how Justin could be when he was at his worst — and he got the same information about me. We’d talked on bad mental health days. Times when we’d both felt rather frazzled and vulnerable.
I knew what I was getting into. Everybody has bad, unflattering sides. And we went into our relationship already having seen each other’s.
It’s Just Not the Same Dating a Stranger
Honestly, it’s just not the same dating a stranger you met online and haven’t had enough time to really get to know. I tried. I honestly did. But the experience has been so difficult that I treat it these days as a last resort.
For example, I met someone that I really clicked with one on one but found that whenever I took them into a group setting to hang out with friends that they acted terribly.
This is something that would have been immediately evident if I had met this person socially. But because we had only spent time one on one, I was ambushed with this after dating for a while. And it wasn’t pretty.
This was an incredibly difficult situation for me since I tend to be a rather social person. Dating a person who doesn’t get along with people other than me isn’t going to work for my life.
And this was such a small issue in the scheme of things. I know there are much larger risks, of being lied to about major things, presented a completely different front, or dating someone who is cheating on their other partner (in addition to having to worry about things like serial rapists or serial killers).