Dating, the final frontier. These are the voyages of my human nature. My continuing mission: To explore strange new relationship scenarios, to seek out new dating apps, and new civilized encounters; to boldly go where maybe a few men have gone before (and therefore wear a condom).
Okay, that is a little geeky.
But honestly, isn’t it just a bit true? I mean, in the wise words of Bill Murray, “Friendship is weird. It is one stranger meeting another and saying, ‘I like this one’ and then doing stuff together.”
In some ways, friendship is a bad word in the dating arena. Because dating isn’t about doing something with someone else; it is about getting something from someone else.
Modern dating has taken on a bit of a Hunger Games feel to it. (Don’t judge my movie metaphors. I clearly have chosen hours of Netflix over going to the bar and subjecting myself to “the scene.”)
I’d like to take us back in time to a place called evolutionary psychology.
Dating was about mating. It was about survival. Relationship roles were based on biology. No one gave a shit about love. I bet it wasn’t even a concept. Everything was primal. That was millions of years ago and pretty much sums up all my Tinder experiences.
There is a spectrum where close friendship is in the middle, and various extremes reside on either end. The difference between friends and lovers is the agreements that each party makes around touching each other. Touch is pretty much the defining instrument that divides the two. But, not just any touch because friends touch all the time through words, actions, sharing, and also hugging, snuggling, and the like.
Lovers come together. They start to belong to each other. Either party can have different intentions. One person may mean to take more than they give or just give up the goods so that they can try and take something else. It can get a bit transactional. And, truth be told, a lot of us are in a rush to get our hand into the cookie jar.
All sorts of abstract ways of relating exist such as “friends with benefits” or “hooking up,” and are like taking a speed-ball. Everyone gets cracked-out. But, even the most nefarious of intentions doesn’t stop the bonding mechanism that happens when friends or strangers cross over into being lovers.
Friendship is a safe place to hang out before you hookup. But, since the wellspring of emotions that need to be negotiated in order to navigate attraction seem to be too much for our speedy minds and light-speed lives, not many people try to be friends with their potential lovers first.
Instead, they go in with “eye on the prize” or “get it while you can” mentalities. It doesn’t work. Short-term satisfaction never leads to long-term gain. So, it is very important to esteem friendship as the platform to which all love and true connection grows from.
Play the long-game.
There are so many unspoken guidelines that go with being friends that also help a relationship flourish long past the rush of romance. One of those guidelines is to be accepting. When you enjoy being around someone, especially when it is fresh, judgements seem to take a back seat. The best part of friendship is that no one belongs to the other. Both are free agents open to explore the unfolding dynamic.
Further, the impulse to belong is a habit that has been imprinted in our DNA. We are social creatures. So, befriending someone allows for both people to live beyond biology. Certainly friendship is a social act and it cultivates agency. Okay, before I go too far off the rails, let me rein it in.
Essentially, if you want to have more successful dating outcomes and less disasters, put your focus on friendship. Don’t worry about forever. Stop fretting over if you shaved your legs or not. Don’t worry if you are “behaving correctly.” The most important element is to just show up as you are.
Next, if you enjoy the other person’s company, say so. Let them know how their presence in your life is impacting you. Reflect the insights or perspective you get from being around them. Offer them praise for being authentic with you. And ask yourself these two important questions:
Does this person trust me?
Do I trust myself around this person?
If the answer is yes to both questions a firm foundation is being built.
But, if you feel shaky and unsure of what the other person wants or is thinking, just ask. I know that is a novel concept, but it is really the only way to move forward.
So, from this day forth, make a vow to yourself that all your future lovers will be friends first. If you ruin the friendship by being lovers, it is better than the alternative. And trust, there are plenty of crap alternatives.
It is up to you to chart the uncharted, to protect your integrity, and boldly go where so few now tread; slow and steady, friendship first.
Author: Rebekah McClaskey
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Deviant Art