Friendship and dating. Sometimes these two things seem contrary to each other. After all, dating often takes the form of going out with people you recently met or don’t know very well. In modern America, people often start going out simply because they find each other physically attractive. And when you add in the powerful romantic feelings that often accompany dating relationships, you can get a recipe for couples whose relationship is made of nothing more substantial than sexual and emotional attraction.
These hazards have caused some Christians to feel that you can’t build friendships through dating and should avoid dating altogether. But I would say wisdom reveals that it really is possible to build healthy, uplifting friendships through dating, as long as we pay attention to several important principles.
#1 – Friendship is essential for any long-term romantic relationship.
The first thing we need to understand is that friendship isn’t something we can brush aside if we hope to build a long-term relationship that can last a life time. Romantic feelings often run high in the beginning of a relationship. They can be so intense that you might believe they’ll last forever, fueling your love for your honey. The truth is that romantic feelings are like superglue. They bond quickly, but they’re not a good choice for a bond that lasts for years. That’s because the natural purpose of romantic emotions are to draw two people together. But once the lives of two people are united, their feelings tend to naturally calm down somewhat.
In his book Finding The Love of Your Life, Dr. Neil Warren describes how the initial feelings of passionate love in a relationship usually grow into companionate love as the relationship matures. That’s where friendship comes in. Friendship is the foundational relationship that marks this sort of companionate love. In the grind of daily life, romantic feelings aren’t what play the biggest role in you and your spouse being united. The truth is friendship between you and your spouse is what primarily supports your commitment to be together through the day-to-day.
That’s why it’s sometimes said that “you should marry your best friend.” Think of the camaraderie and enjoyment you share with your best friends. You stick together because you genuinely enjoy each other, support each other in difficulty, and share the deepest parts of yourselves with each other. This characteristic of friendship is essential in a lifelong relationship. While romantic feelings might be like superglue, friendship is like concrete. It takes longer to fully set, but once it does it can last for years and years. So if we want to enter a healthy, fulfilling marriage one day, it starts with learning to develop friendship in our dating today.
“While romantic feelings might be like superglue, friendship is like concrete.”
#2 – Dating provides opportunity for building friendship…if you use it right.
I remember when I once took a casual friend on a date. She and I had been acquaintances beforehand, but I hadn’t spent much time with her and didn’t know too much about her. But from what I knew of her she seemed to be a wonderful person, so I asked her out. We spent several hours together over the course of the date, talking about everything from what we studied, to what we hoped for the future, to current events, to favorite movies. I remember after the date having a deep sense that we had become deeper friends by the end of the date than we were before it started. To this day we remain good friends, and I fully believe that date had a lot to do with it.
Dating provides opportunity for building friendship because it provides two people an opportunity to spend time together and get to know each other. At its core, that’s what dating is supposed to be. Dating is supposed to allow two people to intentionally spend time together so they can discover if the preliminary interest they have in each other has the potential to go deeper. Sadly, modern dating in America has drifted from this good purpose and become corrupted with people using dating for self-service and emotional and sexual gratification. That’s why dating provides opportunity for building friendship if you use it right. If your focus when you go on dates is to get to know the other person, you can build healthy friendship. But if you only want emotional or sexual gratification, then your relationship with the other person will degrade into something temporary and shallow.
One awesome thing I’ve come to understand about dating is that, even when a casual dating relationship doesn’t become a long-term romantic relationship, the friendship you began building with the other person can remain. Two people can realize that they aren’t right for each other as romantic partners but can still be friends. I’ve already experienced this result with a couple casual dating relationships.
#3 – Friendship needs to grow at an even pace with the other elements of a romantic relationship.
So we know that dating can allow space for two people to become friends. But what about the reality that people who are dating typically have feelings beyond friendship for each other? We may know that we need to build a friendship with a romantic partner, but what do we do with all the powerful feelings of attraction and romance that can cloud a relationship?
The first thing we should recognize is that those feelings of romantic attraction aren’t bad or wrong. We definitely want to feel passion for someone who might become our spouse. The key is that all the components of a healthy romantic relationship including, friendship and romantic attraction, should grow together at a healthy pace. See, it’s not that you should experience only friendship or only romantic feelings in a dating relationship. It’s that you want both your friendship with the person you’re dating and your romantic feelings for him or her grow together as the relationship matures. A romance with no friendship becomes a hollow fling. A friendship without romance becomes…well…a friendship. That’s a good thing, but it’s not the kind of relationship you want to have with your spouse. A romance and a friendship that have grown to maturity together becomes the type of relationship you want to enjoy for a lifetime! So take care to make sure that healthy friendship is growing in any romantic relationship you pursue. As romance and friendship grow together, you may find the joy of one day marrying your best friend.
What do you think? What have you experienced when it comes to building friendship through dating? Please share your thoughts in the comments!
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