I don’t have many regrets from my dating days. But one thing time has granted me is the wisdom of hindsight. While I wouldn’t change the mistakes that were made—they eventually led me to my husband!—I see now why so many of my relationships struggled and failed.
We were never friends first.
Until I met my husband, Josh, every person I dated was just that: a date. Our relationship started with mystery and intrigue, and we dated to get to know one another. But as we dated, we discovered our differences were insurmountable. By the time we found out how little we had in common or how our values clashed, we were both emotionally invested and someone got hurt.
Granted, love is always a risk and we can’t spend our lives trying to avoid emotional pain. Dating that springs from friendship doesn’t guarantee the relationship will last and might even mean losing your friend (often the case). But it was friendship that formed the foundation of my dating relationship with Josh, and it was friendship-love that gave way to romantic love, which eventually gave way to married love.
There are five big reasons why friendships lead to great dating relationships, and why those relationships often thrive.
1. Friendship allows us to see people for who they really are.
In friendship, we don’t put many expectations on the other person. We simply enjoy their company and are naturally drawn to spend time with them. We see them in their most natural state, at their most comfortable, and get an accurate picture of who they are.
In contrast, dating can put a lot of pressure on both a guy and a girl to “perform” and be on their best behavior. We want to impress our date, so we try to ask the right questions, say the right things and aren’t at ease in the same way we are with our friends (at least at first). Friendship reveals a person’s inner being.
2. Friendship allows us to be who we really are.
Second, friendship lets us reveal our true selves with no fear of judgment. We aren’t trying to impress anyone, so we don’t try to put up a façade. When you’re being your truest self, your friends learn to love your truest self. There isn’t an alternative identity or a cleaned-up version of who you are.
This allows true love to grow. Love is built on trust, and trust springs from an honest knowledge of another person’s character—flaws and all.
3. Friendship lays a foundation of shared memory.
The time spent in friendship builds a collection of shared memories: things you’ve done with a person that connect you on a personal level and root you in certain places and times. When Josh and I were friends, we went to visit Monticello (the home of President Jefferson) for a naturalization ceremony. Afterward we walked to the downtown mall and my sandal broke, so Josh helped me find a place to buy new shoes. That shared memory is something we still look back on with fondness today—even though we weren’t dating at the time.
4. Friendship lets us see people in different life contexts.
Friendship also lets you see a guy in different contexts: at Bible study, playing sports, attending an event, hanging out at a bonfire or in church. You get to see how he acts around people of all walks of life. This gives you a more comprehensive knowledge of who he is, because it’s hard to keep up a façade in front of that many different people over a span of time.
5. Friendship starts with agape love, which can blossom into eros love.
Finally, friendship builds agape love: brotherly love, affectionate love for someone who contributes positively to your life. This can blossom into eros love—romantic love—based on what you’ve known and seen about the other person. When you have both of these kinds of love in tandem, your foundation for a lasting romantic relationship is built on solid ground.
Not everyone starts their romantic relationship as a friendship, but you’ll find that many people do. It works! But it works because the timeless quality of trust is the basis of a beautiful love.