At some point in Catholic communities you meet someone you like and you’re caught at a potential decision point—should I date this person now, or just be friends? I know there are different schools of approach.
The first approach says, “Just be friends for a while and move slowly into dating.” The other approach says, “Make an effort to date that person now.”
Nine times out of ten the right thing to do is to try and date that person first. Don’t bother building a long friendship; here’s why.
Be Honest from the Beginning
The first problem with the “friends first” approach is that you’re not being honest about your intentions, which makes it hard to build a true friendship.
It’s like saying, “This girl works at Google. I want to ask her help me get a job at Google. Maybe I’ll just be friends first.” Five months later you ask her to help you get an interview and she starts to wonder, “Was this guy being my friend just so I good help him get a job?”
In our case, “Was this guy just being my friend because he wanted to go out with me?” It puts in doubt all your friendship experiences when from the beginning you used friendship to become close to that other person.
The friendship will probably always be at risk or just end right there and you’re left with no date and no friend. You were better off attempting to date that person from the beginning.
In dating never do something to get something. Never friend someone in hopes of becoming intimate one day, never spend time with someone in hopes of having a truck on hand for your next move. Just do you—simple as that.
Go after what you want now. If you want a relationship now, go for it now. If you think you’ll need a truck for moving next month, just ask now. Don’t use friendship as this means-to-an-end. Friendship actually is the end.
It’s Easier To Move into The Friend Zone Than Out Of It
Nobody likes to lose a friend or take the chance of losing a friend. Women are hesitant to date that guy friend for the same reason they’re hesitant to set a guy up with one of their girlfriends. Guys often think the same way.
Take it as a compliment. In one case they lose you as a friend if the date doesn’t work out. In the second case they lose you as a friend if you transfer your intimacy to someone else of their sex. Human nature is jealous.
Unless you’re the 0.5% of people who are completely-completely altruistic, we go after what benefits us. There are moments when you’re simply friends and then completely out of nowhere you find that you want more than opening laptops with that person and getting coffee. You genuinely want something more intimate. In that case, there was nothing you could have done earlier.
It still may be hard to get out of just being friends and getting something going, but sometimes it’s all you can do. That’s different from the guy or gal who has wanted to date someone all along but was too afraid to take the step to dating and settled for friendship instead. Don’t be that man or woman.
Your Best Friendships Will Likely Be With People of the Same Sex
This is not to say that men and women can’t be good friends or even amazing friends. It doesn’t mean that a Carly may not have her friend “Jim-the-guy-with-organic-chem-notes” as man of honor at her wedding and vice versa.
It just means that when it comes with intimate, lifelong, dependable friendships the odds will always be that that person will end up being someone of the same sex.
The reason is that friendship intimacy is lost when transferred to the spouse. As a guy you’re no longer the “coolest guy she knows.” She has a husband now. As a girl, you’re no longer the “most amazing woman he knows.” He now has a wife.
What does that mean? It means that from a pure investment standpoint of time and energy—which you have in limited quantities—you’re better off pouring the best of your friendship efforts into someone of the same sex. There you’re most likely build a friendship in which you can accompany each other through marriage, children, and old age.
But it’s not always this way. There are some circumstances in which being a friend is the right thing to do. Here are a few.
The Roof may be Caving In
That person is going through some life-altering moment in which they don’t even have the emotional space to date. This is usually something serious like, “My Dad’s having bypass surgery this week; can we just be friends for now?” Or, “I’m moving to another city this month; friends?”
Vague excuses like, “I’m really busy right now,” or “life is complicated” don’t count. Those can be reasons not to date, but they’re not reasons to try and replace dating with friendship just to keep someone close to you, when you don’t want to make the effort to make someone number one.
It’s Premature to be Dating, Period
Yes, you just don’t have the maturity to develop a relationship and you’re so young that you have time on your hands—just in case anyone 12 years old is reading this blog.
You See Each Other All-Day-Every-Day
You’re coworkers (ugh!) or he’s your loan officer at your bank. Crossing the dating-in-the-workplace line carries high professional risk. In that case, taking things extra slowly and just being friends may be the most prudent thing to do.
In this case, there’s no need to go spend time alone right away to get to know each other. Start out by being friendly and getting to know each other that way. Certainly it won’t be the same; eventually you’ll need to take the right steps to escalate the relationship to dating, but at least you’ll be more sure of each other by then and it’s worth the risk.
See the Joy in Both, Then Act Accordingly
Friendships are amazing and dating is amazing in their own rights. You need them both but they’re like water and wine. Each has its purpose. Don’t use one to replace the other.