- Friendship allows people to get to know someone for who they truly are.
- Building a friendship gives people time to get to know someone in a range of different situations.
- Trust, companionship, and easy communication gained through friendship are pillars of intimate, long-term relationships.
Many of us want to be in an intimate long-term relationship. We look around, set our sights on someone, and think, “Maybe this is the one.” We meet someone or are introduced to them by friends or family who think we may hit it off. Often, there’s an immediate attraction and we’re off to the races. But sometimes, what begins as an attraction—or, let’s say, a lustful connection—moves very quickly. Yes, we feel the excitement of finally being with someone and we want more. But how well do we really know this person beyond the sexual attraction and immediate connection we feel? Often we don’t know them at all, as we may find out as time goes by.
When there’s pressure to find the right one, to fall in love, we may skip a lot of steps in order to get there. Desire (and possibly hormones) may take over and we seem to forget that there is a great deal to learn about a person before we can commit to a lifetime together. In the throes of love or lust, we may tell ourselves a lot of things, and convince ourselves of certain things before we really have the time to explore and get to know what someone is all about. As many of us have discovered, once the first blush of love subsides and we are left with the reality of a relationship, things we didn’t want to see may come to light.
Getting to know someone as a friend affords a great opportunity to not only have a great companion, a person you really like and connect with, but very possibly someone you may want to share your life with. Being a friend first is a win-win situation. Friends are essential for our well-being. A good friend knows who you are, is there to offer support and encouragement, and is around for those times, well, when you just need a friend.
So, here are some reasons why it’s important to know someone as a friend before you know them as a lover.
1. Becoming friends allows you to get to know someone for who they really are. Friendships unfold over time; you get to see people as they are in many situations. There’s no pressure to try to impress or please. As a friend there’s no need to expect anything as often happens in romantic relationships, where unrealistic expectations often become the norm as a relationship becomes more serious and exclusivity is expected. In friendship it’s often easier to be more open and accepting; you don’t need to pretend to be someone you’re not. That’s a two-way street.
Friends get to see (and accept) the good, bad, and ugly about each other. The ability to accept and even embrace someone’s weaknesses and quirks as well as their assets creates a lot of space to let people shine for who they uniquely are.
2. In friendship, there is room for other relationships. As a friend you can hang out with someone as much as both of you want. But the understanding is that both of you are free to see (and date) other people. There are no ties or obligations. There is no possessiveness or jealousy. Over time you may find that you really like/love this person but don’t feel you need or want to take it any further. The friendship itself is the prize.
As friends, you’ve probably discussed many issues and seen each other in many situations. Getting to know each other well over time allows you to see what issues and emotions could and will arise in an important relationship. When you are friends first it’s unlikely that you’ll find yourself in an intimate relationship for the wrong reasons.
3. Friendship helps build trust. Trust is one of the pillars of a significant, long-term relationship. When you are able to trust, your guard comes down; there is no fear or worry about being yourself at all times. When you trust you feel safe that what you say and do is secure in the relationship. With trust there is no anxiety or fear that you will be betrayed, lied to, and if the relationship moves into intimacy, that you will be cheated on.
Trust allows for being comfortable enough to air your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. Trust creates the ability to feel free to communicate openly and without fear of criticism or ridicule.
4. Being friends first allows you to explore more together. When we are in an intimate relationship we are often insulated and cocooned together, spending time alone in each other’s company. Especially at the beginning of an intimate relationship, our time and energy are spent almost exclusively with each other. We just want to spend every minute together, intimately connecting.
In friendship first, we have the opportunity to spend time doing any number of things, alone or with other people. As friends we have the time to explore new things together, to share new adventures, doing things that enrich our separate lives but also connect us more deeply to each other. Having a friend join you in a new venture provides not only companionship but someone to share memories with.
5. Friendship first helps you build on shared goals. Another essential pillar of a long-term intimate relationship is shared values, ideals, and goals. During friendship we come to know what a person is all about, what makes them tick, what they cherish about life, and what they aspire to. While friends may not always agree, when friends find themselves on the same page for what they find most valuable for a meaningful life, then friendship has the opportunity to move into love.
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