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Why "Friends First" Doesn't Work

What's the difference between your boyfriend and your friend?

I've never been "friends first" with a boy, though the concept is quite fascinating.

Imagine you meet someone that you're not attracted to. Then later, as some times goes by, suddenly, you begin to notice all these fantastic qualities about them that you didn't know existed, and boom! You're in love! Is that a '90s sitcom plot or what?!

I love this idea. Many experts advise that couples should be friends first. Then the relationship is based on personal compatibility, not just sexual chemistry.

Social psychologist Grace Cornish avers that romances that begin as friendships are more likely to succeed:

"As friends first, you like each other first. You develop a respect for each other. You're looking out for each other's best interests. I urge people—marry your best friend."

Moreover, friendships keep you rational, stable and logical.

"You're always kind to your friend. You're looking for your friend to get ahead by looking out for his best interest. In a friendship you're equally grounded. You're not looking for any kind of ownership. There's no respect if you become possessive and controlling."

Cornish continues,

"If you have a genuine friendship, you're not going to pretend to be someone you're not so a person can marry you. Some people are on their best behavior until they cross the threshold. Then, they let their guards down. But your true nature will surface when you're a person's friend first. When you're true friends from the beginning, you don't have to pretend."

I don't disagree with anything Cornish says, but why does she make it seem like honesty, kindness and respect are only inherent in friendships, not in romance?

Jealousy and possessiveness occur in all relationships, including friendships. I've been envious of new friends that supplant old friendships. I also have friends who don't share their different friend circles for fear of social intermixing. Also, everyone has had or been a "bad friend" at some point in their lives, right?

I've found that the only real distinction between friend and boyfriend is the attraction factor. A boyfriend is actually a friend that you'd like to get kinky with as soon as possible.

When I meet someone, I can size him up in about 30 seconds and decide whether or not we will ever see each other naked.

If I'm attracted to a guy, then I really can't befriend him. I'll be "friendly," but a real friendship requires some level of honesty and ease. I know some people are capable of masking their true feelings, a la Joey Potter, but that's just not in my nature. It just sounds like your waiting for the inevitable letdown, you know?

According to Paul Dobransky, PT Blogger and co-author of The Secret Psychology of How We Fall in Love,

Successful romantic relationships have three phases:

1. Attraction
2. Bonding in friendship
3. Commitment

This list makes more sense. Attraction must always be present and must always come prior to any romantic connection. It doesn't have to be physical, but I think there needs to be something about that person that turns you on.

For example, my biggest turn on is someone with vocal talent, specifically impersonations. If you can do a really good Kermit imitation, I'm yours.

Attraction is also the feeling of being in sync with someone. With friends, you get along great and have lovely conversations, but finding someone you have a unique connection with—whether you share the same humor, frequent the same foursquare locales, or both love The Golden Girls—is what gets chemistry beakers boiling.

Attraction is that magic ingredient that makes your heart race when you get a text message from your sweetheart or what fills your stomach with butterflies whenever you see him at your doorway.

Attraction is also what is missing when you feel weird and regretful after you've just hooked up with someone who's just a friend.

I think a related question, and one that I have been thinking about for my entire life, is whether or not guys and girls can truly be "friends" at all.

Short answer?


I used to be one of those people who thought it impossible to just be friends with a guy. It was probably because at some point, I ended up making out with these supposed guy friends. Usually, alcohol or loneliness were the culprits behind these lamentable decisions.

Afterwards, I always dreaded the awkward next encounter. Do we acknowledge what had happened? Do we get drunk and do it again? Do I claim to have not been in my right mind?

Yes. No. Maybe.

It's important to treat all your friendships with respect. Be honest. Be kind. And promise to be platonic from now on. (After all, we are all prone to occasional lapses in judgment.)

If you stick to that philosophy, then you can and definitely should be friends.

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"Will Love Last Longer If You Are Friends First?" Jet. 25 Apr, 2010.