I very much enjoy reading about people’s experiences with relationships, falling in love and dating. The stories are better, sometimes even absurder, than any romantic comedy. Part of the fascination for me is a look in a life I would never know, had the people not chosen to share.
That goes double for dating. I read and hear so much about how hard dating is. The effort, the disappointments, the boredom, the frustration regularly break my heart and I just want to run up to these people, hug them and tell them how sorry I am they have to go through all that. How sorry I am they haven’t been lucky. And that I’m not blaming them one bit. I have sometimes done just that. I have also gotten some dirty looks. Looks that say “you don’t even know”. That’s fair, because I don’t know. I never dated.
I’ve not dated in the sense of the word where you go do some activity like having coffee or dinner, or going to see a movie with a stranger or near stranger. I’ve not had any anxiety inducing unknown man sit opposite the table fidgeting with a napkin while you search desperately for something- anything- to say. By the time I want to go on a date with someone, we have already known each other for a while. In fact I am already considered coupled up before we have a first official date.
Both times. Two serious long term relationships, one resulting in marriage. (and a divorce, but the relationship did last over 15 years) If I am to count my not-so-serious teenager relationship I can say all 3 times. I realize that’s not a huge sample. You could read this as me being the luckiest this-never-happens-in-real-life woman around. I will agree I am very lucky. But, you could also see it as me being on to something; dating friends works.
In the name of being fair about the odds, I’ve pulled up some research to support my ‘date your friends’ theory. I’ve read here that people in relationships, who didn’t meet online, have know each other on average for one and a half years before getting romantically involved. Surveys show that couples who are friends are more likely to be in love, committed to each other, and sexually fulfilled, and these benefits got better with time.
The one reason why not more people date friends seems to be fear. It’s a person you already care about. Getting rejected will hurt much more than getting rejected by a stranger. Yet the risk of rejection, specially for women, is much smaller than we fear. This paper suggests that there is usually some sexual attraction in cross-sex friendships. And on top of that, woman pretty much accurately asses a man’s willingness to date them. (men slightly over estimate). So ladies, if you like your friend, and you think that maybe he likes you too, you’re probably right.
It is true that you risk losing a friend when things go badly. That sucks. There is no way around it. What I find interesting about the “I could lose a friend” argument, is that a lot of women are willing to give up that same friend for the sake of a boyfriend who feels intimidated by their male friends. Let’s face it ladies, for a lot of us, our male friends are a lot more expendable than we make them out to be. So if you are willing to risk friendship for love and there’s a chance to find love while keeping the friend, what’s there to lose?
If you feel bad because you are taking mental inventory of your friends right now and they all come up as “No way, no how” I am very sorry. I have no other tricks up my sleeve except this: Go to the early showing of the movie and have the dinner after. That way you always have something to talk about. But I bet you already knew that.