The right way to be friends with benefits.
Q: In your book, True Love Dates, you recommended a “season of friendship” before dating. If I am interested in a woman who I normally have very limited opportunity to interact with, how do I pursue her as a just a friend when it is quite obvious I am interested in more given how far out of my way I am going to spend time with her?
A: First of all, to you who asked this question: dude, you score some major brownie points for referencing my book! You would be the kind of guy that sits in the very front row of one of my seminars or lectures….so I already like you for that! And let me just take a moment here as an opportunity to shamelessly plug my book, True Love Dates, because to be honest, it was what got me blogging about relationships in the first place! We owe this entire blog to that little book, because in it are all the foundational concepts that I believe give you the outline you need to engage in a killer dating relationship and in turn, an incredible marriage.
And people, you may not know this but due to the publishing contract I have with Zondervan, I am not allowed to publish more than 8% of the contents of my book on this blog. That means even those of you who have read EVERY SINGLE article on this blog are missing my most PROFOUND (ahem, yes, I said “profound” – especially the seasons of a relationship concepts!) principles about dating!! So invest in yourself and your future relationships by reading through the concepts in this book. It’s like one long dating therapy session. And who doesn’t need that?
Secondly, I love this question because it shows a guy with a genuine desire to do dating well. I love that. For those of you out there (especially the ladies I hear from) who email me whining and complaining that there are no more good men out there, let me just tell you right here and right now – that’s so NOT true. They are everywhere. I meet many of them right here on this blog. And maybe you will too. *hint hint*
Thirdly, apparently I’m in rambling mode this morning, so let’s go ahead and dig into this important question: how on earth can you be just friends with someone you’re totally interested in? I’ll be the first to admit that every relationship looks a little different, but for this question, I’m going to site my relationship with John, my hubby.
When John and I met back in 2005, we met at a conference up in Boston. I was living in Virginia at the time, so clearly, there had to be some sort of “interest” shown for us to even continue our friendship after that conference. So to make a long story short, he asked for my number to keep in touch, and then we actually kept in touch. The next 5 months of our “long-distance friendship” consisted of phone calls, visits, texts and emails.
If you keep up with my writing, you know full well that I’m a HUGE advocate of being friends first.
There are SO many benefits to the stage of friendship before dating.
And for those of you who are confused about the title of this article, I don’t mean the benefits of hooking up, making out, or getting physical. On the contrary, the BENEFITS of being friends first are that you get to know each other in a truly meaningful way before you commit to dating – with no strings attached. There are SO many things you can learn about a person during the time of friendship.
We were both interested in each other, but we never actually discussed dating until we had known each other for a while, namely, like I mentioned, 5 months. So how did we grow our friendship during that time without crossing over into dating?
Here’s what we did:
We took advantage of community.
Looking back, John and I spent around 75% of our time together in a group setting, with our friends and family. We had a lot of friends and family in common, so yes, that definitely made it a little easier – but even where we didn’t have friends in common, it gave us an opportunity to meet one another’s community.
That meant inviting him to my cousin’s huge “fantasy football” weekend, (even though for him that meant catching a flight – remember, we were long distance).
That meant me going up to Boston to stay with a girl friend of mine and all of us spending the week doing group activities (which, of course, included him).
That meant him visiting a friend in the area where I was living, and swinging by to grab dinner with my friends and I. All that to say, we spent a lot of time with a lot of people. And it really gave us a good glimpse into one another’s respective worlds. You can learn a lot about a person that way.
We didn’t get physical
When people think friends with benefits, the physical aspect is what usually comes to mind. But the greatest benefits actually come when you keep your physical interactions in check throughout the stage of friendship. If I’m totally honest, I remember a couple of times during our friendship stage, especially as my interest in him began to grow, where I genuinely wanted to grab his hand, or lean over and give him a big kiss. And now I know he felt the same way about me. So it’s not like the desires weren’t there, it’s just that we didn’t follow through on those desires. We each chose to control our desires and in doing so, we forged something deep – a genuine and authentic friendship. We didn’t want the temporary pleasure of physical connection to mess with us, because we still weren’t totally sure where our friendship was headed.
We were careful with conversation.
I have to give credit to John for this one. Most of the guys I interacted with in the past were extremely flirtatious with their words (ironically, their actions never followed suit). But our friendship stayed a genuine friendship partially because we kept our words in check and had emotional boundaries.
We didn’t talk about the future, we didn’t use flirtatious lingo, we didn’t have any kind of romantic conversations, and we didn’t “define the relationship” right away (there’s a time and place for that conversation, but don’t rush it). We kept our conversations just as we would with any other friend: we asked questions, we got to know each other, we told funny stories, and we used our words to learn about one another. Words are powerful, so in any relationship, you have to use them wisely.
So at the end of the day, it’s absolutely possible to show be friends with benefits the right way – even with someone you are interested in. It just takes being deliberate and practicing self-control. Which is a GREAT quality to have upon entering a dating relationship…and even into marriage. At least, that’s what happened for us!
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BOOKS BY DEBRA
Get busy learning what you need to know about healthy singleness, dating, and marriage. Check out Choosing Marriage: Why It Has To Start With We > Me or True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life.
DEBRA FILETA is a Licensed Professional Counselor, national speaker, relationship expert, and author of Choosing Marriage and True Love Dates. She’s also the host of the hotline style Love + Relationships Podcast. Her popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, reaches millions of people with the message of healthy relationships. Connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, or Twi