The boyfriend and I have been together well over a year and, not to sound mushy but, it has only gotten better. I adore him.
Let’s be clear though: we have noticeably left the honeymoon stage (hello intense frustration and why-can’t-you-just-read-my-mind). We are an intercultural, interracial, and long distance couple, so there’s plenty of differences going on to make it interesting! (more on that later…)
Two things have kept us together through the harder parts of the journey: Jesus and friendship.
A casual search of “date” and “best friend” brings up more articles than anyone has time to read, and there are largely two camps: those that say you should, and those that say you shouldn’t (I think the title shows where I stand).
The boyfriend and I talked constantly for nearly a year before we started dating. We joke that it was love at first sight (it totally wasn’t). Instead, it was a gradual interest that grew into appreciation and then affection. By the time he told me his feelings and intentions towards me, we were well into deep friendship. The butterflies and blushing were all there, but it came protected by a safe trust in the other person.
Here are some reasons I think close friendship should precede romance --
1. You Know What You're Getting Into
Once the boyfriend told me his feelings (and I told him mine), we took about two months to think, pray, and get counsel before making anything official. We shared fragile parts of ourselves with each other, especially our weaknesses, and were brutally honest even when it was uncomfortable. Sure, there were some awkward conversations, but we had already built trust. We figured the other person would find out anyways, so might as well tell them now.
We respected each other and were serious enough about the relationship that we didn’t want to go forward just because. We wanted to inform each other as much as possible so we could both make a wise decision.
Quality friendship doesn’t mean there will be no surprises (I didn’t know the boyfriend disliked pickles until yesterday—hah!), but it means there will be less unpleasant surprises, deeper roots to lean into, and you know how the person works. I recommend asking serious questions before committing your heart.
2. Friendship Outlives Attraction
When the boyfriend and I were still in our “friendship phase,” a friend could tell I was starting to like him. She asked me if I found him attractive. Not wanting to give it away (cause I sure did!), I said, “I mean…it does not cause me pain to look at him…"
He has always been handsome, but handsomeness can only do so much. An attractive person does not automatically include a listening ear, sound advice, kind answers, Christ-likeness, or really anything else except…attractiveness. You should be attracted to your significant other, but attraction does not fix everything.
Once, he and I weren’t able to talk for a month. No voice. No face. Minimal texting. If I was just going off of attraction, wouldn’t it make more sense to be with someone I could at least talk to, let alone see? Knowing him deeply as a person is more important than a temporary feeling or a face.
3. Less Fighting, More Peace
Building proper communication in a relationship takes time and hard work, whether romantic or otherwise. During our friendship, the boyfriend and I learned how to approach sensitive topics and talk through them. This (thankfully) carried over into our courtship.
I’m not saying we never fight (we totally do) or that we haven’t learned how to communicate better (we sure have), but we already learned how to talk to each other. Now that our hearts are more invested and the stakes are higher, our friendship provides the framework to trust the other’s intentions, fight fairly, and not shy away from difficult topics. Long-lasting tension is rare for us, and it has a lot to do with talking through frustrations. Even when we end up agreeing to disagree, our closeness is restored.
Not all close friendships can turn into romantic relationships. A couple that makes sense on paper may lack chemistry, attraction, or just not click in the way they should. Don't force it. But a romantic relationship that leads to marriage should be built on the foundation of close friendship, because it's a foundation that lasts.
What do you think? What have your experiences been with romance and friendship? What other items would you add to this list?