[Author’s note: Per reader request, I’ve merged parts 1 and 2 of this article into a single unified piece, available here.]
Part 2 of 2.
In my previous post, I introduced the concept of a friendship-first approach to dating that fosters strong social networks and radically increases your chances of finding a lasting romantic partnership.
Now it’s time to implement this friendship-first approach. In order to do so, we’ll have to first get past the most obvious stumbling blocks…
Potential Stumbling Blocks of the Friendship-First Approach to Dating
1. Behavioral Tropes
Creating genuine friendships is not easy, and it oftentimes needs to start from a position of selfless interest in another. It’s critical to be aware of how painfully obvious it can be when we fail at this. Consciously or not, people constantly exhibit the tropes of “commitment-seeking behavior.” These include pressure to formally define “what we are,” requests for increased intimacy, hints of jealousy/control, and many more. Your prospective partners will pick up on these very quickly.
There’s a world of difference between being able to calmly and confidently talk about the things you’re looking for, versus presenting yourself as a walking basket of unmet needs who’s desperately looking to others for validation. Avoid putting this pressure on the people you’re dating. Instead, invite them to candidly share their life priorities, their preferred relationship styles, and their past experiences so that you can gain a fuller sense of whether their goals actually align with yours in the first place. If your prospective partner feels like you’re trying to impose your own idea of a relationship upon them, they’ll likely feel totally alienated and disrespected.
2. Sexual Norms
For better or worse, on most dating sites, the implicit behavior patterns tend to skew flirty/romantic/sexual in nature. After all, many people go on the very same dating sites in search of everything from easy, no-strings-attached sex to intense lifelong romance. But if you want your dates to emphasize and foster friendship, you’ll need to adjust your behavior a bit. First, you will need to be very upfront about your intentions. Make it clear (ideally in your dating profile) that you want to go explore or experience something fun, and that your endgame is not necessarily romance, marriage, etc., but rather lasting friendships and fun people you can invite to future events and game nights.
Next, and importantly, strive to be generative! Focus on creating memorable experiences, asking insightful questions, and planning fun events. Make sure that all of these are the same types of things you’d want to do with platonic friends. This will direct attention away from romantic/sexual bonding and more toward long term camaraderie. If your date suggestion consists of going to a bar at 11pm on a Friday night, you’ll likely encounter many sexual scripts and connotations. On the other hand, if you plan a Saturday morning date where you explore a new park and a street fair, you can ensure that the person sees you as a fun, exciting, and interesting person to be around, rather than just as someone they can sleep with on a random night of the week. Doing side-by-side walk and talks on a date gives you ample opportunity to inquire more about their past relationships, their ideal relationships, their future trajectories, etc. After all, friends talk about these sorts of things all the time.
4. Honesty & Full Disclosure
Notably, being honest and upfront doesn’t preclude the possibility of being physically affectionate and even sexually intimate, if that’s what you both want. What’s essential, though, is that you maintain honest intentionality and full disclosure so that your date is on the exact same page that you are every step of the way. You’re building memories together that will constitute the foundation of a potentially lifelong friendship. Throughout these experiences, you can get to know more and more about your date’s life perspective, their personal and professional goals, and their intended future trajectory. Doing this will let you develop friendship, trust, and a mutual commitment toward helping one another live the best, most fulfilled lives possible. If it turns out that you’re both also compatible physically and romantically, more power to you.
Three Ways to Implement The Friendship-First Approach Today
1. Optimize your online dating profiles for friendship.
On all of your online dating profiles, go add the line, “In your first message to me, mention a [park/cafe/neighborhood/activity] you’ve been meaning to [try out / explore].” This will cut through all the “Hi/Hey/You’re cute” bullshit and ensure that your first point of interaction with every new person is tied to useful, novel, actionable content that will ultimately set not just the placeof your first date, but also the tone of your prospective friendship.
Remember that if you’re going to ask these kinds of questions, you should definitely be able to give your own answers! Seeking and discovering all the awesome and beautiful spots around your city, and being excited to explore new ones, is a fantastic way to create and maintain friendships.
2. Learn to communicate your story and your trajectory.
It’s essential that you learn enough about yourself and your story to be able to convey your life and motivations to another person. After all, how can you expect someone to opt into a friendship or relationship with you if you have no clue what that entails and cannot communicate to them what they’re about to get themselves into? How can they recommend you to a friend if they don’t know how to properly describe you? Be sure to inquire about your future partners’ stories as well. Friendship is a two-way street, so it’s always wise to learn about your partners’ relationship goals, intentions, and motivations in order to approach your friendship or relationship on common ground. For a fantastic list of questions you can use to spark authenticity and disclosure, check this out.
3. Use Excel to map out and truly understand what your relationships (and friendships) should look like.
Excel relationships just work better. You get to analyze compatibility factors, identify red flags, and plan ideal ways of responding to conflict. Even the mere act having open, honest, and highly-nuanced relationship conversations with your prospective partner(s) already puts you leaps and bounds beyond most traditional approaches to dating. Here’s a link to a quick post I created that map out your own relationship needs.
That’s it! Now go forth and create the most amazing friendships and relationships of your life!