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How are friendship and "dating" related?

Friendship is a way of “loving your neighbor”. When we think of friendship, we recognize that these are not exclusive relationships. You can have many “true” or close friends with whom you need to be with, when going through tough times as well as to share happy moments in your life. Typically, one has a small number of what we would consider “true friends”.

Steadily dating someone has many aspects in common with friendship, but it is a different situation because there is a greater degree of exclusiveness.

Sometimes two persons start steadily dating when a certain degree of physical attraction is felt or when they have “fallen in love” (infatuation). Alternatively, they may already be friends but with time, physical attraction and even the sensation of “falling in love” develops, which results in both deciding to start dating steadily.

In the first case, their decision to start dating steadily is usually based on physical attraction alone. It would not be advisable to base a relationship soley on these initial sensations, without building a true friendship. These sensations can and often do disappear with time and as a consequence, the couple in this situation usually end up knowing each other only on a superficial way. But if they both work at cultivating a true friendship, this effort usually pays off in that beyond “falling in love” and physical attraction, an enriching relationship may bloom. This might lead to love in the future.

In the second case, the couple has an advantage: the previous and mutual friendship can facilitate things simply because they are initiating the new relationship from a solid foundation. A large part of the work involved in “steadily dating” will be to increase the already existing friendship, and to find out if, with time, a future love for each other will grow.

In both situations, it is possible to move from physical attraction to “falling in love” and then, as the relationship matures, it could develop into a love that will lead to a solid commitment: marriage.

It is good to think about what may help to increase the friendship when there is a desire among both persons to move forward in life and build a future together. This might include expressing different signs of affection and trust, making plans together, and learning what types of activities are conducive to the friendship... However, it is just as important to think about what aspects could hinder this future together. Sexual relations, for example, are so important that neither friendship nor “steadily dating” are strong enough reasons for having them. With time (on many occasions, and in unexpected ways), sexual activity may negatively affect important aspects of the friendship or cause confusion in the couple regarding what they really desire or even the decision about whether or not they should continue dating.