Friends First or Straight to the Date?

As you may know, I’m a long-time opponent of “friend-lationships.” You know, those relationships that linger between close friendship and dating, without any stated intentions. Those kinds of relationships just don’t tend to be good for anyone.

Yesterday, Scott Croft answered the question of a young man asking if he should pursue women by becoming friends with them first (and risk getting stuck in the “friends zone”) or if he should just skip the friendship and simply ask a girl out on a date. Here is part of Croft’s response:

“First, I must respectfully disagree with the person who advised you that you should only pursue friendship with a woman you’re interested in and try to have ‘the talk’ only after that friendship has organically led to ‘something more.’ Especially in the context of a healthy church, it is very common for men and women who have not been close friends before or have only known each other in the context of church ministries or other group activities to start dating and ultimately marry. In fact, as I’ve written on Boundless before, I think that scenario is preferable to the ‘close friendship’ route.”

For the most part, I think Croft’s advice is good. But speaking from the perspective of a woman who spent her 20s in groups of Christian singles, I don’t think the direct approach always works. There are, of course, times when it does. For example:

1) You are a worship leader;

2) You are above average in the looks department;

3) You are a worship leader and above average in the looks department.

Here’s the thing. If you ask a girl out without first establishing a rapport or friendship with her, she is judging you strictly on what she knows of you so far: looks, mannerisms, your interactions within the group. If you are visible (such as a group leader) or visibly pleasing (again with the good looks), she will likely say “yes” to a date without an established friendship. 

But for many men, and women for that matter, looks and popularity (for lack of a better word) may not be their greatest charms. Maybe you’re a good listener, are quietly generous, possess a keen intellect or offer insightful advice. These qualities are not immediately visible, but if you allow a person you’re interested in to catch a glimpse through some friend-like interactions before asking her on a date, you may stand a better chance of getting a “yes.” 

The guys who asked me on dates during my single years and received a yes, were guys who had built a “comfort level” with me by speaking with me on Sundays after church or getting to know me through a few group activities first. Don’t misunderstand. I’m not advocating languishing in a “buddy relationship,” to which Croft may have been referring  when he used the term “close friendship.” You don’t want to get stuck in the girl’s “comfort zone.” 

As I’ve mentioned before, my husband and I had quite a few meaningful conversations and interactions during a one-month period of time before he asked me out on an official date. When he did, I was thrilled to say yes! And the budding friendship we had been nurturing only enhanced, and added momentum to, our dating relationship. Would I have said yes earlier? Possibly. But going on a date “felt right,” and even exciting, to me because of the groundwork we had laid through friendship. (Not to stereotype anyone, but I think it’s helpful to remember that “feelings” play a large part in many decisions women make, including accepting or rejecting dates.)

So skipping the friendship and going straight to the date may be the way to go for some, but don’t expect it to work every time. Building a comfort level, while avoiding the comfort zone, may be a worthy investment of time and emotion.