Is It a Bad Idea to Date a Friend?

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Dear Mary Beth,
I read your article about Pam and Jim on
The Office, and how it was good that they took risks in admitting their feelings when they were “just friends.” But it all worked out okay for them in the end — they got married. What if it doesn’t? What if you start dating a friend and then it doesn’t work out and you’ve lost the boyfriend AND the friend, and the friend’s family and everything? Is it really worth the risk of ruining the friendship and being left with nothing?
Safe in the Friend Zone

Dear Safe,
Safety is nice, isn’t it? All nestled up in your little cocoon. Not rocking any boats. Just you and your friend. Friends forever.
Or … until he starts dating Karen. And then he marries Karen. And there you are, still in your cocoon. Only now you’re all alone.

Risk in dating is a funny thing. I see people taking all kinds of stupid risks. They will date people with substance abuse problems. They will date people they think they can change. They date people who are already married to other people.

But then, somebody comes along who might be an amazingly compatible partner, and everybody suddenly gets a huge case of the “what-if’s.” What if we break up? What if it’s a bad break up? What if it’s a bad break up and his sister doesn’t come to my parties any more? What if it’s a bad break up and his sister and her friends don’t come to my parties any more?

Oh, please.

Look, the whole purpose of dating is to spend time with someone, to figure out if this is someone you may want to spend the rest of your life with. Baked into that system is the possibility that one of you discovers that you don’t want to spend the rest of your life together. And then you break up. It happens every day.

It’s true that if you start dating someone who was a friend, and then you break up, you probably won’t be friends in the same way afterward. But . . . if one of you starts dating someone else, you probably won’t be friends in the same way afterward either. And if one of you gets married, you definitely won’t be friends in the same way any more. Basically, I can pretty much guarantee that in 10 years, whatever friendship you may have left will look nothing like it does now. That’s the nature of opposite-sex friendships in the single years.

So what are you really risking?

The beauty of living chastity, of course, is that you greatly reduce the odds of a nasty break-up, and of post-breakup awkwardness. Most of my long-term romantic relationships were with men who started out as friends. And, for the most part, I am on just as friendly terms with them — and their families — today as we would have been if we had never dated. Their sisters are still my friends and they still come to my parties.

But the bigger question is this: what risk is more worth taking? Is it important to you to marry someone you are attracted to and someone who shares your values? Do you think that people like that grow on trees? Is it smart to overlook someone like that when God places him or her in your life?

My general feeling is that, if you meet someone who shares your values — someone who loves Jesus and the Catholic faith as much as you do, who is free to marry in the Church, whose personality you enjoy, with whom you feel compatible and to whom you are attracted, you have been given a great gift. One that should be taken seriously.

Of course there will be risks. There will be obstacles. What if we risk losing our friendship? What if we live far apart? What if we break up and then still have to work together? What if our friends stop inviting me to their parties? What if we break up and then she gets engaged to the guy in the warehouse downstairs …

Or, what if this person was a huge gift from God that you let slip through your fingers because you were busy obsessing over peripheral issues that He would have worked out if you had just been open?

Some risks are not worth taking: Risking wasting vast amounts of time in a relationship with the wrong person. Risking trying to change someone. Risking getting involved with someone who isn’t free to marry you.

But when you find that someone who your head and your heart are both excited about? That just may be the time to start taking some risks.



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29 Comments

  1. Patrick-341178 November 2, 2015 Reply

    The better question is why so many men and women are just friends these days anyways? Opposite sex acquaintances are fine and necessary, but just to hang out with someone of the opposite sex regularly, especially in a one and one situation, what really is the point? You are not doing yourself or that other person any favors.

    The beauty of this site, (at least in theory), is for dating. You meet someone here, in all likelihood someone you don’t know previously, for one reason, to date. Then, in most cases, it won’t eventually work out (unless you end up getting married someday) and both persons move on with their lives with no or limited contact anymore – the way it should be.

    In my case, I haven’t had much success on this site, but I can’t think back of one situation, where I thought gee, well we could have been such good friends and continued going shopping together. If it a situation where your paths might cross again, fine, be civil, but it is much better when it is a complete break.

    Now, this article centers on someone you may already be friends with. I suppose my take is a little different. If it is an opposite sex friend that you decide you want to date, i agree, go for it – even if it might mean losing that shopping buddy. But, if that is a person you think you can just go back to being friends with when in all likelihood it won’t work out, you are mistaken. Be prepared to move on completely. If that is not possible, be prepared for a very unpleasant situation.

    I was once set up in college with my cousin’s wife sister. It didn’t work out. To put it nicely, it has not been fun for me ever since. If it is someone that you will never be able to distance yourself from completely, stay friends!

  2. Patrick-341178 November 1, 2015 Reply

    yes

  3. Marilen-1254160 October 30, 2015 Reply

    I always include my friends in my prayers when needed.

  4. Marilen-1254160 October 30, 2015 Reply

    I really enjoyed reading all of it. God Bless everyone. Good day

  5. Dung-1259726 October 29, 2015 Reply

    In God we Just:)
    Happy day:)

  6. Eddie-1126282 October 28, 2015 Reply

    I am a firm believer about friendship. I have learned through the Bible teachings as guided by the HOLY SPIRIT, Jesus called His Disciples friends. And He said to them I call you friends if you believe in Me and follow after Me. I am 78 years old, married, twice, and lost both to cancer disease. We were friends first, even with my second wife, meeting in Church we became good friends, and continued to be better friends to the end when death took place. I have another friend, she is Catholic, a believer like me. She is distant from me, but we text each other constantly, we share our hearts, our faith in God knowing we are put together by the Grace of God. We pray together, and I was asked, why do I remain still on line, when you have met me. My answer, was, and is, because I wan lonely and prayed and asked God to do as He had done before, put a woman who is right for me, in my path. God did exactly that. Hel led me by His Spirit with a desire to join Mate 1 dating site, and then He said This: after I prayed concerning Mate 1 Site. He said this, upon joining the site, you will be asked to to give an account of your self. A profile. Give them what you have learned of me, and who ever answers you, saying : I have read your profile, I would like to know more about you; write back to them concerning Who I am, using your own experience through Me. What you have learned about Me, through The Holy Spirit. What an experience I an experience of blessings I am having. Every day when I check my I Phone, the amounts are too much for me to answer. Most of them are young in their thirties, never been married. And most of them have the same common answers. I have read your profile, and something about your profile grabbed me and I couldn’t turn away, and I would like very much if you don’t mind, text each other to know each other better. My profile is about love and friendship. I strongly believe, a woman was created by God to be special. She is to be loved, respected and cherished. (Genesis Ch. 3.) I COULD HAVE MARRIED, SEVERL times if I had said yes. But I had to be honest, and tell them I have a girl friend, or you are way too young for me, but age does not matter at this point, at least to most of them. But I do tell them this. I am your friend, I will pray for you, and Ask God to put a man in your path, who will love you and cherish you. Some of them had been married, but badly treated, ended in divorce. My girl friend, was abused by a previous boy friend, did quite a bit of damage to her and her family. Now I am going to ask you to do something very special for and my girl friend, pray for us, I am sure you do already, but we all need to pray for one another, and pray for our country. Our leaders, who are supposed to be Godly, allow God and prayers, to be taken away from place badly needed. I am Eddie, your friend, I love You, God Bless you . Eddie 1126282

  7. Ann-69118 October 28, 2015 Reply

    Usually someone is just a friend for a reason. Depending on what that reason is either they don’t share your values or maybe they aren’t mature enought or chemistry is just off somewhere. I would be cautious about it.

    • Susie Lloyd October 28, 2015 Reply

      I’ve known many a happy marriage where the parties were friends first. Some were dating other people. Others didn’t see each other much due to distance. Others just needed time and the right circumstance to see each other in a different light. A person might strike them as boring – no chemistry – but then they go deeper into the friendship and the person’s goodness really grabs them.

  8. Javed-1255870 October 28, 2015 Reply

    Thank you Lord Jesus your Holy blood save my life.

  9. Javed-1255870 October 28, 2015 Reply

    Thank you Lord Jesus you shed your Holy Blood for my sin

  10. Anne-911324 October 27, 2015 Reply

    This: “..if you meet someone who shares your values — someone who loves Jesus and the Catholic faith as much as you do, who is free to marry in the Church, whose personality you enjoy, with whom you feel compatible and to whom you are attracted, you have been given a great gift.” Amen.

  11. Jim-1008684 October 27, 2015 Reply

    So, if your friend that you have been going-out with “as friends” for a few years, knows you, and you and your family and vice-versa, and part of their wood-work, asks you to take-it-to-the next level by being exclusive, would you take the chance?

    • Joan-529855 October 27, 2015 Reply

      Hopefully is it you, the male, who is taking the initiative to ask for exclusivity. As a female I don’t believe I would ever request exclusivity. I believe chivalry still exists.

    • Susie Lloyd October 28, 2015 Reply

      If I thought I could see myself married to the person, of course I would take the chance. But I think there’s actually less chance involved when you know and like the person already.

  12. Susie Lloyd October 27, 2015 Reply

    Great article! A friendship is a good basis for a lasting marriage. I think if someone says that they don’t want to ruin their friendship by dating, they may be trying to spare the other person’s feelings. It’s a nice way of saying that they’re not romantically interested.

  13. Catherine Frank October 27, 2015 Reply

    Great article as usual, Mary Beth! (And not just because it’s Jim & Pam…) I have many Catholic male friends and I have been able to go out with a couple of them, and we’re still friendly. I think it’s probably worse to not go out and wonder about it. Is it awkward later? Well, yeah. I like to think of it as a learning experience.

  14. John-1027301 October 27, 2015 Reply

    From what I see, single women in church today idolize marriage and family and can’t even be friends with single guys. “Show me the ring or get out of my face” has been accepted as Christian behavior. Yes, our society has reached a point where even the idea of friends forever is scoffed at, as evidenced by your article. Godly standards have been lowered to the point where they’re not only not expected, but not accepted – even in churches.

    • Philip-607713 October 27, 2015 Reply

      Well said John. I have 0 friends that are female and Catholic or Christian. The few I do have are all secular and just much more friendly in general. Beyond that though, I think we’re all too well conditioned to look for the most desirable traits and characteristics in one another so we even put friendships through the same filter. The result is a very arrogant class of Catholic and it’s pretty pathetic.

    • Joan-529855 October 27, 2015 Reply

      My experience has been the opposite. I find men to be demanding of time and attention with expectations of intimacy before marriage, aka “show me the ring or get out of my face”. Too many men expect “friends with benefits”, even in the Church. If you want to call that a “very arrogant class of Catholic”, well I would rather be an arrogant Catholic than on my way to eternal damnation. It is unfortunate that you have 0 female Christian/Catholic friends, however if it is because they desire purity and your secular female friends do not, that might be your answer right there.

      • Ryan-1191814 October 28, 2015 Reply

        This. I 100% agree.

      • Philip-607713 October 30, 2015 Reply

        Joan, not at all. I was actually raised correctly, I do not expect intimacy before marriage and I would hope to find someone that feels the same way, hence why I’m on CM. I also don’t believe most church-going Catholic males are that way either, but I can only speak for myself. I think with most Catholics friendship is a status game of: “Who can I be friends with that will benefit me in some way?” so we get picky and snobby. That’s what I meant.

        • Ryan-1191814 October 30, 2015 Reply

          From my experience, I skip those who are okay with contraceptives or premarital sex. It’s tragic. Does anyone realize that these are mortal sins?? And Philip, I am glad you are not that way, sad that most of the men and women are this way, especially on CM. 🙁

  15. Brigit-760677 October 27, 2015 Reply

    I agree with Cassandra. I think there is a fine line you have to draw. It can be tricky. I think it may be bad or, good. Important to know the person very well.

  16. Cassandra-1004105 October 27, 2015 Reply

    I think one should be careful spending extensive amount of time with people, in situations that can be construed by others as dating. If you have friends of the opposite gender the bound have to be kept. It will be difficult to return to being friends

  17. Peter-1163874 October 27, 2015 Reply

    Have been contemplating the exact same thing for a couple weeks…I think this article just reassured me.

  18. Ryan-1191814 October 27, 2015 Reply

    Concerning risks in dating:

    Faith makes things possible, not easy. 🙂

  19. Susan-1048377 October 27, 2015 Reply

    Great advice!

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