Friends First or Straight to the Date?

Friends First or Straight to the Date?

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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.

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  • --"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."

    Yes!  Exactly.  For me to say "yes" to someone that I have just met or don't know very well (or even someone that I don't know at ALL, as in a blind date!), I have to at least know something ABOUT him, which may be based on looks (I'm ashamed to admit), apparent personality, leadership skills, observable interactions with others, or recommendations from other people.  If he asks me out without already having some sort of acquaintanceship with me, I also have to assume that he is basing his interest off of similar things.  That could be good or bad, but it's how it works.  And there have been plenty of times when I would have accepted invitations from guys who I didn't have any sort of real friendship with, but who I knew something about...if only they'd asked!      

  • --Depends how you met. In an organic setting (church, friendship group etc) you should take a bit of time to get to know the girl before asking her out - not ages, but enough time to establish a rapport and discover a bit of common ground. If you met via a dating site or a singles event or something like that, you don't have the opportunity to do that and it's almost impossible to not go straight to dating. My advice in that case is to take it extremely slow, because you do not know each other. You are getting to know each other whilst dating. This is not necessarily ideal. And once you start to confuse the getting to know you stage by adding the relationshippy stuff, that is not necessarily helpful. Slow slow slow slow slow. And that's all I have to say about that.

  • --This is a fantastic article.  I could not agree more.  

    (That said, I'm someone who said 'yes' to blind dates, and met some very nice guys this way.  It was all part of improving my dating skills.  But if someone who had only lurked in the back of the church and never said a word to me suddenly asked me out, that is actually worse than a completely blind date!)

    A personal story from my life about a guy who 'missed his window'.  I thought he was kinda cute, and we started chatting and had things in common.  If he'd asked me out on a date in the early days, I would have said yes.  But as time went by, and our friendship became more solid, he slid firmly into the brother-zone.

  • --@MissC1, you said, "For me to say "yes" to someone that I have just met or don't know very well (or even someone that I don't know at ALL, as in a blind date!), I have to at least know something ABOUT him, which may be based on looks (I'm ashamed to admit), apparent personality, leadership skills, observable interactions with others, or recommendations from other people.  If he asks me out without already having some sort of acquaintanceship with me, I also have to assume that he is basing his interest off of similar things."

    I definitely agree with you for the most part! The only part I disagree with is that last sentence. Though plenty of guys may base their decision to ask somebody out on a date (without ever having made acquaintances with them) on their looks, I have known a few guys who did this but based their decision on what they had already seen from observing the girl from a distance (i.e., observing the way she carries herself, interacts with others, attends church, etc.). I would definitely wonder why a guy would ask me on a date after just skipping the whole friendship/getting-to-know-you phase of the relationship; but I definitely think in some cases it can work out :-)

  • --Anna-Raven, I think we actually agree on that last sentence that you said you disagree with!  What I meant by "If he asks me out without already having some sort of acquaintanceship with me, I also have to assume that he is basing his interest off of similar things," was basically what you said: that he'd observed something about me that he liked enough to take the risk of asking me out.  Maybe it partly had to do with looks (though I'm not one of those girls who turns heads with her appearance), but it probably also had to do with all those other things.  Personality, interactions with other, demeanor, spiritual walk, etc.  

    And yes, I definitely think it could work out in some cases.  I've actually agreed to an upcoming blind date/meeting based on recommendations from a mutual friend who asked if she could set us up.  Even though I've never met this guy, it seems that he meets all the initial criteria for a "good match" based on what I have been told and on the communication we've had while trying to find a time and safe setting for our meeting.  Who knows what'll happen, but the least I can do is give it a chance.  

  • --Galinda, the "Good Witch's" words from Wicked The Musical come to mind when I read your list of three items, Suzanne.  :) Along with those three things, a quick decision may not be based on the asking person's character, as Galinda sang, "...Did they have brains or knowledge?  Don't make me laugh.  They were popular!  It's all about po-pu-u-lar..."  

    Now, please, don't berate my post.  The song just came to mind.  I'm not suggesting worship leaders, and those with "above average looks" are without brains or knowledge.  :)

  • --@MissC1, just hearing that strikes anxiety in my heart! Lol, but I think it's great that you're willing to give this guy a chance based on your friend's recommendation :-) My friends/parents have tried to set me up but nothing has ever come of it. I'd love to know how your date turns out though!

  • --Trust need to be built regardless of how you start. You'll likely have more hurdles if you start out dating as opposed to friends, but either way is totally possible.

  • --If you ask me, I think that they should at least get to know each other outside of romantic context first. Then they would know each other's everyday personalities, which is what they will be seeing for the rest of their lives if they get married. Also, don't expect it to start with the traditional date. This is not how all couples become "official." Just as God designed marriage, He can surely make various ways to cause a woman and a man to fall in love. It still bothers me to see Boundless pushing the guy-offers-gal-good-time approach as the only possible way to start a romantic relationship. For example, I know my fair share of couples who came together through rather through uninteresting events, in the midst of a disaster, or even by accident.

    By the way, I think the term "church band member" is far more appropriate than "worship leader."

  • --@Anna-Raven, this isn't the first time I've agreed to a blind date, though nothing has come of them so far.  This time, I'm trying to keep in mind that it's not so much a "date" as it is a way to meet each other and spend some time together.  We are trying to work it out so that we can get together with mutual friends so that there is less pressure and a better chance of just spending friendly time together doing a fun activity without feeling like we need to figure out "us" right off.  I think I definitely prefer that to one-on-one blind dates!  

  • --Among other things, the biggest problem I see with friends first dating is that it's dishonest. Guys often (but not always) know very quickly when someone is at least romantically interesting to them, and pretending for six months or a year that you're just interested in her as a friend is deceptive. It also creates an imbalance of affection, as he's spend that six months or year falling into obsession/one-sided love with her, while she has no clue. Finally, it's about as confusing as it gets for women because they never know when guy friends just want to be friends and when they're being friends with future romantic interest.

    Rapport is important, but putting a timeframe on it is all but impossible. Earlier this summer I met a nice young lady on a group camping trip who I probably could have asked out less than 24 hours after meeting her due to the circumstances. Other times it takes way longer. The last girl I dated I had known for two years before circumstances worked out. You just never can tell.

    One thing that I think Christians miss out on is casual dating, not in the sense of just dating for kicks and giggles but in the sense of not having to think marriage right from date number one. I'm a big proponent of dating with the intention of marriage, but you don't have to only accept date invitations from people already on your list of people you consider to be marriage material. Coffee with a guy from your church is just coffee. Well, unless he's trying friends first dating, in which case he'll spend the entire time trying to convince you to like him RIGHT NOW. If people are honest and up front with each other, you can grab coffee, go to the park, see a concert, etc. a couple times, realize it's not headed anywhere, and not make things awkward for everyone in their Bible study.

    @DreamerGuy, things happen that are exceptions, but I get the feeling that you're more interested in not having to do the up front work of asking a girl out because it's safer and far more comfortable to never have to put yourself out there. The truth is, life's hard. Get a helmet. Getting rejected by women is far from the hardest thing anyone is going to face.

  • --Haha, my boyfriend asked me out when I didn't really know him at all. We had attended the same campus ministry Bible study for about 2 months. He wasn't the one I spent the most time talking to. All I knew about him was that he was a Christian, and that in the group he was kind of the butt of all the jokes. :P I told him no. But even after that he continued to invite me to the ministry events and look out for me (I was an exchange student). I thought, "I disappointed this guy but he is still caring for me as a brother in Christ. And not in a creepy way. He might be kinda cool after all" so then 3 weeks after the initial rejection I asked him if it wasn't too late for a do-over. It wasn't^^  We got to know each other once we started dating. And it worked out^^

  • --Thanks Suzanne! Yes establishing a comfort level with the girl you are interested in is a good investment in for you guys.

  • --GandB, I agree that the "friends first" method can be deceptive.  But, I don't think it has to be.  I think it depends on the situation though as far as how long people should wait before discussing dating.  

    However, I find myself in an opposite ordered situation with a man at my church who asked me out and I clearly declined him twice (in a short period of time).  So his next tactic has been to say he, "just wants to be friends" with me.  He is not being honest.  He doesn't, "just want to be friends".  If I were to befriend him at a higher level than a mere acquaintance I see only on Sundays, he would think he has a chance of dating me, and that there is a glimmer of hope (and there isn't) I might be interested in him.  Polite, friendly, brief conversations are all that can be.  

  • I think the “friends first” method is a good thing as long as people are honest!  No, it’s not a good idea to walk up to a person and say, “I’m madly in love with you.  Will you please date me?”  But, a person could say something like, “I’m interested in you, and I want to first get to know you better as a friend with the potential of dating. “  Unfortunately many people are not honest at all when claiming to use that “friends first” method.  Sometimes, this is done in an effort to appear more, “godly”.

    I know many families who claimed their children wouldn’t/didn’t have romantic interests nor were even friends (because those of the opposite gender “should not” be friends) with their future spouses until after committing to courting with an outcome of marriage.  (Courting/dating with purpose I believe is a wise idea.  However many people I know gave a pretense of committing to marry, before really knowing the other person.)  As a teen I heard many, "testimonies" from young women.   It would sound something like this, “I gave my dad the key to my heart; and I slept in the Lord with no romantic interest in any single men, nor did I allow for any personal attraction/crushes for any single men".  Then, while she was sleeping (no pun intended, and I’m sure those young women weren’t allowed to watch the movie starring Sandra Bullock), her future spouse  first got permission from her dad, then asked her permission, and she awakened to knowing he was the one she was to marry.  For many of those families, who I knew well, that was not true.  Their adult children had been involved in the same activities, and/or their families spent plenty of time together so that they could know whether they were interested in each other.  And, often, both or one of the parties had already been showing signs of interest in the other.  It was just a matter of timing.

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