I find it funny how the married people in my life, including my parents, question every friend of the opposite sex I have. Perhaps you’ve had similar questions posed to you: “What about xxx? He’s a really good guy, and he really loves God too.” Or, for our male readers, “What about her? She’s very pretty, and she’s smart too.” First, on behalf of all the single brothers and sisters, can I say, “THANK YOU”? Thank you for pointing out that our friends are smart, good, attractive people, and lovers of Christ.
There are many reasons I haven’t dated my friends. One is because they didn’t like me that way because they believed we were just friends. Another is that I didn’t like them like that. In an ideal world, it would be great to transition from a being ‘just a friend’ to ‘he is now my partner’. I mean, no one intends on marrying their enemy, right? And, while it seems an obvious point, there have been many times where I’ve wanted to bypass friendship and just jump straight from attraction to relationship, to ask that loaded question, “What are we?” So, I wanted to share something on the importance of building solid friendships before the relationship, to remind ourselves why building a friendship is crucial.
Attraction may shield true character, but intentional time spent exposes it
I will be the first to admit that it is harder to notice the uglier sides of the character of someone I’m attracted to. And the same happens in reverse; I’m very keen to put my best foot forward, to offer my best laugh and the most perfect responses. But truth be told, our richest friendships are the ones where we can be honest and be ourselves. Also, if we’re both masking our true feelings and opinions on key issues, like faith, finances and family, how well are we truly able to know each other? Ephesians 5:15-17 talks about us redeeming the time so we are wise and able to understand what the will of God is. I am not suggesting spending years building a friendship, but we must be intentional about discovering a person’s character and not just gaze at how amazing they are. Friendship built in the safety of proper boundaries allows character to be revealed.
Friendship tests the foundation
You don’t really know the strength of a thing until it is tested. Now, I am not advocating that you go around provoking the boundaries of your friendships. But sometimes, we only get to see the true core of a person when it has been shaken. While we know that marriage is the true unveiling process, we must be comfortable getting to know aspects of their imperfections, and vice versa. We should be so comfortable in our friendships that we don’t feel we always have to present our picture-perfect selves. When Jesus was teaching about prayer in Luke 11, He gave the example of the friend who was persistent in asking for bread regardless of the time. I think we need this level of comfortability and trust to make our needs known to the person we’d want to marry. We should be able to ask the uncomfortable questions and wait to hear the answers, even if doing so is super-uncomfortable. A good friend once said to me, “It makes little sense putting your best self out there when dating/building those friendships; you’d better put your REAL self out there,” and I couldn’t agree more. It isn’t easy, but honesty saves everybody time. Test those foundations.
Attraction fades, but personality is forever
It’s an old but simple truth: If sexual attraction is a motivating factor for any budding relationship, it will fade. Many married couples I know have testified to this, but I can also testify in my single state. There are men I was wildly attracted to whose personality became a turnoff over time. And there’ve been men who’ve become more attractive to me simply because of their character. I’m not underestimating the role attraction plays, because it is VERY important. But what I am saying is, if that is the only force driving you together, you’ll find it probably won’t keep you together. As Proverbs 31:30 tells us, charm is deceptive and, of a truth, (physically) beauty is indeed fleeting, for both men and women.
My hope and prayer is that our spouses will be our dearest and best friends. I pray that we will develop secure and trusted friendships with our partners, that indeed we will be lovers and friends. Not just two people who are compatible, or who have similar beliefs and happen to parent the same children, or who just happen to live in the same house. But two people who really like each other for who they really are. Not who we want them to be, or for who they feel they have to be. But for who they are, loving them as Christ modeled for us. So, who knows, perhaps that friend your parents or married friends keep going on about might very well be made to be more than just a friend. But even if they are not, my prayer is that our future spouses will be the best friends that were worth waiting for.