You hear it time and again, "I just want to fall in love with my best friend." But the second we start talking to a potential date, we do anything but treat them like a new friend. I have long been puzzled by this, yet it seems universally true. When we meet a potential new friend at a dinner party, a meet-up or wherever you tend to meet new friends, we go about building that relationship completely opposite of the one we begin to build with someone we potentially could be with for the rest of our life. I don't have any answers about why this is (feel free to share your thoughts in the comments) but I can encourage you to bring a few practices of friendship into your dating to create a kinder and more authentic experience...and just maybe you'll build a friendship that turns into the romance with a best friend you've been longing to love.
1-Forget the Relationship Destination
We never meet a new gal and instantly try to make her into our life-long BFF! No, we get to know friends in a more natural way with zero attachment to what sort of friendship it will end up being. How about approaching a first date in the same way? Let's just get to know the person without worrying so much on what category to file them in...what a difference that would make for both of you!
2-Stop Playing Games
I would never advise game-playing to begin with, but why, oh why, do we even have the urge to do it with our love interests? If your new friend texted you good morning, you wouldn't ponder how long you should wait to reply. If your new friend invited you to dinner or a movie and you wanted to go, you wouldn't sit and ponder if it's better to look less available or too soon to see them again. And if your new friend threw you a compliment or said they really liked you, you wouldn't spend hours analyzing "what it really means" or feel odd about it at all. So just stop doing that within dating! If you want to respond, then respond...if you want to go, then go...if you like them, then it's okay to let them know.
3-Try a Little Tenderness
Whatever happened to treating people like they're, um...people? Or empathy...where did that go in dating? One of my beefs with the process of online dating is that we start looking at people like products instead of living, breathing souls with feelings and hearts. We've accepted drive-by inspection dates (the quickie drinks/coffee date) over really getting to know someone for two whole hours, because you know, we are all such a good judge of character that we can know everything we need to know in 45 minutes. And what about flaws? I have them, you have them...accept yours and then find a set of flaws you can live with in another person. Life is complex and the older I get the more I realize the hard and fast rules that used to make life feel manageable in my youth, don't work so much anymore. This is where a little empathy, like we share abundantly in friendship, will go a long way in making a lasting connection with someone.
4-Don't Expect One Person to Be Our Everything
Most of us have a few really close friends and then loads of other friends that are parts of different aspects of our life. No, I am not saying you should have countless lovers or partners, but instead, acknowledge that it's completely unfair to expect one person to meet all your needs within a relationship. We never think one friend will "get us" in every single way and never need to rely on anyone else for anything. I know in my circle of closest friends I have ones I know I can go to for deep questioning, one I can go to for compassion and one I can go to for a big laugh. To expect your partner to be able to do all of it at 100% all the time only sets you up for disappointment...and all because of your own expectations.
5-Don't Drag Our Last Bad Experience Into Our New One
When we have a bad first date or end a relationship, we tend to get a little chip on our shoulder. We tend to start making general sweeping statements about the opposite sex like "All men/women are liars" and then wonder why our next date isn't going as well. Are you guilty of making the next person pay the check for what the last one did? I see this with clients all the time. They start locking down their hearts and refusing to trust anyone which only keeps all love away. What about when a friend hurts you? In general, we understand boundaries better within friendships, and we also have the understanding that we can easily go make some new friends if we need to...and we do it without making them pay the cost of our last wobbly friendship. We can go open-mindedly and whole-heartedly into our next relationships and expect the best.
One of the best benefits of trying to bring these principals into dating is you will have more authentic experiences...both in being yourself and giving space so other person can do the same. I remember when I first met my boyfriend, he said "I am just looking to start a life-long conversation." To both of us, we are committed to remain friends regardless of what happens romantically and that is one of the best things I've ever heard. If you start approaching dating this way, you may or may not find life-long love, but there's a good chance you will at least find a friend...and that's a win-win for everyone!