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Dating and friendship: Complications with dating a friend

Updated on September 13, 2011

Some things may seem to be good ideas initially, but when it results in a fantastic failure, you wonder what you were thinking in the first place. Dating a friend is sometimes like that. The issue is that your potential partner should be a friend also, but it does not mean that friendship is necessarily a step towards bigger things.

Indeed, dating friends may work out on occasion, but like anything else, it’s a risk. However, it’s a significant risk. Taking the chance to date a friend is like investing in the stock market. There’s high risk, potentially high rewards and you really need to know what you’re doing if any good is to come out of it. The high risk of this ploy arises from several factors.

The risk of loss

When you’re gambling, there’s a great degree of uncertainty about the risk/reward ratio. Some may argue that dating is a gamble and you need to take chances in order to win. However, when you have little to lose and much to gain, the gamble sure is a lot easier. With dating friends, there’s a chance that you would lose both a date and a friend.

Expectations are higher and emotions run deeper in dating scenarios than friendship. While friendships will have their waves and troughs, romantic involvement is a roller coaster compared to friendship’s buggy ride. With much at stake, transitioning between friendships and dating can be difficult. This is especially so if the dating scheme does not work out. When physical intimacy is involved early on in the dating period, it is even more problematic.

When sparks don’t fly

The pillars of romantic love and friendship may intersect, but there are substantial differences as well. For dating to be considered, there should be mutual attraction. Dating borne out of sympathy or desperation is a horrid idea. In addition, the attraction should be mutual. In that case, friendship is a guise for a protracted ‘discovery’ period – a stage in the courtship process. In any other case, things would fall apart because the transition to romantic love would be severely handicapped.

Philia and Eros are fundamentally different

If utilizing a particular classification of love, friendship maps to Philia and Dating to Eros. While there could be some degree of overlap between the two, the rules of dating and friendship are different. Friends and dates have different roles. Unfortunately, mixing the two can be like wearing a baseball cap with a business suit. A friend's primary (not only) role is that of social support. On the other hand, a date is a potential love interest. Friendship is typically more enduring, since dating is a discovery process that can be abandoned at any point.

Abandoning the dating process with a friend is much more problematic. Human emotion is such that the feeling of rejection and abandonment may affect the friendship – unless both parties are mature about the circumstances and exercised forethought with regard to the consequences. The crux of the issue is that putting a more enduring relationship on the line for a speculative date.

Trust issues

I knew a guy who was friends with his girlfriend prior to dating. During the period of friendship, they both disclosed a lot of things to each other. For example, he disclosed his compulsive flirting and sexual history. When they got together, it turned out to be “too much information” as his girlfriend had misgivings about his behaviour later on.

Friends disclose more to each other than persons in the initial stages of dating would. A high level of disclosure in the friendship phase creates an awkward situation in the dating situation. Indeed, the date/relationship would have a lot of self-monitoring and some undercurrents if there were some unsavoury details disclosed before.

In the social realm, few rules are set in stone – and for good reason. After all, you can be sure that there are several instances when friends dated and developed a successful romantic relationship afterwards. A great deal of maturity, understanding, trust and forethought is required before leaping from friendship to dating. Once that is absent, friendship and dating may just be a bad idea after all.


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  • SpiffyD profile image

    SpiffyD 5 years ago from The Caribbean

    Thanks for the read and the follow Mellonyy. I look forward to reading your hubs as well.

  • Mellonyy profile image

    Mellonyy 5 years ago

    ..."Abandoning the dating process with a friend is much more problematic..."- completely agree with you, I've had a such an experience and it was very hard to overcome it. Voted up and follow you now!

  • Credence2 profile image

    Credence2 6 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

    Great info, Spiffy, I just wish that I would have been able to take advantage of it prior to my marriage circumstance.