“Friends first” is one of those things that sounds awesome but feels weird to think about. I’ve probably heard it over a hundred times when talking about dating and marriage but each time I hear it, the only thing I can think about is “so ummm…does that mean I’m supposed to marry one of guy friends?” Another thought is, “should I take my guy friends out of the friend zone?” I mean, how exactly do friends make the transition to become lovers?
The topic of being friends before dating/marriage came up again a few nights ago and when I woke up the next day, I had finally had clarity about it so here’s my take on what it means to be friends first.
To me, being friends first, means that I treat the guy that I’m dating like a friend, and not like a boyfriend. However, I know that sounds weird so let me explain.
Usually, when guys and girls date there’s a tendency to only present the good and pleasant sides of their self. If you’re a girl this means, you’re always in a good mood around your guy. You’re always dressed in something cute. Your hair is always on point and never dirty or messy. Your breath always smells like mints and morning glory. You never have a bad day. You never get upset in traffic. You’re always patient. You’re always kind, and you never have to belch or pass gas. Pretty much, you walk on the clouds of heaven every single minute of the day and exchange hi-fives with Jesus throughout the day. Because duh you’re so perfect…you woke up like this! #flawless
The same goes for guys. You always smell and look like an Abercrombie model. Your apartment is always neat and clean when your girl comes to visit. Your car is always spotless and immaculately clean on the inside. You never have food particles or tartar in between your teeth. You never argue or “debate” with your girl or other people. You never yell or throw things at the television when watching sports. You never accidentally speak in four-letter tongues (curse). You never ditch your girl for your guy friends or a football game. You never want “me-time” to chill & relax away from your girl. You’re never late, and yeah, you’re basically a super-dreamy guy 24 hours a day/ 365 days a year.
Clearly neither one of these guys or girls is unrealistic but we amazingly, run marathons trying to keep up these personas. At the time, we seem to be living on cloud nine in these “perfect” relationships but the truth is that, friends don’t behave this way with one another. Friends are cool with being flawed.
When I think about being married to my future husband, I don’t want to feel pressure to place parts of my personality in a lock box. I don’t want to feel pressure to be and look perfect all of the time. I want to be a friend that feels free to be me, and I desire the same from my future hubby-bubby.
I want to be able to feel vulnerable. I want to feel comfortable enough to disagree and be angry without worrying if it will taint my husband’s “perfect” image of me. I want to give and receive a love that’s unconditional.
When I reflect on my favorite friendships, they’re the ones when I feel comfortable being 100% me that come to mind. They’re the ones when I can laugh so hard that I drool or snort. They’re also the ones where my friends don’t place me on a pedestal because they assume so I’m perfect and that I can do no wrong. That’s the exact type of friendship that I desire with my future husband.
I don’t believe that being friends first means that you have to date and marry your guy-friend or female friend. I don’t even think it means that you have to marry your best friend. I believe “friend first” simply means to treat, to act like and to be a friend to your significant other. It means to treat the object of your affection with respect in the same way that you respect your friends, instead of treating him or her like a novelty—because those eventually wear off you know. To be friends first is to make friendship the foundation of your romantic relationship instead of infatuation or even “love.”
In a practical sense, here are a few examples of what it means to be “friends first” before dating and before marriage:
- You are not manipulative: In the typical dating relationship, one person may have a tendency to be manipulative. Often times, the person may use their emotions, fears or insecurities to control the actions of the other (i.e. guilt trips). This rarely happens in friendships because it’s not necessary. Friends are okay with knowing that their friend may have deep insecurities and fears. They accept those aspects of their friend and never use them to gain the upper hand. Friends are not manipulative.
- You are not jealous or envious: One of the most powerful stories about the danger of jealousy is the story of Cain and Abel. They were brothers whose bound was torn to pieces by jealousy. Society tells us that it’s cool and normal to be jealous and act crazy over the love of our life but the bible and life-experiences clearly paint a much different picture. In friendships, there’s no jealousy. You celebrate each other’s success. You pray for increased favor for your friend. You seek opportunities to encourage them. You pray for them even things are going extremely well in their lives. Friends have a wonderful bond that just keeps on growing.
- You are not perfect: I touched on this in a few paragraphs above but again, friends don’t try to act perfect or keep up perfect appearances. Friends tell you about their crazy family members. They disclose their most embarrassing moments. They emit bodily gases. They discuss their bad decisions. They reveal their pain. They expose their fears. They’re real about their finances. They tell you when they only have three zeros in front of the decimal point in their bank account. They don’t even feel shame in front of you when using the table of contents in church, lol. Friends are not perfect and that’s okay with them.
- You make mistakes: In regular ole relationships, this ridiculous expectation to be right and do everything right exists. In friendships, you’re okay with not being the expert in everything. You feel comfortable being ignorant about world events and you don’t mind correction. You can admit when you’re wrong. You can apologize without regard to your pride. You can be real and in return, your friends can be real with you.
- You are not prideful: How many arguments has your pride created? How many relationships has it damaged? Friends are hardly ever prideful with one another, and if they are, the other friend calls em’ out on it! Friends aren’t ashamed to admit when they feel insecure, worried or when lacking confidence. Their walls and guards are down, and they are constantly searching for ways to edify, encourage and build-up one another.
- You communicate: One of the funniest phases of dating is in the beginning when both the guy and the girl are self-conscious about “blowing-up” the other’s phone with calls & texts lol. I can recall sitting in my room for hours, going crazy, because I didn’t know if it was too soon to call or text first, smh. With friends, NO ONE CARES! You can call your friend repeatedly without embarrassment or judgment. And, if your friend does get annoyed you guys can probably call it out and then laugh about it later.
- You don’t try to jump each other’s drawers: I really feel like someone’s granny for using the term “drawers” but it is what it is. Boyfriends and girlfriends, enjoy hot, heavy and steamy lovemaking sessions while dating. Friends derive a deep satisfaction from laughing, chilling out and having a good time with one another. Friends plan on being there forever so they know there’s no need to rush the fun.
- You respect boundaries: Boyfriends and girlfriends think boundaries are a ridiculous waste of time and view the other person as being “closed-off” or “guarded.” Friends appreciate boundaries. Friends take time to ask questions and get to know one another instead of assuming that titles (i.e. boyfriend and girlfriend) grants an automatic all-access pass to violate the other’s emotional or personal space. Friends respect boundaries because they’re in no rush to arrive at forever.
I could go on with a few more examples but I think this list illustrates my point.
I’m convinced that friendships work best because there’s no pressure, no ridiculous expectations, no outlandish demands and no conditional terms. Friends are real. Friends are fun. Friends are imperfect. Friends are forever.
When I think about what it means to be friends first, this is what it means to me.
What does “friends first” mean to you?
Prayer: Dear God, help our walls come down. Allow us to be transparent. Help us to be more honest. Pull us closer to heavenly perfection and farther from earthly expectations. Renew our eyesight. Enlighten our understanding. Teach us how to love others and ourselves in just the way you’ve loved and accepted us. In the name of Jesus, Amen.