Many times when we enter a relationship, we know it might not work out. And when it doesn’t, it hurts, but we move on. Because with most romantic relationships, we expect the heartbreak, we prepare for it even.
Break-ups with friends often hurt way more than a cheating ex. Ironically, friendships are not so different from relationships. Yet, while we show full commitment to making that romantic relationship work, we often don’t put this same amount of effort in our friendships. But we should.
Here’s a short guide to dating as friends.
Choose your friends consciously.
When you’re choosing a partner, you’re intentional about it. You have a type. You make a checklist and analyze prospects to make sure they check those boxes. Choosing friends should have that same level of intentionality.
Many times, friends choose you or you find yourself friends with people who just accepted you. Maybe they laughed hard at a joke you didn’t mean to say out loud, then you were in the same class so you started having lunch together and it just felt right. Often times, the best friendships start that way. But there’s also something satisfying about being intentional.
All sorts of relationships, romantic ones and friendships, havesome sort of value. You need to decide the type of qualities you want in friends: maybe you want a funny friend to balance your serious side; maybe you want a serious person to push you to be more focused. Make your list and make your move.
Make regular and official plans to hang out.
Just like relationships, being intentional in your friendships involves make regular and official plans to hang out and do things together. Plan movie nights, game nights or Sunday brunches and commit to seeing those plans through. Many times, friend hangouts are squeezed in between classes and work and sleep, so the friendship is not fully nurtured.
Carving out regular time from your busy schedule to see friends shows commitment to your friendships. It also allows your friendships grow with you, so you monitor the growth of your friendships as you also grow as a person.
Learn your friends’ love languages and teach them yours too.
Just like relationships, there are certain things you can do to make your friends feel loved. Feelings are expressed in different ways, in different ‘love languages’.
The basic love languages:
Words of Affirmation: This involves using spoken or written words to praise or appreciate. This love language may manifest in the form of random notes or reassuring early morning texts.
Acts of service: This involves doing things for loved ones. It manifests in going out of your way to do the things that make your friends’ lives a little easier such as cooking them lunch, or helping them iron their clothes when they’re running late.
Receiving Gifts: This involves symbolically expressing love with thoughtful gifts. These gifts usually represent the time and effort put into both the act of choosing the gift and the overall friendship as well. The gift does not have to be expensive. It could be something your friend briefly mentioned or something you know your friend needs.
Quality Time: This involves giving loved ones undivided attention. This means spending nights talking and listening, watching Netflix or even doing nothing together.
Physical Touch: This involves physical affection. Unless you’re into having sex with your friends, physical touch here means hugs, reassuring hand squeezes and other physical contact that tells your friends that you’re both physically and emotionally there for them.
After learning all the love languages that exist, it is important that you take time to actually learn the love languages that apply to each friend. Don’t assume that the love languagesyou prefer work for your friends too. Similarly, because youexpect your love to be reciprocated, take time to teach your friends your love languages too. Clearly communicate with your friends, tell them how you would like to be loved.
Give your friends room to make mistakes
The same privilege you give your romantic partners should be extended to your friends. Many times in romantic relationships ,partners get many chances, but friends are often cut off immediately. In romantic relationships, even the most terrible grievances like infidelity are sometimes forgiven if the person offended decides that the relationship is worth fighting for. Friendships should be given that same room for repair. As long as the offender shows true remorse in words and actions and both parties believe the friendship is worth saving, there should be a chance of forgiveness.
Finally, Choose who chooses you.
Choose friends who choose you. Choose friends who show that they want and value you, both in words and actions. Don’t letthe fact that you’ve been friends for years or that their company (despite being utterly toxic) makes you feel less lonely force you to stay. Don’t stay friends with someone out of habit.
If you’ve constantly clearly communicated the way you feel about certain things your supposed friend does and you’ve told them your love languages, and they still refuse to make the effort, walk away. Intentional friendships require work, but they shouldn’t feel like work. Friendships should be rewarding and comforting, but ultimately fun. Your friends should make you laugh and smile and feel safe.
The earlier you leave your unhealthy unintentional friendships, the faster you can build healthier and more intentional ones.