Is It Better To Be Friends First? Here Are The Pros And Cons

There are few things cuter than the early days of Jim and Pam’s relationship on “The Office.” But are there any downsides to being friends with a guy first?

By Keelia Clarkson5 min read
Pexels/Victoria Strelka_ph

You’ve found yourself in a predicament because, well, there’s this guy. You feel drawn to him, attracted to him. You share a sense of humor. You click with him. You can easily spend hours texting back and forth. And everything inside you is yelling, “Don’t let this opportunity pass by! Lock him down before another girl comes along and scoops him up first! You’ll regret it if you don’t!”

And yet, something is keeping you from too quickly making a move. After a string of relationships that started out on the fast track and either awkwardly pittered out or painfully finished on a sour note, you’ve been challenging yourself to learn the art of taking things more slowly when it comes to romance. Which is how you found yourself in the situation of meeting a guy that you’re definitely interested in, but keeping yourself from doing anything about it.

Instead, you’re trying your best to start out as friends rather than jump too quickly and recklessly into a romantic relationship with him. Still, though, you can’t help but wonder if your new approach really makes that much of a difference – especially after he just flashed you that adorable smile of his and your knees went a little bit weak. You’re feeling torn between your desire to protect yourself from more heartbreak than necessary and your growing feelings for him.

So, is it actually better to be friends first? To have a guy be the season 1 Jim to your Pam before potentially developing a deeper, more romantic connection with him? Or are there more cons to starting out as pals than there are pros?

Pro #1: You Get a Chance To Know Him from a Safe Distance

Raise your hand if you’ve ever gotten into a relationship with someone you didn’t know that well beforehand, only to discover as you spent more and more time with him that you didn’t even really like him as a person? That while you had been drawn in by his exterior appearance, the more you came to see his interior appearance, the more you were put off?

Forming a friendship first protects you from making this mistake. You’re able to get to know him from a safe distance, without your heart getting involved in the matter. This way, you’re bound to come to a much more logical and realistic conclusion about your chances as a potential couple.

Con #1: You Might End Up Friendzoning Each Other

When we first start dating someone, there’s a fair amount of “performance” that goes into our interactions. We’re not being untruthful, but we’re doing everything within our power to present the best, most attractive version of ourselves. As the relationship becomes more committed, we naturally start to let some of these guards down and allow a more nuanced version of ourselves to be seen.

One possible issue with being friends first is that we might not put quite as much effort into the early days of knowing each other, and in turn, accidentally friendzone one another. While a lasting romance will be more than just kisses and butterflies, without the initial buzz of attraction and the focused effort to make a good impression, it might be difficult to truly see him as more than a friend.

Pro #2: You’ll Know That He Likes You for You

One of the hardest things about a new relationship is deciphering the other person’s intentions. What is he looking for? Is he the committed type? Does he actually like you for you, or is his supposed interest due to his desire for a casual fling more than anything else?

The good thing about forming a friendship before a romance is that many of these questions disappear. You won’t be wondering if he’s more interested in your body than he is in your mind because you’ll already have established a relationship with him that has nothing to do with skin-deep pleasures. You’ll know that, at the very least, he likes you.

Con #2: Someone Else Could Enter the Equation

When your relationship begins in a romantic context, it’s clear that you’re seeing each other, and no one else. He’s into you, he’s committed to you, and he’s not looking for anyone else (hopefully, that is). And if he’s a good guy, you won’t find yourself worrying about other girls stealing him away from you.

But when you’re friends, you technically can’t call dibs on him, which leaves the door wide open for someone else to do just that. Any other girl can come around and make her move on him – and while you’d understandably be upset, you can’t really have expected him not to date the girl who decided to make her interest in him known.

Pro #3: Being Friends First Builds Trust

There are sparks flying in the beginning of a relationship, for sure. There’s flirting, giggling, and excitement. But one thing there isn’t, if you only just met a couple of weeks ago? Trust. The kind of trust that runs deep and is actually built on a solid foundation. You don’t truly know this person yet, just the version of themselves they’re letting you see.

On the other end of the spectrum, friendship builds trust quickly because you’re both focusing less on things like planning dates and instead focusing on forming a relationship that centers around actually getting to know each other. You can more easily trust he is who he says he is.

Con #3: He Might Think You’re Not Interested

It’s true that rushing into a romantic relationship can leave you with scars and regrets, but one pro is that neither one of you is guessing what the other one is feeling, as far as attraction is concerned. You know right off the bat that you’re on the same page: You both think the other person is cute.

If you let things play out as friends for too long, there’s a chance he’ll get the impression that you’re not interested (remember how Jim dated Anne for a while after coming to the conclusion that Pam wasn’t into him?) – which will only make it more difficult to switch gears if you decide you do want to give it a go.

Pro #4: There’s Less of an Awkward “Getting To Know You” Phase

Along with the butterflies that come with the first months of a brand new relationship can also come some amount of awkwardness. After all, you’re learning a lot about each other in a short amount of time. You’re going from being total strangers to being new lovers – and that’s a lot of ground to cover.

Starting out as friends, though, makes it so that you essentially skip the “getting to know you” phase and get right to the more fun part of being in a relationship. You’re lucky to already know all of the basics about him as well as even more intimate aspects about his inner world, personality, struggles, hopes, fears, and desires.

Con #4: You’ll Have To Redefine the Relationship

When you begin a relationship with the implication of, “Hey, I like you. I think you’re cute. Let’s go out sometime so we can get to know each other,” this creates a relationship that develops linearly. From the start, it’s obvious that your connection is romantic, and anything either one of you does to pursue the relationship is done so with this understanding.

But this isn’t the case when you’re friends with a guy first. Your relationship has been established, sure, but it’s a platonic one. The relationship has already been defined. To move into romantic territory is to take a left turn, to re-define the relationship. And while it’s not impossible to do this, there’s no doubt that it’s simpler in many ways not to have to switch tracks.

Pro #5: Melding Your Lives Will Be More Natural

The first couple of months of a relationship mostly centers around the two people in it. But gradually, as you return back to earth from cloud nine, you both start to meld your lives together. You introduce each other to your friend groups, your hobbies, your everyday life. Sometimes, this can prove to be more difficult than anticipated. Maybe you don’t get along with his friends, or you have different lifestyles, or he doesn’t appreciate your hobbies.

That’s less likely to happen, though, if you started out as friends. Chances are, you might even share a friend group already. You’re both used to hanging out in the context of “normal” life rather than romantic dates alone. And so, the day-in day-out of a relationship could be a more natural transition.

Con #5: You Might End Up Losing a Friend If Things Don’t Work Out

When your relationship begins with the intention of figuring out if you’re a good romantic match, there’s an unspoken understanding that if there’s no spark, one or both of you won’t attempt another date. You aren’t losing anything – you’re just not continuing to see each other. No harm, no foul.

But when it’s your guy friend you start dating? The friendship is at risk. If things go well, then you’re a lucky girl who’ll have a cute “how we met” story to tell to the kids one day. But if they don’t, then it’s likely that you’ll lose a friend.

Closing Thoughts

So is it better to be friends first or to cut to the chase and get right to the romantic stuff? There are certainly upsides and downsides to both situations. But it’s always wise to take things slowly enough that you’re able to think things through and ensure he’s a good guy. That being said, though, if your feelings for him just keep growing, don’t wait too long to do something about it!

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