This question is one that comes up from time to time. Yet no one really tries to get to grips with the different situations this rule may be helpful in or unhelpful in.  I think that this doesn’t need to be a universal law, but I do tell people who have been hurt by past relationships to consider adopting it. 

Some people I know have told me very directly that people should only date friends. In fact, I remember a church leader, who I respect highly, telling me that dating should only happen after a friendship. And if dating can be missed altogether, and a friendship moves straight to an engagement, that’s even better.

I remember thinking at the time, but what if you don’t fancy your friends? Or what if they’re all taken? Then you just shut yourself off to the rest of the world and hope a new ‘friend’ will eventually come along.

Or what if you meet someone you don’t know and are instantly attracted to them, are you meant to be ‘fake’ friends first? When does that become something more? And can you really be friends in that situation? In my experience that is very hard and confusing for everyone involved.

But before I shoot down that church leader too much, I have seen the other side of the coin too. I have seen people go out with whoever they find attractive and it ending badly because they realised they didn’t really know them. They were untruthful or they were just different after you got to really spend time with them. So the relationship was never going to work.

There are times when I do give this advice, and times when I don’t

I can see the wisdom behind the rule of dating friends. Before you get close, and share details about yourself with someone, get to know them a bit. Don’t just rush in and get too close before you know what they’re really like and reveal all your secrets before you  can trust them.  By being friends first , it can help you do this.

But should dating friends only be a hard and fast rule?

This article will by no means sort out the debate, or be a final answer to everyone’s complex situations. However, there are times when I do give this advice, and times when I don’t.

A close friend of mine went out with about five guys in the space of three years. She dated each one for 3-6 months. She took each relationship seriously and wanted it to work. Each of them had been guys she was attracted to, liked, got close with, then realise they hadn’t been totally honest. Or that they were not suited after all. They ended badly. (Read also ‘What Do You Do If You’re The One Who Got Dumped?’)

I told her to only date a friend. Not because everyone should, but because I could see she had been hurt too much in the past. Importantly, she had got too close too quickly and that’s what caused the problem. Therefore getting to know someone as a friend first, or looking to people she already knew, was safer for her and better for her.

To this person I would say, only date friends. Why? because their desire to just be with anyone would cloud their judgment

I was recently told about a friend of a friend who had dated someone for six years. It then ended quite suddenly. This person was clearly desperate to quickly find a new relationship with anyone. They had all the apps, they joined all the dating sites, and openly talked about finding a new relationship.

To this person I would say, only date friends. Why? because their desire to just be with anyone would cloud their judgment, cause them to rush into something, and possibly hurt themselves and the person they date.

For me, only dating friends doesn’t need to be a hard and fast rule because I know many healthy relationship that didn’t come from a friendship. I think if you like someone, then pretending to be their friend first to ‘follow the rule’ is actually hard. But there is wisdom behind it that we could all learn from.

So yes, sometimes only dating friends is wise, but this rule isn’t for everyone.

Getting to know someone as a friend and seeing if they’re trustworthy, and deciding whether the attraction is strong or just a bit fleeting before you rush in, is very helpful. This will probably protect you from a lot of potential hurt and pain. In some situations, I think it is good advice, especially if our past relationships have caused us to fall into the trap of rushing into a relationship too quickly.

So yes, sometimes only dating friends is wise, but it the rule isn’t for everyone.

Have you had a relationship that has not come from a friendship and worked really well, or really badly? would being friends first have helped?