(About a 3 minute read)
“I’m here, sir, to ask for your daughter’s hand in marriage.”
“Do you like her, boy?”
“Sir, I love her more than I love anything else in the world!”
“I didn’t ask if you loved her, I asked if you liked her. Love is wonderful, but love isn’t enough by itself to get you though the arguments and tough times any husband and wife will have.”
(An old movie, the title of which I’ve forgotten.)
There was a comet in the sky that fall, and ostensibly, Jackie and I had come out on the porch at dusk to sit under a blanket and watch it. But Jackie soon began talking about “boys”.
She was 17 that year, and though she hadn’t much experience of boys, she went into great detail about her relationships with them. It took her two hours to cover the topic, and she wrapped things up with a simple question, “What do I have to do to keep a boy? I’ll do anything you tell me to do. I’ll change myself in any way. But tell me what I have to do.”
I suggested she was looking at it the wrong way. It might not be best for her to think about changing herself to suit boys, but rather best for her to be true to herself. The boys who really loved her for who she was would appreciate that. She politely thanked me and we wandered off our separate ways.
About ten months later, Jackie stopped me on the street one day to tell me my advice had not made immediate sense to her. But she had thought about it, and over the past month or so, it had begun to click.
I think Jackie had a point. It can be hard to fully understand what it means to be true to oneself, and even more so, see the importance of that in our sexual relationships with people. But my advice didn’t really go far enough.
Had I been thinking that night of the comet, I would have gone on to suggest to Jackie that she pick her lovers from among her friends. That is, that she become friends with someone before becoming a lover to them, when at all possible.
Now, tons of folks might disagree with me there. They tell me they don’t want to do that because they’re scared of “ruining a good friendship”. Normally, I’d respect that, but in this case, I think that’s crazy talk. You can’t ruin a good friendship by becoming lovers. You can only reveal or unmask a “good” friendship for what it really is — a bad friendship. Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s your choice whether you want to risk that.
Beyond that, befriending someone before becoming their lover is perhaps the best way to get to intimately know who they are as a person before you get so involved with them that it becomes hard to extricate yourself from the relationship, should that be wise to do.
Moreover, it’s much easier to see who someone is when you are not sexually passionate about them. But perhaps the best reason to pick your lovers from among your friends is that love is seldom if ever enough on which to base a committed, long term relationship.
It’s not just that, soon enough, giddy-headed romantic love wears off. Romantic love is usually replaced by a deeper bond. It’s that friendship is insurance of a more comprehensive relationship than love. You can love someone without actually liking them, but when that happens, your relationship tends to come down to little more than sex. Friendship guards against that.
Of course, plenty of couples come together as lovers before they develop friendships for each other. I’m not arguing that folks should absolutely forgo any romantic relationships unless they’re friends first. But I do believe there are advantages to first being friends.
So, ideally speaking, should you be friends with someone before you become lovers?