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Published on May 10th, 2013 | by Nathaniel

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Why Friendship Should Precede Romance

casablanca

Is romance really instantaneous? End of movie: Guy and girl passionately leap into each other’s arms, embracing into a sunset cascading into the textured violet hues of endless mountains (except for Titanic…). You’ve seen the fantastical love stories of old school romance classics like Casablanca and Sabrina. Or maybe you’re more of a sensitive Gone with the Wind type? Or a Love Jones dramedy type? While we’re there, why not throw in a good ol’ romantic comedy like Jerry Maguire. Spotting a trend? If art imitates life, then our on-screen depictions of romance say that our expectation in a romantic context is that love is instantaneous.  Guy spots girl. Guy falls head over heels for mid-20s attractive (possibly out-of-his-league) babe. Or guy and girl lock eyes. The end. Or “You had me at ‘Hello’…” Really? Is that all love takes? C’mon Dorothy! Give me a break!

In my previous Being Encouraged article, we delved into the question of whether or not “Men and Women Can Be Just Friends” (http://beingencouraged.com/2013/02/14/valentines-day-thoughts-can-men-and-women-be-just-friends/ ). And since the article, I’ve learned not only can men and women be friends, but that it’s essential for any type of long lasting Christ-centered relationship. The notion that romance is spontaneously triggered by unconsciously locking eyes in a subway station or inattentively tripping over a crack only to be swept up in the arms of your potential soul mate is probably the furthest thing from the truth. Not only is it far from the truth, but it’s reflective of an attraction that is merely physical and often selfish. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely important to be attracted to your potential love interest but an attraction like friendship is a gradual process. And the step that many relationships skip is the step-by-step process of friendship.

I’ve been there before- so prematurely enamored with a girl that “friendship” is the last thing on my mind. I think we think we’ve been taught to respond to our needs/wants/desires as soon as they appear. Want a coke? Get a coke. Want some porn? Get some porn. Want a casual-fling? Find something that closely resembles what we think “romance” should be and get our needs met. This often makes romantic relationships selfish. “I’m attracted to you so we should be together.” Rather than exercising the patience to get to know someone and connect with him or her on a level that says, “I want to understand who you are and how we can mutually serve each other in friendship,” we move straight to a romantic context. Sometimes you’re (not to call you out ladies…but to call you out) so infatuated with planning the trajectory of the relationship that by mid-first-date, you’ve already decided on the plates, the flowers, and who’s NOT coming to your Malibu-beach dream wedding.

What makes friendship so essential to a long lasting relationship and eventually marriage (this is me theorizing I’m not quite there yet)? Friendship gives us time to grow in the same direction with another person without the pressures of “romance” getting in the way. Dating can be stressful, right? Friendship allows us to conjointly be encouraged with and through a non-threatening companionship. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”  Real romance requires vulnerability and openness. When we’re vulnerable without trust, we set ourselves up to potentially be taken advantage of or hurt because our feelings weren’t reciprocated. Friendship mandates that people take the time to build a trust and form a bond that isn’t based purely on the physical. There’s no pressure to be the Casanova or the doe-eyed-ingénue in friendship. Through exercising the restraint to understand another person, we also begin to understand if our and their long-term goals and personality will ultimately be compatible with God’s direction for our life.

Psalm 16:32

“It is better to be patient than powerful. It is better to have self control than to conquer a city.”

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