Friday, January 23

That's What Friends Are For

One of the biggest questions which befuddles the parents of those of us still single is the following: how can we be finding it so difficult to marry someone when we each have so many friends of the opposite sex?

This same thing was asked of me last week as I settled down with a bevy to watch Dirty Dancing and the answers are just as typical: "I just don't see them in that way", "if it was to happen it would have already", "we're just mates" and "there's no specialness there", none of which are answers at all really. And while we usually console ourselves by thinking our parents just don't understand our respective lives, I'm not sure any of us are really convinced by the arguments we give back.

It doesn't just stop at misinformed parents though. A wise friend once asked me a question along the same lines, fully expecting what I was going to say. However this time she responded in asking me why I didn't think it was possible to, consciously or otherwise, prompt a further development with an existing friend. Why the cynicism?

The thing is that, technically anyway, her and my parents might just have a point. I'm sure that no one would deny wanting to be friends with the one they finally end up with, and in that way we'd be half way there. Of course I'm not suggesting for a minute that any friend could become something more (gosh no), but to think that none would out of that many potentials is taking things a bit too far. After all if I'm confidently able to say that my single female friends would make great wives, why wouldn't that apply in the situation where I was the one married to them?

One theory is that in our lives of free-mixing and making friends of different backgrounds and qualities, some of us might just have become desensitised to what makes a boy-girl relationship so special. For example, others who possibly wouldn't have had as much friendly exposure to the opposite sex might only just need what the rest of us have in order to kick off something bigger. Put another way if we're lucky enough to have so many special relationships how can we pick just one on which to build something more on? What would make that special?

There are other reasons why we'd want to avoid asking a friend out. A fear of messing a good thing up is an important one, but I suggested this to be pretty irrational in a previous post. I think that generally there'd be little fall out in approaching a (mature) friend, whether they decline you immediately or you both find out that it's not going to work later on. Any action you take doesn't have to impact what you already have, provided neither of you want it to.

A crucial part of all this is whether or not you believe that chemistry or a spark can be created between two people at a date later than when you first met. Some of us want a relationship that had picked them rather than the other way around, to talk about how they didn't have a choice in the matter and so just knew. People generally want to fall in love, not climb up a tree, pick their spot and jump into it.

I guess that's why it's easy to assume that if it doesn't happen straight away (or at least by the time you feel you really know them) then it'll never ever happen at all, as if relationships are statically capped beasts. But if we analyse it a bit more that's not really true: sometimes we have to help things along ourselves.

You don't always have to be explicit about things though. In fact, it's reasonable to say that the trigger to a further development with a friend could just be more time, or a particular event, situation or conversation - something that suddenly makes you look at them differently without you looking for it.

An example we can all relate to is that of Monica and Chandler from Friends (and no, I don't take all my philosophical cues from sitcoms. Honestly!). They had been unassuming friends for well over a decade before an unintentional fling somewhat forced them to consider a further opportunity. For them, it was a sexual relationship which switched things into a new gear.

Sex is (probably) out of the question for many of you reading. Casual dating (as in seeing someone who you don't yet have a spark with) is another strategy some use to nurture something, but that too might be deemed inappropriate. There are other options though and not all triggers are culturally out of reach. It doesn't necessarily have to be left to chance either - all it could take is an adult conversation with someone you really like (as a friend). The point is that you might have to pull that trigger yourself if you think it's something worth exploring on paper.

Whether it's something worth doing or not is up to you. I've spoken previously about how I'd like to build a case for a potential before vocalising anything and the chance are that you already know whether you and a friend are compatible or not, but alas the only real way to see if you can build chemistry is to try to and see.

Originally drafted 30th August 2008