I work a lot with adolescents and young adults and often encounter the topic of dating. Many people begin dating someone shortly after the initial meeting or being introduced to them. They blindly follow their emotions and their desire to be loved instead of giving it some thought.
One very simple but practical exercise I like to do is break down the levels of friendship in your lives. On a daily basis you encounter strangers, acquaintances, peers, friends and best friends. Looking at the different stages of friendships in our lives allows us to view the stages objectively and become aware of the process/time it takes to develop a close friendship with another person.
Firstly, a stranger is someone that you don’t know yet, perhaps someone that you have seen but don’t know his or her name. For example, the person that you are trying to hit on at the bar or meet in a coffee shop is considered a stranger. You know nothing about them other than what they look like.
An acquaintance is someone that you may know by name but have a very vague knowledge about. Generally, you have met the person more than once and you share at least one social circle together. It takes just a few times seeing someone to consider them an acquaintance but that person may or may not move past this stage in association.
A peer is someone that you are familiar with. They could be a coworker or someone that you went to university with. You know their name and have slightly more context about who they are and their life, but this is where the relationship ends. You may see them at Christmas parties and catch up with recent events but you are not apart of their ongoing life. It takes some time to develop the status of a peer because it implies that you have encountered the person on numerous occasions and have some type of involvement with them.
A friend is someone that you share information with and see on a fairly regular basis. It takes time for one to get to a place of friendship because as you slowly begin to open up and share, trust begins to develop. The more you get to know them and see that they are trustworthy, the closer you become. The process of becoming a friend can take months to even a year. It is different for everyone so an exact time cannot be given, but it does (and should) take time to develop a secure and trustworthy friendship with someone.
Lastly, a best friend is someone that you could share almost everything with. You are not required to share information but you know that if you ever needed to talk to someone you could trust, they would be there. The development of a best friend relationship takes time and experience together; it cannot happen overnight.
My reason for saying all of this is that the development of a romantic relationship takes time. It is not appropriate to go out to the bar or coffee shop and try to pick up a stranger to begin a dating relationship. The process of getting to know someone happens in stages. These stages may move faster for some than others but no one should jump from the beginning right to the end and skip all the stages in between.
When you meet a stranger for the first time, you don’t know them and there is nothing to build a relationship on. It will be more rewarding and cause less heartache in the end if you look at dating in stages. It is important to know a person for who they are and what they represent before you decide to date, rather than after a bond has already been established.
Next week we discuss some practical tips for healthy dating.
This article was originally written for and posted on Liveabundantly.ca