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Dating From the Inside Out
by Susan S. Davis

The Role of Friendship in Dating Relationships

As the new year begins, now is a good time to “begin at the beginning.” So many people - when they begin a “dating” journey, focus on romance immediately. While romantic attraction is important, statistics show that dating relationships based solely on physical attraction, usually fail.

The reason that purely physical attraction-based relationships fail, is for a variety of reasons. The first, is that after a while, even fantastic physical chemistry, can lead to complacency. A combination of boredom and lack of sexual tension, can result in a parting of the ways, unless both people are willing to explore ways to keep enough variety in their physical involvement, to maintain interest, by keeping it alive and fresh. Even still, the long-term feasibility of this kind of physically based relationship, is unlikely.


Another reason that relationships based almost solely upon physical attraction can quickly dissolve, is that logically, sex is something that is not done 24 hours a day; there are many other activities that a couple can and should engage in. If the only activity that a couple engages in is sex, it is only common sense, that eventually, it will become apparent that this is all that they have in common, and one or the other may begin to become disinterested.

While it is true that there are many people who are able to maintain a purely sexual relationship with someone, unless it is a mutually desirous situation, one or both people is often under the unfortunate delusion, that it could develop into something more. Unless the boundaries are carefully drawn and adhered to, the situation can lead to disastrous consequences. This is because, even if both people believe that they have the power to determine how far they will allow the relationship to go, the reality is that as time goes on, and more familiarity occurs, it is inevitable that one or the other will develop a stronger connection.

On the other end of the spectrum, familiarity without sexual tension, can result in the type of complacency due to a lack of emotional stimulation, which can come about from a lack of communication. This type of involvement usually consists of one or both parties who view each other as social partners only. Unless something happens to spark the imagination in them both, the “friend zone” can be a permanent sentence, particularly for males. Statistics have shown that, once a man is seen as a non-sexual friend only, rarely does anything happen to change that.

Relationships, just like most things in life, go more smoothly, when a gradient scale approach is adopted. By adopting a policy of developing a strong friendship before physical intimacy is broached, there is a better chance of that relationship developing into something meaningful and lasting.

Youth dating statistics compiled by The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY), has found that have shown that despite recent decreases in adolescent pregnancy rates and birthrates in the United States, an alarmingly high number of youth engage in sexual intercourse and become sexually active, long before they are emotionally equipped to handle the consequences. As teenagers, fewer than half remain sexually inexperienced by age 18. Approximately one-quarter of 15-year-olds (24% of females and 27% of males) have had sex, while the proportion of young teenagers becoming sexually active has been increasing.

While the above is unavoidable, as youth move from elementary school to junior high to high school, their physiological development takes place in tandem with relationships and social networks. Friendship patterns become more heterogeneous, and relationships shift in nature and intensity. Dating relationships, while socially acceptable, afford adolescents opportunities to engage in sexual activity, and may even motivate youth to become sexually active.

Prior research suggests that there is a significant association between dating and sexual activity. Like sex, dating is being initiated at an earlier age today than it was in the past.

The nature of friendship patterns, relationship experiences and sexual behaviors differ for males and females. Males tend to lean toward more casual, experimental relationships with their first partners, while females have more intimate first relationships. While males are likely to emphasize sexual aspects of relationships, females are more inclined toward romanticizing relationships.

Much of the confusion surrounding dating relationships exists because one or both people, is unclear on exactly what the motivation is behind their attraction or friendship. One way to avoid the confusion, is to have in mind what your goal is, in terms of an interpersonal dating relationship, so that you have a point of reference from which to base how you proceed, and how you react to what is offered to you in this regard.

Another method to take advantage of, is the gradient scale approach. In other words, “take it slowly.” While that phrase is a cliché, it definitely applies to anyone wishing to develop something substantial, that lasts. Just like anything else, it can take time to create, develop and maintain anything worth keeping. The older most people get, the faster they usually realize and recognize what it is that they are looking for, but the reality is that it still takes a certain amount of time to invest in order to get to know someone. How long, totally depends upon the individuals involved. But being willing to take some time to devote to the venture, will most certainly result in a better return on your investment, than if you simply jump into something that you are not ready for.

The bottom line, is that the more time you put into determining what it is that you would like to have, and taking steps to achieve that goal, along with using a gradient approach to developing a friendship that could lead to something more, the better the chances are that you will ultimately find, and be able to keep, what it is that you desire in an interpersonal relationship that began as a dating journey.

Susan S. Davis is a published book author and writer, currently doing research for a romantic screenplay she is writing. Her Dating From The Inside Out column is published every Tuesday.

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