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In a classic column written by one of the foremost authorities on love and relationships, New York columnist Dear Abby said, “Love is friendship that has caught on fire." This now 30-year-old quote is still being circulated today as one of the best definitions of love.
On this Valentine’s Day, when talking to your kids about what Valentine’s Day is about, encourage them to only consider dating people they first know as friends. There are a number of reasons for this, some of which we have outlined below.
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Why Be Friends First?
If you date someone you have only known a short time, you do not really know how he or she will act. You know whether friends drink or smoke, if they are fun to be with and that they will have your best interests at heart. Therefore, it is generally safer to go on a date with friends than with someone you barely know.
Relationships are hard to build and they take time to nourish them. If you already have a friendship with someone, it is easier to build a romantic relationship on top of that, because you already have a relationship based on mutual respect and love.
As Dear Abby alluded to in her column, friendship is a kind of love and romantic love is just friendship with a spark of romantic interest. If more people adhered to Abby’s ideas about what love is, the divorce rate might be much lower than it is today.
Friends share common interests. For example, if your daughter is in band at school, she will likely already have friends who share her passion for music within the group. This gives her a common bond with friends, some of which could be good dating partners later.
Teach your teen that not everyone has his or her best interests at heart. Random acquaintances may be more careless in terms of their safety than a friend would. A friend would never ask them to do anything that would be harmful in any way, such as engage in reckless driving, drinking or other self-destructive behaviors.
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From Friends to Dating Partners
The transition from friends to dating partners can be sudden or gradual. Many times, people are friends for years before they develop a romantic interest in each other. Having many good friends widens the playing field for teens. It is important to get to know someone before committing to a relationship that is of a deeper, romantic nature.
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When It Doesn’t Work Out
One of the hardest things for teens is that first heartbreak. With friends, it is somewhat easier. It is never going to be painless to realize that a romantic relationship is not going to work, but when it is a friend, they can often return to the friendship relationship after they have had some time to get over the breakup.
Sometimes this is harder since they are around their friends every day, but they will find new relationships, which will help ease the pain. Remember, the relationship is not lost if they are also friends, it just changes.
Let’s face it: love and relationships are never easy. There is pain and disappointment in the best of friendships and love relationships. When teens practice dating friends they know well, the risk is not as great in many areas. This is a good practice for kids as well as adults.