Is It Harder to Friend-Date or Man-Date?

Recently I was doing an interview about MWF Seeking BFF, the book (coming soon–December 20!–to a bookstore near you. Shameless plug. Whatever.) and the interviewer asked me “Would this work for a guy?”

What I thought she meant was: Would this type of search work for finding a boyfriend?

What she really meant was: Would a guy be able to do this type of search and find a friend?

I answered the wrong question, which was fine because she corrected me and we went on our way. But it launched a debate with a friend. Because my answer to the former question was basically: “I don’t know! This is the closest I’ve ever come to dating.”

As I’ve mentioned, Matt and I met freshman year of college. We went through our fair share of 19-year-old (and 20-year-old) drama before settling into a normal, healthy relationship, but I’ve done very little dating in my day. So I basically told the interviewer that to find anyone—best friend or boyfriend—you’ve got to kiss a lot of frogs, so to speak.

But in one sense, I claimed, friend dating is much tougher. Because women aren’t embarrassed to announce they’re looking for a man. We’re still embarrassed to say we need more friends. So while dating etiquette and expectations are pretty universal, the friend-dating code of conduct isn’t quite so clear. It’s harder to establish a desired relationship when all parties aren’t on the same page.

When I told a friend about this misunderstanding, she told me, in not so many words, that I’m crazy to claim that friending might be the more difficult option. She’s single and much more experienced in matters of courtship.  She’s the man-dating expert, and I’m the friend-dating expert. We could start a service!

My pal’s argument: While you have to put yourself out there for both friends and romantic partners, the latter is more of a pressure cooker. There are sleepovers involved. Sleepovers alone amp up the fear factor. (I’ll give her that.) There’s more risk, she claimed. (I’m not so sure–friend breakups blow.)  Less pressure and less risk make a person act less crazy, and acting crazy is one of women’s greatest romantic undoings.

I see her point. I feel lucky to be out of the dating game. I would be horrific at it. Seriously. Some friends and I were talking about the dating game over the weekend and I mentioned how uncomfortable I’d be on a first date. Matt looked at me and said, “oh yeah, you’d be so awkward.” That’s love.

So, let me open the debate to you, readers. What’s harder: Finding a new BFF or finding a partner? It it tougher to friend-date or romance-date?


Filed under The Search

11 responses to “Is It Harder to Friend-Date or Man-Date?

  1. Robin

    There are so many parallels really, but I would say friend-dating is harder. Your options for both will narrow as you get older, once you’re not going to school or out partying all the time. But at least with regular dating, although it can be tough, most of us have some idea of how to meet/talk to a guy, and after a certain age, online dating is an obvious option. But with meeting new friends, you have to get out of your comfort zone and learn to be creative!

  2. Dating can definitely be hard, but it’s such a universal thing. You’re in your mid-20’s or whatever, trying to find someone to spend your life with. Everyone gets that, and bad dates are hilarious to chat about and relate with each other about.

    I think there’s a stigma attached to being a post-college age and trying to find friends – like shouldn’t you already have an established network of friends set up? But the good news is, things that previously had stigmas are becoming more and more normal and acceptable. An example of this is online dating. I started doing in 2006, when it was still somewhat new and people in my life thought I was crazy to do it. Why couldn’t I just meet guys on my own? What was wrong with guys who signed up for it? I met my boyfriend online in 2007, and since then, people are more and more accepting and less suspicious of the whole process. It’s not “weird” anymore – anyone you talk to probably knows someone who has done it. So I feel like friend dating is probably headed in that direction too.

    And speaking of your book deal – how long before MWF Seeking BFF turns into a movie?

    • Oh Anne, you know just the words straight to my heart! I’d love to watch the movie of my search — it’s much less awkward watching it than living it! I kid, I loved living it. I did.

      I really hope you’re right. If MWF Seeking BFF can do something to help lessen the stigma surronding friend-dating, well then my work here will be done.

  3. Megan

    Friends for SURE – that’s just my experience talking, though. And, actually, if I was single, I might say the opposite. :-).

  4. betsyohs

    De-lurking to jump into this debate. To me, the biggest difference is if you are dating to find Mr Right – that is, with the eventual plan of getting married – you’re looking for ONE husband. That adds a ton of pressure – you want to find a guy you can live with, who will grow with you *forever*, whose good characteristics out-weigh the bad, etc, etc. With friend dating, you’re not (at least most of the time) looking for someone to live with, and if your absolute BFF hates your main passion in life, then you just find another matching-passion BFF and everyone is happy. Because more BFFs is a wonderful thing. More husbands? Not so much.

    That said – I moved to my current town in February, and I have only 1 new friend and a small handful of new acquaintances. Finding friends is *hard!* I love reading about your friending adventures…and I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on friending across ages. I’m in my early 30’s, and I live in a small rural college town. It feels like everyone I meet is either in college (lovely people, I’m sure, but not looking for friends since they still live in the dorms) or middle aged. There is probably the parents-with-young children set, too, but I seem to not cross their paths as much. I’m taking your advice on volunteering at the local library to meet people (I start next week). And I’d love to try the yoga studio greeter thing – I’ll have to ask at the local studio. But when (or more relevantly, how) do I get to be the kind of grown up who has older friends, younger friends, and everything in between?

    Yikes! Sorry for the uber-long comment. I’m looking forward to your book!

    • Thanks for jumping in! Not that I don’t love lurkers — I do! Really! You’re right that the exclusivity factor adds a degree of difficulty to romantic dating that’s not the case with the friend search.

      I think friending across ages is definitely possible (I’ve written about it a few times here) but it’s tough, for sure. If you are in a very different life phase–you are 30 and she lives in a dorm, say–it can be hard to find time to connect, and topics to really connect over. But then, that can also be the case with people your own age. Single and 30 is totally different than married-with-kids 30. Neither is better or worse, but it can be hard to bond in that circumstance.

      Still you don’t know if someone’s life stage is going to exclude them from friendship until you try. I have a great friend who is a mother of 3-year-old twins! We are totally different on paper but we just totally clicked. So you never know. I saw be open to everybody, regardless of age (who knows who you’ll meet when you volunteer!) and just see what clicks!

  5. Marie

    Man dating is definitely harder! You can friend date multiple people at the same time at differing levels of closeness. I wouldn’t recommend doing the same with men. And it’s easy to casually friend date someone. It’s not so easy to casually man date, there are expectations associated with a date even if it’s just wondering if you will kiss him at the end. And then consider asking out a friend versus a man. You can straight up ask a potential friend to do something. With a guy you might tiptoe around wondering if he is in a relationship or wondering what he’ll think if you ask him out.

  6. Kelly

    Dating – so much easier in my opinion. I can let a guy know I like him and he can let me know he reciprocates without even speaking.
    I’m thinking about my current bf – I have known her for two years but it took so long to establish that a) we were both short of local friends b) we liked each other

  7. D.

    Friend dating is way harder…for many reasons: finding time to be together, figuring out roles/boundaries, etc. With a boyfriend, you know you are looking for a life partner. Ultimately, with a significant other, you will end up married and living together. This makes nurturing a relationship much easier. Even when dating people expect you to spend all your time together…but friend dating? Rarely is that relationship prioritized w/out other people looking askance or significant others not liking the competition for your time and attention.

  8. I think friend dating is much, much harder!
    We are all much more comfortable with the idea of looking for a man (!) but looking for a friend is a crazy idea to many people (or at least where I come from). I’m so glad your blog is here for me to stalk and think “i’m not the only one feeling like this”.

    I’m so invested (emotionally) in your blog because infertility opened me up to this friendship thing and I felt that once our group had babies, all of them seemed to move on and get with their existing friends but I didn’t – I still wanted to be friends with this group. Basically, I had lots of hurt (I think I still do judging from the length of this comment). I actually asked God to send me TWO good friends (I do like to be specific) at the beginning of this year and I now have them. Of course I’m always open to more meaningful connections.

    PS do you know how much I love your blog? I keep thinking – oooh, I need to blog about this but no time for even all the things in my mind 🙂
    PPS I think I need to blog – clearly there’s lots of things going on inside me 🙂

    • Hi Marcia! I’m so glad you are enjoying the blog…. thank you for reading. And wow–amazing that you found the two friends that you asked for. That’s so great.

      It’s so tough when a group of friends is bounded by circumstance (infertility, a common job, whatever) and then the group drifts when the circumstances change. I always have a really hard time with that.

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