Monday, January 7, 2008

The Exclusivity Dance

I had lunch with a male friend today with whom I meet every month or two to discuss the world's greatest mystery: relationships. He and I get together, put on our sociological and anthropological hats and try to discern the meaning of—and proper approach to—each of dating's elusive dance steps. At some point during our discussions, we always end up admitting that neither of us has any idea what we are doing.

Today's conversation was all about timing. When do you start calling someone every day? When do you break it off if you're uncertain about the person? When do you know you two are a couple if it's going well? And if you're not sure about any of the above, when is it safe to broach the subject with the other person in the relationship?

We agreed that the bottom line is decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis. However, we also stumbled onto something that seems so obvious but felt a bit revolutionary—and extremely important.

When dancing your way into a more serious relationship, you have to make a concerted effort to cultivate the friendship.

This takes some of the urgency out the "whens" and, more critically, builds the kind of foundation that every relationship should have. Being friends enables you to enjoy the downtime more, to have the awkward conversations more easily, to let your guard down and be silly. I believe that all of these should feed the desire to be exclusive with someone. If you can be yourself and act like a dork around them, they're a better match than that complete hottie whose pants you want to rip off but can't carry on a conversation with. And the best part about becoming friends is that there's no right or wrong time for it to happen. You can start working at it on day one.

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