One of my all time favorite memories with my current boyfriend is from more than thirteen years ago, when he and I were only eleven and twelve years old.
I was the new girl in sixth grade and we had developed a little crush on each other. After some covert operations and whispers between our messenger friends, it became official that we were “going out.” But let’s be real, we were kids and all that meant was that we were good friends who happened to think the other was cute.
One day while I was at my locker getting ready for my next class, he walked up to me, and with a very serious look on his face said, “Morgan, I need to ask you an important question.”
A little nervous because of his intensity, I hesitantly asked what he needed to ask me. He responded (I’m not kidding) “what’s your favorite color?” I said, “Blue” with equal seriousness. He thanked me and then ran off to his own class.
I die laughing today when I think about the innocence of our relationship at the beginning. How all we cared about was getting to know each other and being friends. We wanted to know each other’s favorite colors and foods, what our families were like, and what we enjoyed doing in our free time.
And it makes me think about the failed relationships I’ve been in as an adult. I could have benefited from taking some cues from sixth grade Morgan’s approach to guys, an approach that was more concerned with being friends before moving on to anything else.
My boyfriend’s and my story can be a bit confusing, considering how long we’ve known each other and the many times our lives have intersected in one way or another. But to sum up the highlights, we met in middle school and were very close friends until eighth grade. Then some things happened, and we didn’t speak for the better part of two years.
Fast forward to our sophomore year English class. One day I simply smiled at him. He smiled back, and we started a conversation for the first time in months. I don’t know what caused the freeze between us to thaw; I think we were just ready for it to. I missed him and he missed me.
It wasn’t long until we were dating, and unfortunately this time around we did not rekindle the close friendship we originally had. We leaned full tilt into a romantic relationship and very quickly found ourselves without many physical boundaries and making choices that neither of us were mature enough or ready to make. As I’ve written previously, those eight months we dated hold beautiful memories for me but also memories of some of my biggest regrets in life.
He ended up breaking things off a couple months into our junior year. That parting was, to date, the most painful, gut-wrenching heartbreak I have ever experienced. But our story is unique in that, although we didn’t talk for months after that, we eventually managed to find our friendship once again about halfway through our senior year. We went to prom together. When we started college, we made a point to still catch up every few months when we were both in town. We weren’t best friends like we once were, but we still shared a special bond and for six years tried to stay connected.
It wasn’t until this year that I realized that all those years of friendship had been preparing us both for an even deeper level of trust when we decided to start dating, once again. Only this time we’re adults, we’ve both grown greatly as individuals, and for the first time we both truly know what we want and need in a relationship. I can honestly say that I don’t know if we would be dating right now, or if we would be thriving like we are, if we hadn’t taken the time to just be friends and really build up our relationship without any romantic expectations.
I’m not saying you need to know someone for over a decade before dating them. But my experience with my boyfriend is that you need to build friendship first in order to know where that person is in life—whether they are even ready for a relationship. You need to take time to get to know each other, to build up trust, and to learn enough about them to make an informed decision about whether you want them to be a bigger part of your life or not.
My experience has shown me that this friendship-first approach strengthens a dating relationship and makes loving your significant other all the sweeter.