In my last column, I talked about dating friends and why it may feel comfortable. But there are some downsides to friend-dating.
"Of course, there are some pitfalls to dating your friends," says Marisa, who dated within a circle both before her marriage and since her divorce, but is feeling kind of done with it, "One relationship started as friendship and ended as friendship and probably should have remained a friendship all the way through. We were too comfortable with each other. There was never any passion but we both felt that it should work because we liked each so much and were so compatible. In the end, we broke up and both got into marriages with a lot of passion and no compatibility or friendship."
Tanya, the friend who neither shows nor, in a way (but not a bad one) acts her age (how many 41-year-olds do you know who do circus acts onstage with a rock band when they can get off work early enough to make the gig?) went back to dating within her circle after her divorce, and has some good things to say about it: "The ease, common ground, shared values and history and common references my social group shares are important to me. I benefit from having the feeling of a long term relationship (the two men I'm dating I've known for respectively ten and five years), because it is." She also acknowledges drawbacks: "Because I was married, my dating skills have atrophied through disuse and I'm kinda stymied. Then again, the idea of being that vulnerable to a total stranger... I've had enough unwanted upheaval over the last several years. The part of me that wants security is, perversely, finding it in relationships that I engineer to not matter so much to me so that when they inevitably end, it won't hurt so much."
It seems to work better when one is in or just out of college, " observed Jane, "When a lot of things are kinda temporary anyway. I lived with a guy for a few months after college, and about the same time we realized it wasn't working, I got a job in another state and told him "I'm moving, you're not invited." I got some friends to help me move, one of them hit it off with him and they dated for about a year, during which we all hung out together. I can't imagine doing that now, mostly because breakups now involve real estate and other large bones of contention. And of course, no one in that situation was married, which does change things, at least for most people."
And there's the problem. Dating your friends and friends of friends, everyone wiggling around like a big fuzzy pile of non-grudge-carrying puppies, does tend to work better at the beginning of grown-up life, when nobody's all that set yet, and closer to the end, when there's often a sort of last minute reshuffle facilitated by widowhood — my mother, for instance, remarried in what I'd have to call her extremely late 60s, to a long-time, beloved friend who'd come suddenly available on the late-life marriage market. He's 90 now. My mother, still in her very extremely late 60s, of course, has finally found a marriage that probably would have lasted happily 'til you-know-what even if they'd married young (unlike her other two) and will certainly do so now.
In mid-life, it tends to work best for those who, like Tanya and like me, kept at least one foot firmly in the post-college/urban/artsy/fringey vie de Bohème. Our friends rarely married and never moved to the suburbs, in other words, so they were still available to date when our long-term relationships broke up.
If this is not you, you may find the whole idea of friend-dating ridiculous, if not actively distasteful. I urge you, though, to look around — look very carefully — before dismissing that old relationship-advisor saw, you know, the one that goes: "You never know, the person who's really right for you might be right under your nose!" He really might, and he might be so busy gazing soulfully into the distance that he missed you too. Take a look around close-in before you go out hoping to find Prince Charming squeezing melons in the produce section. Like my mother always says, "It couldn't hurt!"
Click the following for an entire directory of resource article written for women on sex and dating again after divorce.