benefits of building friendshipsRegardless of whether you are over fifty, or about to reach your twenty-first birthday, the value of a solid network of female AND male friends is extremely high. Even if you already have a strong network of friends and acquaintances, I’m going to make the case today for expanding that network.

Here are eight good reasons to build your network of male and female friendships if all you really want right now is just one good romantic relationship. I also have an important warning for you if you choose to date someone you were introduced to by a friend.

Let’s start with the eight reasons why you should build your social network of platonic friends.

1. Purposefully building platonic friendships is less stressful than directly pursuing single men. Nonetheless, your expanded network of friends will automatically put you in contact with friends of friends, some of whom will be interested in you as more than a friend.

2. With an expanding list of friends and interesting people in your life, your judgment and patience will improve when selecting a dating partner. When your social life is full, you feel less lonely, so you are more likely to take your time and carefully choose a dating partner.

3. Friendships are worth a lot regardless of if you get anything else out of them.

4. Most of the time, dating someone you met online or at a grocery store is just fine. However, there are advantages to dating people that you met through a network of friends who can screen people for you. They can not only protect you from bad experiences, but also give you the inside scoop on a guy you might be interested in.

5. Did you know that social psychology research has shown that we like someone more after we do that person a favor? It’s true, and one of the favors friends most enjoy is playing matchmaker to set you up. As you build your relationship network, give your friends permission to spread the word when you are single and looking.

6. When you build your network of friendships with men, you feel more natural and relaxed hanging out with men. That translates to feeling more natural and relaxed on a first date with a guy that you actually want to make a great impression on.

7. In the process of building your friendship network, you will accidentally run into people you are actually interested in as a dating prospect rather than simply as a friend. Because you were just looking for friendship when you introduced yourself, the pressure was off for both you and him. It’s a simple shift in mindset that takes some of the pressure out of dating.

8. There are practical benefits to having a large network of friends and acquaintances beyond those associated with your goal of meeting a keeper. For example, when you’re trying to move, a group of sixteen friends makes it feel like quick work. When you need a job, research suggests word-of-mouth is still the primary method by which people attain employment; even in the age of monster.com and other online job listing sites.

And now I have a warning for you. If you take this advice and work on building your social network, your friends will introduce you to people that you end up dating. Before you accept a setup of this sort, it is important for you to develop an “exit strategy.”

An exit strategy is just what it sounds like. It’s a plan for how you will exit the relationship. Finding “the one” usually doesn’t happen on the first try (I know…duh).

Relationships end all the time, and emotionally mature people know how to handle that well. However, not everyone you date will be an emotionally mature person. An exit strategy is most important in situations where you find yourself dating someone who is not the most emotionally mature.

benefits of building friendshipsThe key is that you don’t want to damage the relationship you have with a friend in the process of exiting a dating relationship with someone your friend introduced you to. An exit strategy simply makes it a little bit easier to back out of a dating situation if the need to do so should arise.

Some people like to use time-limited dating as an exit strategy. In this situation, you simply tell the guy you would like to just get to know them across the course of three weeks, letting them know in advance that you want to get to know a lot of different people right now rather than spend a lot of time dating one person. Personally, I think there are too many limitations caused by that kind of exit strategy.

I prefer a more straightforward approach. The point of having your exit strategy is to protect the relationship you have with a friend or group of friends in case you need to break up with a person your friend introduced you to. I say go straight to the source.

Setup your exit strategy by having a frank discussion with your friend about the fact that (in all likelihood) you will not continue dating the person they set you up with indefinitely. Tell them you don’t want them to feel they need to defend you or the other person if that happens. You don’t want them to feel stuck in the middle of two people badmouthing each other if things end badly for some reason.

In most cases, that is all that is needed. Having that discussion psychologically prepares your friend to see the end of the relationship as a part of your healthy pursuit of the best life possible.

The other component to a good exit strategy is consideration of the way group dynamics may change if you date someone in a group of friends and then break up. That occurrence often changes the dynamic of a group dramatically. Just think it through and be prepared to accept the potential change…or else don’t date the guy. There are many advantages to dating friends of friends. I just want you to think ahead and be prepared.

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