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Friends Or Lovers? How To Tell the Difference in a Budding Romance
by Janet Jacobsen
Oct. 2003

It’s a fact. Some couples make better friends than lovers. The trick is to learn to recognize the difference before your relationship heads in the wrong direc-tion, inevitably leading to painful conflict, broken hearts or - worst of all - an unhappy marriage.

“Everyone wants to find the love of their life and live happily ever after,” says Paul A. Falzone, CEO of The Right One and Together Dating, the world’s largest dating service. “Unfortunately, the excitement of a new relationship often obscures important signs that, while the two of you may have good reason to feel destined to be in each other’s lives, the relationship will be more successful as a friendship than a romance.”

According to Falzone, a close and enduring friendship is of far greater value than a conten-tious love affair. And although friendship is a key component to any happy marriage, many dating part-ners would be wise to recognize when it’s best to just stay as friends, and look for romance elsewhere.
“A perfect example is Jerry and Elaine on Seinfeld,” says Falzone. ”Although they had dated briefly, they had the sense to let their relationship evolve into what it really was - just a great friendship.”
Falzone suggests that couples consider the following when assessing whether they might make better friends than lovers:

Common Values
Sharing common values is the foundation of a successful marriage. Couples should consider whether their core beliefs are in sync before letting a relationship get too serious. For example, if one partner is a born-again Christian, while the other is skeptical of organized religion, inevitable conflict looms. Does one of you hold a definitive code of ethics, while the other leans toward moral relativism? Watch out!

Complementary Backgrounds
While it is possible for a dedicated couple to overcome almost any obstacle, significant differences in your personal backgrounds make long-term success an uphill battle. A couple in which both partners come from similar socio-economic backgrounds will probably enjoy much smoother sailing than a couple with very different backgrounds. Over the long haul, the invisible gulf that separates someone with a blue-collar background from someone with a privileged background can create significant conflict. What you have is a couple that sees the world very differently. That’s something that can present a serious barrier to happiness.

This should be obvious, but when couples are overwhelmed with the intensity of new romance, the obvious is often over-looked. Is one of you ambitious and the other laid back? A woman whose goal is to hit the upper echelons of Fortune 500 management by the age of 40 probably will not succeed with a partner whose focus is to settle down and raise a family. Similarly, a man whose work involves long hours and lots of travel is a poor choice for a woman whose emphasis is family life.

Preferred Lifestyle
Lifestyle preferences can be a source of endless conflict. Consider: his idea of entertainment is going to professional sports events, while hers is attending the theatre and ballet; she wants to live in the city, but he yearns for a home in the suburbs; he’s addicted to golf and skiing, while her idea of exercise is marathon shopping. Are these couples likely to find long-term happiness together?

Sexual Fireworks
This can be a real minefield. Most couples enjoy a special sort of passion in the early months of their relationship. But after a few months, one’s inherent sex drive emerges. If one member of a couple is considerably more ardent than the other, long-term compatibility is seriously threatened. Ironically, the reverse may also be a warning sign: beware the rela-tionship in which sex is the outstanding element. Burning passion can obscure the fact that it takes more than a great sex life to make a great marriage.

Inevitably, if one partner is more committed to the relationship than the other, someone is going to be hurt. Often, timing is everything. Almost everyone reaches that point in life when they’re ready for a serious relationship. It’s just that it takes some longer than others to get there. If one of you is more ready than the other to make a commitment, proceed with caution. Like Jerry and Elaine, you might find a great friendship is a better choice than an unsuccessful romance.