When a mate tells you you are spending too much time with a romantic partner (or trying to get one) and not enough with them. Time for mates before dates.
Just like it would be bad if someone in a romantic relationship always valued their mates over their dates, I think it can also be bad when it happens the other way around. It can make your mates feel inferior and that they are less important to you (particularly if they don’t have romantic relationships themselves).
Putting dates before mates can also put more pressure on your romantic relationship – because you are asking them to fulfil a lot of the stuff that you might otherwise get from your mates.
If you are wanting some advice on how to do relationships in general, head to my Brief Guide to Relationships.
So here are some top tips on how you can put mates before dates.
1. Making and keeping dates with mates
Rather than just hoping you’ll bump into your mates, make a date with them. Yes, ask your mate out for a mate date. Long enough so that you can spend some quality time: either offering them support, advice, a listening ear (and them doing this for you) and/or doing something fun and silly. Something that you can remember and talk about and share that was just about you two. It doesn’t have to be big at all, it could just be watching a game together, or going for a bike ride. Just like with arranging a date with a date, see what they are up for, have a conversation about what you both might like to do and and do it.
2. Treat mate dates like date dates
There’s this guide to dating here from me. I think all of this is relevant to mate dates as well as date dates. Plan what you are going to do and allow yourself to get excited about it. You could text each other beforehand about it: even saying something simple like “looking forward to the pictures on Wednesday” can be a really nice text to read.
Try to be really on your mate date and not drift off thinking about a date date
During the date you can really be trying to pay attention to each other and concentrate on the other person. After it can be nice to say how nice the date was “that chicken tho,” “mate your dancing scares me.” Speaking of phones, try not to look at it the whole time when you are on a mate date – cos that would be bad on a date date right?.
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3. Focus on the date you’re on
Maybe if you are planning on having a ‘big night’ there might be an opportunity to go on the pull, but don’t do this all the time. It can be more fun to hit the dance floor with your mates and be in awe of/be scared of their moves, rather than to be half heartedly paying attention to them whilst scanning the dancefloor checking out other people (which can often be a bit gross anyway – but here’s how to do that in a non-gross way). You get more out of dates if you focus on the one that you are on and not another one (I think this goes for date dates too).
4. Don’t flake on mate dates
It’s usually bad form to be cancelling dates with dates (unless you’re ill, or honestly not feeling it, or have stupidly double booked). It would be really bad form to cancel a date so you could go on a date with another date. But people do this with mate dates the whole time.
It’s not cool – your mates need you too.
Even if you just needed to see your romantic relationship person, if you’ve made a date to see your mate, you’re going to have to miss out on that sex or snuggles. Sorry!
5. Make space in your calendar
If you are in a romantic relationship have a look at your calendar and look at how much you see them compared to how much you see your mates. How is that looking to you? Maybe you could think about how you divide your week/month up and try to make space for people that way. Remember that it’s also important to make space for you too (as well as with other kinds of relationships, like family, colleagues, hobby type people). This could be about how much you see them but also how much you spend chatting with them. Or what ‘things’ belong to whom e.g. like who you don’t watch Friends with.
6. Keep in touch with them
Chatting through phones is how a lot of people keep their relationships going (get over it everyone and it’s not just the youngs that do this). In fact many relationships pretty much only exist chatting online somehow (forums, facebook groups, twitter.com etc). When a romantic date person comes along it can be easy to chat to them more at the expense of chatting to all these other people. You might want to keep an eye on that because sometimes it might start to annoy all these people who you’ve been having relationships with for years. If you want to tell someone about something, do you always tell the same person first? Maybe you could switch this up a bit.
7. Mates being mates with you + your date
It’s common for your mates to become mates with your date. This can mean that often whenever you see your mates your date is always with you too. Sometimes it’s just easier to do this and it’s more convenient to do things with your date in tow too. But, always doing things with your date just because it’s convenient isn’t great because it means that it can affect your one on one relationship with your mates.
If your shared memories, great times, and intimate moments are always shared with two people then it can be really hard to deal with if one of those relationships breaks down, or changes a lot. Also your mate might really miss that relationship with you and might not be as happy with your relationship with you + your date rather than just with you. This can also affect how we might feel about ourselves after a relationship breakdown because it’s easy for us to put a lot of our identity into the couple relationship. You + Date = You if you’re not careful.
Having said that, just like you can have triads in romantic relationships, relationships involving three people (dates or mates) can and do totally work. All I’m saying is don’t fall into this without thinking about how it might affect your existing mate relationship.
8. Mates are not training wheels for dates
We’re often taught that the best way to have a romantic relationship with someone is to be friends first. But what if that person doesn’t want a romantic relationship? This can also lead to the dreaded ‘friendzone’ where both people can feel a bit short-changed when they were having a perfectly good relationship. So please stop teaching people that it’s best to start with mate dates before you have date dates.
9. Woosh woosh vs slowly slowly
What we are taught (and how we often do) romantic relationships is to be all like “whoosh.” Like “swept off my feet.” Kinda “I just wanna see you all the time.” “Oh gosh they are head over heels.”
Although some friendships can be a bit like this too sometimes (like friend crushes) more often we are taught that friends are something that “last a lifetime” “will always be there for you” “the people who have your back” “the people you can rely on.” This makes mates sound boring and practical compared to dates which sound all exciting, new and, well, romantic.
So maybe if you do start to date someone you could try to be a bit more slowly slowly with them and a bit more woosh woosh with a mate.
10. Circles not pyramids
We’re taught to think about one kind of thing being better than all the other kinds of things – a hierarchy. Like cats, Beyoncé, or Scampi Fries (don’t fight me on this). It’s the same for relationships as you get older where one kind of relationship is supposed to be more important and better than all others. Best mates (when you’re a kid), then romantic person (from your teens onwards) and then your kid (if that happens).
But if we could even out how important different relationships are then we can start to value them all a bit better. Some people really try to value all the different kinds of relationships in their lives – it’s called relationship anarchy. So instead of seeing one relationship at the top of a pyramid you could have a few close relationships in an inner circle. However, even if you find this is a bit much for you, even trying to even out things a little bit by taking some of the advice in this article might help all of your relationships – including the relationship with yourself.
Teach Yourself Sex Ed – Relationships (because you probably didn’t get taught about this at school let’s be real).
© Justin Hancock, 2022
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Justin Hancock has been a trained sex and relationships educator since 1999. In that time he’s taught and given advice about sex and relationships with thousands of young people in person and millions online. He’s a member of the World Association for Sexual Health. Find out more about Justin here