The key to a successful relationship is friendship

Illustration by Aleah Green

As Valentine’s Day approaches, many people are going out for a first date with their crush or making dinner at home with their long-term sweetheart. It’s important to note that taking it slow is key to a relationship. In my experience, it’s very important to be friends above anything else. Having a strong bond and feeling comfortable being yourself is essential for a healthy relationship.

Whether it’s doing homework together or going out to eat, it’s important to get a sense of who your partner is before you date seriously. Partaking in activities that allow you to talk and express your true self to your significant other is crucial when building a lasting attachment.

Before dating, you should feel that the person is close to you and connects with you on an emotional level. You want to be able to laugh, talk and really feel comfortable around that special someone.

With a societal focus on social media, it’s easy to fall for someone based simply on sexual attraction or their appearance. It can be easy to miss out on the opportunities to grow a real interest in somebody if you only care about their looks instead of their personality. Sometimes we only value someone when we’re caught up in the warm, fuzzy feelings of the honeymoon stage.

The goal of most relationships is having a long future together. Feeling lasting attraction once the rose-colored glasses come off can be pretty tricky.

I’ve had my fair share of realizations that I don’t like someone as much as I originally thought. For me, it was easy to get caught up in the moment. However, once the moment ended, a deeper connection was missing and the opportunity for growth within the relationship was gone. I realized I didn’t feel as open to the person as I would have liked to be, and the sparks I felt were extinguished.

That’s the biggest problem I’ve faced in relationships — the feeling that we’re both not able to be open to each other. Building a friendship first helps eliminate that problem.

In high school, I would often talk to one of the girls I liked. I thought she was one of the best looking girls in school but past the shallow connection, we were very different people. When we talked about our shared interest in music, fashion and celebrities, I could tell she wasn’t engaged in my same interests or even the conversation. She was a very shy and reserved person, and that wasn’t something I preferred in a partner. We liked many of the same subjects, but she couldn’t keep a conversation going. I knew then that it wouldn’t work out.

For me, being able to keep up a constant conversation with someone is a critical component in my relationships. Everyone likes to share their thoughts and ideas with someone and feel understood. Finding somebody to talk to about anything and everything while having fun with them is a rare commodity, but it is a commonality that abounds in true friendship.

If these elements are necessary for friendship, they should be present in a relationship as well.

To be best friends you need to build trust, honesty and compassion. Starting with these building blocks of friendship is a great way to build a connection on an emotional level with a new or current partner. A true friend would never laugh or mock you for opening up to them, and the same should go for the person you’re dating. Your partner having an appropriate and meaningful response to your feelings is crucial in a relationship.

As much as an emotional connection is needed, it is important to foster the fun parts of loving someone and find a partner who has similar interests as you. Finding activities that you both enjoy will connect you to one another.

It can be difficult to find someone who likes all of the same activities and hobbies as you, but finding enough in common can be the start of something great.

If it’s impossible to find similar interests such as movies, music and hobbies then that person may not be for you.

For all those who are wanting to get into a relationship, it’s important to start slow and build a meaningful friendship first. If you want to find a real partner for life, you’ll need to work for it, even if that means it doesn’t work out.

It’s OK to have failed relationships.

Failing at something is how we grow and become more aware for our next attempt. However, if you want to succeed in your relationship, find a partner who can also be your best friend. When you do, the possibilities for growth and love are endless.