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I sometimes would go on a date and emerge with confidence that I had found a match.
This is was what I have been looking for!
I was often confounded by the man’s post-date behaviour. Why wasn’t he texting me? Why hadn’t I heard from him?
I didn’t get it; we had a connection, and that was something to be pursued, to follow, to act on. The music videos of my youth told me I would take his breath away, yet I wasn’t observing real men in their 40s behaving as if they had an addiction to love.
I dictated into my phone, “How long does it take to make a friend?”
Siri revealed that it requires a 40 to 60-hour investment to consider someone a casual friend, 80 to 100 hours to get promoted to friend, and 200 or more hours for a close friendship to emerge.
That’s basic human attachment.
Shocked, I considered why dating would be the bearer of different metrics. It isn’t.
The truth is, we don’t know someone after sharing an hour-long meal with them, and we still don’t know them even after doing it twice. The hope that it could be a romantic relationship in the future doesn’t change the basic mathematical requirement set out by human nature.
We don’t have enough legitimate connection after one date to even consider the person across the table a “casual friend,” yet we are often guilty of desiring special time or social consideration that we ourselves would not extend to a social tie of this same undeveloped nature.
Would you actually want someone you had coffee with once to cancel preexisting plans or to clear their calendar for you? To text you while they are on vacation? To send you photos or selfies of their day? No matter if your intention is future friendship or a future romance, when it’s not yet even a casual connection, those actions realistically ought to feel more like crossing a social boundary than the creation of a relationship.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, would you want a not-even-casual friend to “lean back” and let you initiate as we often do in relationships with a romantic intention? Would you want that person to “mirror” your actions? Would you want that person to space their replies out so as not to appear “needy” or “desperate?”
I dare say not, especially since research shows that we cannot receive a reply “too fast” from someone we want to advance a relationship with. That is as true in a bromance as it is in a romance. Intention makes no difference.
It takes 80 to 100 hours to know someone else, and it is only in dating that we tend to push past this fundamental truth of human nature. We add in rules and behavior modifications for ourselves, and expectations of others.
Why do we even want that from someone we’ve been on a first or second date with?
I wonder if it is because we culturally believe in “the one.” Even if we rationally know better, our culture feeds us fantasies and fairy tales of chance meetings and happily ever afters that are decided in an instant. Following that magic moment, there’s supposed to be “pursuit,” “initiation,” “chase.” It’s supposed to be obvious and evident—articles on the internet say so!
The telling and retelling of fairy tales don’t change the basic mathematical requirement.
What’s been left out of the narrative is that this person is a virtual stranger if the number of hours you’ve spent together is one.
Real humans and real human attachment don’t really work the way it does in “Pretty Woman” or in MT-V music videos. Nobody needs to be certain after a first date. There’s nothing special that an intent to have a relationship changes about the nature of how we form that relationship. It simply takes time.
And until at least 40 hours has passed, we don’t know enough about the other person to consider them a casual friend.
The first 40 hours ought to be about observation: is the person on the phone or across the table interesting or funny? How do they follow up? Does the way they follow up make sense to you? Do you sense compassion, passion, engagement in their life? Are they motivated, responsible, a person of their word? Do you sense reciprocity? Generosity?
How are you behaving? Do you feel safe with this person? Are you trying really hard? Are you anxious? Are you being yourself, or flipping through manuals and articles on how to make it stick? Do you feel more yourself, or less yourself?
When I stopped expecting the men on the other side of my table to lose their breath because they had spent an hour in my presence, I started spending the first 40 hours being authentic to the kind of person that I am. That’s when things started to change.
I relaxed. I observed. I laughed more. I felt more free to be myself. I behaved as I would with any other stranger. And that was the beginning of real connection.