Building the friendship is much more important than romance. To marry someone you can count on, feel secure about and with, whom you can trust, and whom you just can't imagine spending your life without is a precious gift. Friends do still hurt each other, we must not forget. But friends are always "there" for you. They can be counted on. They do not come and go based on moods or feelings. They can be trusted to be your friend, even when you might not be that good of a friend. When you marry someone, you almost want it to be more important to hear "I trust you" than "I love you". Anyone can just say "I love you", but it's hard to say "I trust you." And if you do, you better mean it, and the other person better step up to being trustworthy.
This is why I strongly believe that a man and a woman cannot be "close friends" without there being romantic developments. Friendship that grows leads to intimacy. You would be hard-pressed to find a woman who is married or serious with a man who will be comfortable with her fiancé or husband having a close friend of the opposite sex. Friendship is powerful, and it is so special. Men need other close male friends, and women need other close female friends. Those friendships have an intimacy that is important for their well-being. Same-sex friendships are critical. But opposite-sex friendships have to be very careful.
So what I really want to advise you here about friendship during the dating process is 1) encourage each other to have same-sex friends and spend time with them, and 2) be very careful about how you both handle opposite-sex friends. So many terrible things happen to ruin good relationships based on these two things alone. Having same-sex friends is so important, even in marriage. A man needs to have his time out with other male friends and so does a woman need her time with her girl friends. It makes the marriage much healthier. Sometimes you see a person give up their friends because they want to spend ALL their time with the person they are dating. That is not good, nor healthy, and it is a sign that there might be other problems. And sometimes a person gets jealous of a friend that the person he or she is dating has. For example, a woman who gets defensive or insecure about a woman her boyfriend is very close to and the way they interact. That boyfriend would do well to understand he has to be mindful of how his opposite-sex friendships can affect a dating relationship. It's never good or healthy to feel threatened by the relationship of your fiancé or spouse with a person of the opposite sex. But it is also dangerous to get "too close" to someone of the opposite sex when you are serious with someone else, or engaged, or married.
What people need to realize is that "intimacy" does not mean "sex" or intercourse. Physical, genital expression is a kind of intimacy that is reserved for a man and a woman who are married. It is a fulfillment of something begun in their relationship that is now able to be fully expressed in their marriage. But it is one kind of intimacy. There are other kinds of intimacy. Romance and friendship help develop intimacy. Intimacy affects the whole person. It is emotional, psychological, physiological, and spiritual. People who are dating have to develop intimacy. But they must never allow their intimacy to get expressed sexually. There can be signs of affection, but they cannot go too far, for the intimacy that is reserved for a man and a woman in marriage is too sacred to be abused. The dating process is time of mystery that builds up toward a great unveiling. Marriage is a lifetime of unveiling.
You also want to be careful about your dating time going on too long. For older singles, there should not be the need of as much time dating as younger people might have to do. Most older people know who they are, what they have, and what they want. They should have a maturity level that can allow for a reasonable amount of dating before entering exclusivity (courtship), and then shortly after that, engagement to be married. If you are able to see each other for several days at a time at least a couple of times per month, you should both know if you want to be exclusive within three months or so. After another three months or so of exclusivity, which is a time period used to determine a reason why you both should NOT get married, there should be engagement. Then, of course, marriage should take place six months or so after that. This timeline depends on spending your time together (and apart) wisely.
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What is a "wise" use of this time of dating and courtship? Getting to know each other, spending time with each other in person and with each other's family and friends, asking as many questions as necessary, and discovering love. There will be a point when you both discover that you really can't see living your lives without the other. That is the time to get engaged to be married.
Be careful of men that prolong dating and will not go exclusive. You need to see a man making "commitment moves" all along the way. These commitment moves will be a sign to you that this man is serious about the process of finding a wife. If he is already not interested in seeing other women, then, in a way, you are already exclusive. But the courtship period should be accepted by both "officially". You will want to hear him say that he is not open to any other women during this time of discovering a reason why you should not get married. So to go into courtship means that marriage should already have been talked about.
There is no need to get obsessive about how all these things will play out. All I am doing is giving food for thought. Things should and will happen quite naturally. What I want to make sure you avoid is investing too much time in a relationship that goes nowhere. In other words, you should not be just "dating" after six months. That's too long to not be committed to a serious phase of your relationship and moving toward engagement. Otherwise, you not only may be wasting your time, you might invest your heart to the point of really getting hurt unnecessarily.