Dating and Relationship Advice

In early July, the cast of Stranger Things underwent a test of their real-life friendships. It sounded like fun, so I checked it out and was surprised by its depth. I also appreciated that celebrities, for once, spotlighted friendship rather than romance. Here are four things people in the dating world can take away from the friendship test the cast of Stranger Things did:

1) While the games the cast of Stranger Things played seemed silly on the surface — the trust falling, complimenting each other only in emojis, etc. — they brought out a lot of depth both in the personalities of the individuals and in their friendships. We can apply this lesson to our dating in this way: we do not have to be so serious to evaluate whether someone might be good for us. In fact, being playful can be the best way to bring out the more serious things in a relationship or person. People in play are not in performance mode and can only perform for so long. You want to see the true personality of a potential partner — play and fun can be one way to get a glimpse of that.

2) People navigating the dating world often want to know what questions they should ask themselves about a potential partner. One of the questions that doesn't come up often enough on these lists of questions is "could I be friends with this person?" Even though you hear from married people all the time about how they married their best friend, people who are dating have to be reminded to consider friendship potential with the people they're dating. I personally think it's too much pressure on marriage for someone to be your spouse and your best friend, but it is essential that you not only be friends with your eventual spouse but that your friendship with them is the foundation of your relationship. Marriages can fail based on the lack of friendship alone (ask me how I know).

3) Despite the data correlating friendship (not marriage) with health and long life, we persist in over-emphasizing romance in this culture. And we have so demoted friendship that people spout "just get new friends" at the drop of a hat. Divorce recovery is a multi-million dollar industry; where does one go to heal from the ending of a friendship? The cast of Stranger Things may have simply set out to have fun and make an entertaining video. Still, it's powerful to see celebrities talking about friendship and taking it seriously, even as the games and exercises they did may have seemed shallow or just for fun at first.

4) The dating world is full of conversation about "compatibility" (especially this weird idea of "sexual compatibility"). Still, I hardly hear friendship come up as a test of whether or not someone is a match for you. Compatibility in our culture seems to be based heavily on physical attraction and even emotional connection. The conversation is starting to shift to focus on shared values. But you can have an emotional connection and shared values and still not have a successful friendship (ask me how I know). During the friendship test, what the cast of Stranger Things talked about, while not directly, when they were talking about their friendships, was compatibility, thus showing that "compatibility" is not just a word reserved for the romance world.

Overall, the most important thing we can learn from the friendship test is that it is the most important one to take when dating.

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