Growing up, I was always self-conscious about not having a boyfriend. I felt like I was behind schedule with everyone else and that by the time I *did* start dating someone, I’d be painfully clueless in the passionate make-out department (at 17, I still hadn’t kissed anyone, outside of a musical-theater stage kiss).
Instead of exchanging flirty AIM messages or going on dates to the Cheesecake Factory, I routinely sat at my computer while talking to my best friend on the phone. We were in different high schools at that point, so we called each other nearly every day. Sometimes, we’d bounce from subject to subject at lightning speed. Other times, we’d be quietly reading other people’s Xangas, still on the line if we saw something ~scandalous~.
Turns out, this did so much more to prep me for future romantic relationships than having someone to smooch under the school stairwell. According to a recent study on adolescent peer relationships, having strong, close, platonic friendships from ages 13 to 18 predicts dating satisfaction later on in your life (specifically, around ages 27 to 30). At the same time, actually dating someone in high school had no direct correlation to future romantic bliss.
“Romantic relationships in adolescence are much more likely to be fleeting, and as such, they don’t appear to be the main way teens learn skills needed for the future,” study coauthor Rachel K. Narr, a doctoral student at the University of Virginia, said in a press release.
But what about maintaining friendships at that age prepares you for a romantic relationship, which has its own set of expectations and dynamics? The study cites learning to be appropriately assertive when you disagree, having a range of different friendships, and maintaining said close relationships over time as all factors that help with romantic competence later on.
But more simply put: Remaining friends through middle and high school (when, frankly, hormones are a nightmare and cliques are a thing) is a feat that can only be accomplished if you’re really understanding with one another.
“People who are able to sustain long-term friendships tend to be more realistic about [relationships],” says Irene S. Levine, PhD, psychologist and friendship expert. “They recognize that no relationship is perfect and that every friendship has its ups and downs and requires give-and-take. They tend to be more forgiving and accepting of other people.”
Levine also notes that these people often know how to nurture healthy relationships by not being too draining, jealous, or needy and are usually better at cutting out toxic friends for the sake of ride-or-die besties. Basically, being patient, kind, loyal, and outspoken are all top-notch qualities anyone would want in a partner, and if both you and bae have them, it’s the bare minimum required for your relationship to last more than a few years.
So, if you’ve ever felt lesser-than for spending prom with your BFFs instead a viable love interest, just know that you’re actually ahead of the curve in your romantic life. And the best part? You have great friends. Always cherish that on its own.