A level of self-awareness is wired into every human from a tender age. Children, for instance, will become aware and conscious of their environment, know their parents, realise they have a name and note the presence of their sex organs.
Sexual awareness, particularly, intensifies when puberty kicks in around the age of 10-14 for girls and 12-16 for boys. From this point, teenagers begin to differentiate between stranger, friend, boyfriend, girlfriend and so on, and also begin to put boundaries on how people interact with them.
Teenagers grow further into adolescence and their body and hormones pressure them to be sexually active. But the ones who are not well grounded in the distinctions and relations between sexual activity and platonic friendship run head-on into romantic relationships and come back scorched even at such a young age.
Surely, there is a pathway involved in how intimate we get with people over time and it may either branch into romantic relationships or not. The rather unfortunate thing is that many adults in romantic relationships do miss the important stage of friendship in their relationships and replace it strictly with sexual attraction. Findings have shown that partners who are attracted to each other but are also friends have a better chance at a lasting and hassle-free relationship. It is not unusual for courting or married couples to find out that they are becoming more estranged without that real bond of friendship.
Sometimes, a person may bypass one or more of these stages of intimacy; quite a few get away with it unscathed. However, a notable downside of ignoring the stage of friendship in intimate relationships is that it is most likely to feel empty and ultimately may lead to a premature breakup. This buttresses the natural inclination of human bonds to tread the patterned path from acquaintanceship to a friendship which may climax in courtship and marriage.
In the end, it must be relieving to know that one of the factors which will make or mar intimacy on the long run is the decision of whether you are hopping up the intimacy ladder with the left foot of sexual attraction alone or ascending the rungs balanced by the right foot of friendship into a fully-fledged romantic relationship.