Is it better to be friends first?

People always wonder about whether being friends first before they have a relationship is better. Plato in the Phaedrus has Phaedrus discuss this very poignant affair. I am aware that the speech I quote is the inferior speech but it makes a point. Later I will comment on the other two speeches on Love by Socrates.

I quote from Walter Hamilton and Stephen Scully’s versions, lines 232e-233a:

Many lovers desire your body before they know your character or are familiar with your circumstances. So it uncertain whether they still wish to remain friends when they cease to desire you.

But those not in love, who were friends before they formed a liaison, are in no danger of finding their friendship diminished as a result of the satisfaction they have enjoyed with each other.

Phaedrus, Plato, Line 232c

Cupid and Psyche – Everything is fine at first, right?

καὶ μὲν δὴ τῶν μὲν ἐρώντων πολλοὶ πρότερον τοῦ σώματος ἐπεθύμησαν ἢ τὸν τρόπον ἔγνωσαν καὶ τῶν ἄλλων οἰκείων ἔμπειροι ἐγένοντο, ὥστε ἄδηλον αὐτοῖς εἰ ἔτι τότε βουλήσονται φίλοι εἶναι, ἐπειδὰν τῆς ἐπιθυμίας παύσωνται:

τοῖς δὲ μὴ ἐρῶσιν, οἳ καὶ πρότερον ἀλλήλοις φίλοι ὄντες ταῦτα ἔπραξαν, οὐκ ἐξ ὧν ἂνεὖ πάθωσι ταῦτα εἰκὸς ἐλάττω τὴν φιλίαν αὐτοῖς ποιῆσαι, ἀλλὰ ταῦτα μνημεῖα καταλειφθῆναι τῶν μελλόντων ἔσεσθαι.

ΦΑΙΔΡΟΣΠλάτωνLine 232c

There is a story about a love affair between Cupid and Psyche that may help you decide.

Psyche (Ψυχή) in the Garden of Eros (Cupid)John-William-Waterhouse, 1904 – Then she or he starts to wonder, be jealous, or some other human emotion. Sound familiar?

Psyche represents the human spirit or soul, and in mythology she was represented as a princess so beautiful that people adored her instead of Venus (Aphrodite). To put an end to this sacrilege, Venus sent her son Cupid (Eros) to make Psyche fall in love with the ugliest creature he could find, but when Cupid saw her he fell in love and forgot his mother’s command. They became lovers, though Cupid forbade Psyche ever to look upon him. When at last she did, he fled in fear of what Venus would do to him in revenge. Psyche roamed the earth in search of her lover, facing obstacles thrown in her way by Venus to prove that she was worthy of her son. One of these tasks involved a golden box which she was forbidden from opening. When she did open it, she fell into a deep sleep of death. Eventually, however, Jupiter agreed that the lovers could be united for eternity. The couple’s daughter was named Voluptas (“pleasure”). Lucius Apuleius, 2nd Century AD.

Eros and Psyche appear in Greek art as early as the 4th century BC.

(Taken from
Eros - Jean-François-Lagrenee - Then the truth comes out. Psyche (your mind) discovers Eros.
Psyche with Sleeping Cupid Louis Jean François Lagrenee – 1768 –  Then the truth comes out. Psyche (your mind perhaps) discovers the truth about true Eros (True love?? Pun intended).

For better or for worse, maybe it is better to be friends first, unless perhaps you know what you are getting into.


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