Most intimate couples experience friendship as part of the foundation of their initial connection. Mates who stay good friends and deepen their appreciation and delight with each other are more successful in creating a happy union. Yet, many couples get distracted by life’s demands and fail to maintain their friendship ties. This is a grave error that may become emotionally costly to both partners.
Not only does the friendship need to be maintained, it must be cultivated to evolve into a true friendship. In committed unions people have the privilege and opportunity to perfect the depth of the friendship they share.
Friendship in general is the feeling of mutual respect, liking and regard for another individual. Friends share activities, enjoy each other, play and cry together and feel supported and empowered by knowing that their worth is regularly affirmed. Most people have friends and cherish their relationship with them.
However, finding a true friend in life is a rare occurrence. A true friend is someone with whom you can always be yourself and be free of concerns about judgments, disapproval, rejection, disloyalty, manipulation or ill will. A true friend provides acceptance and caring, regardless of your thoughts, feelings or actions. A true friend is not only there for you when you need him/her, but is able to have compassion, consideration and anticipation of what you may need and a willingness to readily provide it even when it is inconvenient for him/her.
Some reasons that true friends are hard to come by is that establishing trust is a slow process, unconditional acceptance is a challenge for most people, mutual regard is a changeable state, compassion requires deep understanding, personal sacrifice is taxing and anticipating other people’s needs requires awareness and presence that are often out of scope of one’s experience.
Notice that true friendship does not list love as a necessary ingredient. However, sharing that emotion expedites trust, respect and concern for one another. It would therefore seem that couples would have an easier time evolving their relationship to include true friendship. Some pairs do and have a wonderful life together. Others, experience less trust, esteem, unconditional regard, appreciation, compassion and helpful presence as their relationship matures than they did at first.
People tend to be vigilant about their emotional safety and worthiness. We carefully safeguard our self-esteem. Any disapproving comment, feeling of disappointment, or even helpful suggestions by a partner about our actions are likely to be seen as criticism of our being. Once we perceive reduction in our acceptance, we may recoil and withdraw.
In committed relationships couples have more expectations of each other than they do with social friends and thus there are more occasions for displeasure and hurt. When these occur, the partners may become less safe and reduce their chance for an ongoing true friendship. Yet, living together also provides more information about the needs and wants, pains and joys of each mate so that what may be pleasing to the partner can be more evident.
To become a true friend to your mate:
• Realize that having found your life-mate is the first blessing that you have and an opportunity for true friendship.
• Practice your love by daily appreciations, praising your mate and delighting in your match. It sets the tone for deeper friendship.
• If you sense criticism, disapproval, rejection, exclusion, discounts, check with your partner whether they are indeed present. If so, discuss needed changes. If not, alter your view.
• Separate your partner’s displeasure with your behavior from his/her appreciation for you as a person.
• Making mistakes does not decrease your worth.
• No one’s opinion, not even your mate’s, changes your essence. It may be used as worthwhile data for consideration.
• Pay attention to your partner’s mood, wishes, words and difficulties and provide the needed help.
• Anticipate your partner’s needs and know how s/he prefers to be helped. Giving it prior to being asked is true friendship.
• Provide compassion, empathy and consolation when needed without forming an opinion about the merit of your mate’s feelings.
• Being loving, kind, considerate, supportive and helpful to your mate are gifts you also give to yourself. Affirm yourself for this conduct.
• Being a true friend is easier when you place your attention on your mate’s needs, not on your own. When both partners do so their true friendship becomes enriched and their relationship blossoms.