When we think about friendship with our lover what immediately springs to mind is: what’s friendship go to do with romance? Long term love is sustained not by romance alone but by the daily activities of following through on promises, showing up, being there when we are needed, owning up to our responsibility for our part in an argument, and first and foremost by being the kind of person who is worthy of being loved.
So we ask ourselves how in the world can I be best friends without losing the romance? Not so easy. To do that we need to find out what makes romance and what breaks it. The critical piece that ruins relationships is the inability to resolve conflicts. Here’s where it gets tricky. When conflict arises what do we traditionally do? Usually we get defensive. The best offense is the best defense. Of course if we expect our mate to be romantic and it does not happen we find ourselves complaining and then the defenses come out like July 4th. The key is to express our disappointments in a way that doesn’t feel critical to our mate. Conflict is normal but our ability to resolve difficulties without alienating our partner is the key to long term romance. Here are just of few our my favorite defenses to avoid.
Globalization–”Everybody Does That”
Blame-Shifting–”And you do the same thing but worse.”
The Victim–”I’m so good to you, and you treat me so badly.”
Gas-lighting–”I was just kidding; Can’t you take a joke?”
Entitlement–”You are the one who made me angry; You deserve it.
Denial–”I’m not angry.”
Displacement–”Just because you had a bad day at work, don’t take it out on me.”
Guilt–”I work my ass off to give you everything and you can’t even make me some tea.”
Shame/Blame: “You are a human slug; you never do anything.”
Stonewalling: “This is the way I am, take it or leave it.”
Projection: “You think I’m stupid, don’t you?”
Devaluation: “You really could lose some of that extra weight.”
If we can avoid these toxic defenses we are most of the way there. We have also found that the most common reason for alienating our partner is the inability to be influenced or just plain old not listening. If our mate tells us that Valentine’s Day is really important and that flowers say it all to them about being loved and we can’t find the momentum to pony up a few buds then we have not been listening.
The next big thing we need to know for Valentine’s Day is showing appreciation. Valentine’s Day is a great occasion to thank our partner for all the good things they do throughout the year that we really do appreciate. Bringing home the bacon, cooking dinners, being a good friend and taking care of business are all great attributes to acknowledge to our partner. It also doesn’t cost a whole lot to write it all down in a card.
How is it then that we can tell the difference between realistic expectations and what we have come to believe is our romantic due? Central to our Valentine wishes is the reality of what it takes to make it work. Making sweet music is only a part of the equation. Love over time is something we create, we make it from whole cloth, we fashion it from what we find in ourselves and within one another. If we can pay attention, be a safe and secure person to be with, be willing to find a compromise when needed and being a caring mate will get us where we want to go. It is the common touch, the helping hand, being reasonable, fair, open and emotionally connected that are the ingredients of true romance. When I speak to women about love, what they say is not so much hearts and flowers as it is about someone they can depend on. A good sense of humor and a positive attitude more often than not will trump romantic ideals.
When we add it all up it is not so much the loot we come up with but how we treat one another that will ultimately save our relationship. Respect cannot be bought, and it’s the same with friendship. Our ability to be kind, empathic, compassionate and tender will determine the strength and durability of our relationship over time. Relationship success is inevitably linked to our knowledge of what we truly need from one another and for having made peace with our own fantasy expectations.
These basics of love and relationship are fundamental to a lasting intimacy and knowing the fundamentals is a critical component for all great teamwork. Relationships are all about being a good team player. By being there for each other, for tenderness and warmth, we provide lasting proof of our commitment to making it work. Interestingly enough Ted Huston found that men who exhibited what were termed “feminine” traits were more often successful in their marriages. It appears that positive behaviors like nurturing, tenderness and caring actually do work.
I remember early on in my marriage my wife gave me a very generous Valentine’s Day gift. After expressing my displeasure at the over-the-top nature of the gift she said to me “but I want to make you happy.” What I said to her in response made her stop in her tracks. I said “It’s not your job to make me happy, that’s my job.” She was stunned and relieved at the same time. Feeling like we must make our mate happy is a tremendous weight to carry and many a Valentine is based on that premise. Valentine’s Day is a celebration not a responsibility. If we can carry that in our hearts and make each day a special Valentine by being the kind of person we are proud of, we are doing the every day Valentine’s Day work that makes love last.
Enduring love does not solely lie in gift giving or in the lovey-dovey cooing and oogling of lovers. Love is the exhaust from the small things of every day life. Being there at times when we are needed, showing appreciation and helping out more often carry the day. So much for great expectations. To that end a rose in your teeth, a song in your heart and breakfast in bed are not a bad start.