Friends matter. They always have. We count our friends like money in the bank. The more we have the better we feel. Having a spouse is a bit more dicey…we don’t always feel like our spouse is our BFF. Friendships might be forever while spouses can come and go or vice versa. So, what does it mean when we just might feel more at ease with a friend than we do with our mate? Have you ever put a friend’s needs before your lover’s? Let me tell you a story of just that – a friendship taking the front seat over a romantic relationship – and what the underlying meaning is for a relationship when this happens.
The scenario: Two couples. The husbands are best buddies as are the wives. Then couple A separates. The friendship between the two husbands and the two wives remains strong. Late one night, as Couple B were talking, the husband reveals that his best friend has a new girlfriend. The next day the two women meet for happy hour. As they were talking and commiserating about the breakup between couple A, the friend who is separated suddenly turns to her friend with tears streaming down her face and exclaims that she can’t understand why her husband has been so distant during their separation. She is torn between going ahead and filing for divorce or continuing to work on things with her husband. She wonders aloud to her best friend if anything might be going on with another woman…Well that was it; her best friend couldn’t hold it in any longer and blurts out the truth about her husband and the other woman. This sets off a fire storm between couple A, and, of course, at home, when the other wife has to fess up that she spilled the beans to her girlfriend. She has to fall on her sword with her partner and though she apologizes profusely, it falls on deaf ears because he feels so pissed and betrayed.
Now, here you may be thinking, as the husband did in Couple B, that his wife’s loyalty to him, her husband, should’ve come first above all else. But I needed to dig a little deeper.
So I ask her why she told her friend when she knew that it would create such a debacle in her own home. She said something interesting. She said that she felt closer to her friend than she did to her spouse, whom she has been living with for seven years. This knocked me back because it was so telling as to what matters when the rubber meets the road. It’s all about closeness. It seems that her relationship with her mate is littered with conflict and criticism and her friendship is about two women caring about each other and being kind to one another. At the final call, we all yearn for connection, and sometimes our old friends will be there for us in a way that our mates will not.
It’s not really about who matters more, it’s about what matters more. Connection trumps everything: loyalty, friendship, kindness and care will organically exist where the strongest bonds are. You can’t continue to be loyal or kind indefinitely with your mate when the connection is lost. Creating a strong friendship with our mate is the key to the rest of the issues that come and go with our friends and family. The saying goes, “Treat family like friends and friends like family,”–and it is the operative condition for all good relationships, no matter who we are sleeping with.
So, what can you do today if you feel like your spouse isn’t your best friend or maybe they never were?
Here are four steps to take to regain and/or strengthen the quality of friendship and daily connection with your mate.
1. Express interest and consideration for their needs and feelings.
2. Make time to be together on a regular basis as in: date nights, developing interests and having fun.
3. Learn how to have productive conflict where tempers are not lost and acknowledgement and validation are the key components.
4. Above all be kind.
Friendship is the foundation for love and commitment. I often hear that couples are fighting about whether they should get married. What could be more counterproductive? It almost always ends in failure. Good friends sit down together and plan for their future, one in which they feel comfortable that they can tackle any problem with care and concern. That’s the secret to what makes relationships run smoothly.