Monday, May 6, 2013

True Friendship is the Foundation of a Great Relationship

Many times when a couple gets together in a love relationship they will tell others that they are more than "just friends". When I was younger and dating, I used to think that a "romantic relationship" was something different and separate from a friendship. I was married and my husband was my husband, the man who I made major decisions with, had children with and kept a household with. He wasn't a friend really. I had a very close friend that I talked and laughed with, shared secrets with and spent time just "hanging out" with. In my mind then, I thought friendship was to be had with only people of the same sex and I couldn't relate to men in a deep enough way to be friends. They seemed so foreign to me. Although I wanted a loving relationship, I never considered developing a true friendship with my mate to be part of the equation.
That was years ago and I can't even relate to the woman that thought that way. Now I understand that true friendship is the basis of any healthy, close relationship. Without friendship there isn't a foundation at all, you are two people that come together out of obligation and maybe have sex occasionally to fulfill that need. When you have friendship, however, you have a positive, loving bond that keeps you a team through good and bad times.
What is true friendship? This can be a difficult question for some to answer as they've never had a true friend. I am extremely fortunate to have a true friend and our friendship has not only given me this rare gift, but has also taught me to be a true friend. I don't know what other people consider the components of friendship to be, but I do know that Shannon and I have certain things we do that I believe are key to our very close relationship. We've been friends for about seven years now and we are extremely close, we tell each other just about everything. We spend a lot of time together and yet could still talk for hours about everything from our hair and nails to quantum physics. We laugh hysterically and have so much fun together in just about everything we do.Most importantly, we have been there for each other through the most difficult times of our lives and remained close.

I feel that you'd be hard pressed to find friends that are as close to one another as we are and up until about two years ago I thought that we were just really lucky. Now I understand that it is much more than luck. We somehow just knew (and know) how to be great friends for each other. This isn't something that anyone taught either of us to do, but after careful reflection I've come up with key things that we have always done and continue to do that make us the great friends that we are. Apply these to any relationship and you will have a true friendship with them.

* We accept each other as we are. 
Shannon and I have always let each other be who we are with complete acceptance. I feel that true acceptance is actually approval. When she says or does something, it gets my approval and when I say or do something, it gets her approval. The only time that we don't give approval to one another is if we feel that something the other is doing goes against their own well being. As long as we know that what we are acting in ways that bring wellness for ourselves, we give each other complete freedom to be ourselves. Another way of putting this is to say that we have unconditional positive regard for one another.

* We are kind and considerate toward one another and toward others
One of the things that is most important about our friendship is that we are always kind and considerate of one another. Her well being is important to me and I know that mine is important to her as well. We respect one another, speak kindly to each other and about one another to others and we consider one another's feelings when we interact. We seek to understand one another and to listen fully. This has never faded, regardless of the fact that we know each other much better now. The same courtesies that I would extend to any honored guest in my life I extend to Shannon. 

* We are open and honest with each other
Although we are always kind and considerate, we are also always honest with one another. There is no need for us to lie because we know that we know that we have each other's best interest in mind. We speak our truth to one another and accept it as good counsel. This openness and honesty has created trust between us. She is someone that I know has my best interest at heart and wants me to be well and feel good and therefore will tell me truth in a kind way.

*We trust each other
Because I know that she wishes for my well being and I wish for hers, trust comes naturally. We trust each  other in every way because we have a foundation of acceptance, approval and adding to each other's well being.  

* We are committed to being friends throughout the changes in our relationship.
Our lives have changed in many ways since we first became  friends. We are not the same people we were when we first met and we both know that this is natural. Throughout our many changes we have made adjustments because we care about each other and our friendship is important to both of us. Everyone changes over time. If you are committed to a relationship, this means remaining committed to remaining close through the changes that you both will inevitably go through.

* We are glad to be together when we are and make sure that we have a good time.
This is called "Positive Sentiment Override".  Extraordinary Jeni says: "In Positive Sentiment Override (PSO), positive comments and behaviors outweigh negative ones about 20:1. This means that there is a positive filter that alters how couples remember past events and view new issues. Just because your spouse did something negative in your eyes that should not effect how you view their character. The smalls things they do that impress you go straight to their quality and character. This feels like grace to me". Put another way, the positive energy that you add to a relationship will result in a more positive relationship. Intimacy and connection involve being present with another in a positive way in the moment and this is also positive emotional override. Our practice of this over time has caused us to be as close as we are now.

* We build each other up and support one another.
We offer one another support, encouragement and compassion. We are there for one another as positive forces. When I am making decisions she almost never tells me what I "should" do, but she listens, offers encouragement and support and reminds me that people care about me and are there for me. She reminds me that my life is good and I am fortunate when she knows that I need to hear it. We make each other feel good. 

* We give without expecting anything in return.
This is the most important thing that we do by far. We had a discussion about our friendship recently and we talked about how much we give to each other. We say all the time "it all evens out". By that we don't mean that I give to her and then the next time I expect her to give to me. Instead we mean that there will come a time that the energy that we gave will come back to us and we don't need to know when, how, in what way or from who, we just have faith that it will at some point.

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” 


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