Friends First, Friends Forever

May 15, 2007

Most women think they know what men are like. Most men believe they know what women are all about.

To a lot of women, men are like the horse’s rear end the Sony camera commercial. To a lot of men, women are whiny, nagging creatures that are never satisfied and always in search of a problem, crises or new diet. They are unhappy if they aren’t unhappy.

Given these realities, is it any wonder relationships are so tough? Is it any wonder that so many people become ‘gun shy’ when it comes to relationships? Is it any wonder that so many people, unhappy in their relationships, dream of greener pastures?

Of course, to be a part of a good relationship is to understand what a good relationship really is, and how gender plays a role in defining what is a good relationship.

This post is the first in a series that will attempt to define relationships and how each of us, as men and women, have come to develop certain expectations when it comes to those relationships. We will look at the baggage we all carry, be it from the past or baggage that comes from certain expectations and assumptions about what the future holds.

We want to start be examining friendship.

Healthy relationships occur when two people are committed to fusing the best of themselves to serve a common goal and purpose. Nevertheless, the best of intentions are no guarantee of success, any more than agreeing on a paint color will guarantee a a harmonious home life.

Serious relationships develop between people who are attracted to each other’s strengths and because they admire the best of their potential partner’s character. In the end, we go home to live with each other’s weaknesses. That should come as no surprise. We live in our everyday clothes, not our Sunday best. If partners can’t see the ‘wow!’ everyday, they should not be surprised when things don’t work out.

Proximity also breeds friction. People in close quarters every day, are bound to rub each other the wrong way and if left to escalate, sparks will be the result. Trust and respect always precede love. With real trust, respect and love, friction is kept at a minimum.

Those things, real trust, real respect and real love can only come about through platonic relationships. If there is no intimate platonic relationship, there can be no real intimate relationship. If there abuse of any kind threatens a platonic relationship, abuse of any kind will also manifest itself in a relationship that includes physical intimacy.

The importance of friendship cannot be overstated. From nursery school onwards, friends have a profound influence on growth, social life and values. Friends give us support, trust, shared values and a kind of equilibrium. Friends demand equality and inclusiveness. Intimacy often feasts on extremes, drama and exclusivity. If there is no real friendship in intimate relationships, there is no intimate relationship. See the Anchoress for an example of the power of caring- and the implications that has for a real intimate relationship.

Deep platonic friendships exist (that is, intimate relations in which sexual relations are not a component) when we allow those to whom we are close to be themselves and not who we want them to be, and they do the same for us. We can behave in a way that is most natural to us and we can say freely what we are thinking. We freely share our strengths with others and we allow others to help us in our weaknesses. In this deepest kind of platonic relationship, our world expands and our friendship grows. The bond and commitment to our friends and friendship does not lessen who we are- rather that bond expands our potential.

Platonic friendships are forged because people can express their friendship and fidelity without physical intimacy. People communicate and find new ways to communicate that friendship and fidelity. If that kind of communication (without the promise of physical intimacy) does not exist prior to physical intimacy, it is unlikely they ever will.

Friendships become real when they are tested by fire. Sometimes, those fires are small and sometimes they are all consuming. In all cases, friends step into the breach and do what is asked of them. We step into that breach and act out of friendship. We do for another with no expectations other than those we place on ourselves, to excel and exceed on behalf of our friends.

Most of us find it easy to forgive the differences we have with friends or their idiosyncrasies and imperfections. Why? Because they are our friends, and we love them. We don’t care about their religion, weight, color or ethnicity. We don’t even see those things. Physical intimacy cannot ‘speed up’ the friendship part of a relationship, much less the emotional part of that relationship. Physical intimacy will either enhance a solid platonic relationship that already exists or it will destroy a relationship that might have worked, had the physical intimacy been delayed. Deep, platonic friendships are the ultimate dance. We know the steps, we believe, but until we hit the dance floor and actually dance, we don’t know if we will be in sync or rhythm with the music or our partners. To know our partner and how they move, for them to know us and how we move and then to do it all to the rhythm of whatever music the band plays, means we must dance the small dances first. To enter a dance competition too soon is to invite disaster.

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7 Responses to “Friends First, Friends Forever”

  1. anniebird Says:

    In my (very limited – one husband, still married) experience, it is certainly true that marital love and passion are built upon a solid foundation of platonic love. My husband was my good friend first, and it was during that part of our relationship that I learned to appreciate and rely on his many good qualities. All those years ago (we’ve known each other for 20) I started developing an admiration for and trust in his character that is a large part of the living, breathing marriage we have today.

    I agree that love takes time, too. But maybe that’s just me – I don’t tend to rush into friendships either.

  2. kenju Says:

    I agree with you although we only knew each other for 6 mos. before we married and in July, we will celebrate #43. I usually say that “inertia” has kept us together.

  3. I agree wholeheartedly with this piece regarding platonic friendship. I sincerely and strongly believe that if married couples were platonic friends first, we would see the divorce rate in this country drop through the floor. It’s a funny and odd thing: people will marry someone who they wouldn’t even be friends with if this person were not their lover. Odd, huh?

    Carmin Wharton, Author
    “Lessons Learned: While Looking for Love in All the Wrong Faces”

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