Rebecca knew when she first met Todd that she was attracted to him, but she tucked that away because he was unavailable. They worked together nights at a high-end restaurant in St. Augustine, FL, and became good friends. They could make each other laugh, and the banter helped slow nights go faster. They had long conversations after their shift when everyone sat around and had a drink before going home. They had much in common, but did not always see eye to eye, which made for some great debates and revelations. At some point along the way, Todd became single, and their friendship sustained him through the break-up. Two years into knowing each other, and five months after his break-up, Todd and Rebecca kissed for the first time. Rebecca describes it as the most mind-blowing moment, when this man she already loved and respected became her lover. They fell love, but true friendship was the bedrock of that love, and ultimately what sustained them.
Friendship is a solid foundation for a successful romantic relationship. When the giddy rush of chemicals that flood the body during “new love” subside to more normal levels, friendship will be an anchor. When you face difficulty, as a couple or an individual, the respect and trust of friendship will be what carries you through.
Think about what being friends means. With your true friends you have relationships that include all the following factors:
√ Shared interests. Even if your lists of “best things ever” are not identical, you have common ground between you—from favorite sports or hobbies to parenting styles…and anything in between.
√ Common values. You will not be serious friends with someone whose core values are at odds with yours. But you might find yourself lusting after someone only to find out later is a racist or a tax cheat or a liar… something you can’t live with.
√ Feeling good when together. Think about the happy hours just “being” with your best friend? Reading on the beach, strolling through the shops on a Saturday afternoon, jogging together. When we have friends, we are happy when we get to spend time with them.
√ The ability and desire to share secrets, fears, hopes and If you can’t blab all the deep stuff and the hopeful stuff and the scary stuff to a friend…is that really a friend?
√ Trust. This factor relates directly to the above point. When you implicitly trust someone—that person is, by definition, a friend, and you are going to be safe with him or her, and so are your secrets.
√ Support through thick and thin. Your friend has your back. (You can see how this would be a good thing in a love relationship, yes?)
√ Honesty. Tell it like it is. Kindly. That’s what we count on our true friends for. In any relationship—if there is even a sliver of dishonesty, there’s a problem.
√ Respect. Someone you really can’t admire and respect is hardly a contender for “good friend” status, or any other status. A disequilibrium in the playing field makes for discomfort. Mutual respect allows two people to operate as equals.
√ Loyalty. A friend will not—ever—throw you under the bus. Because: loyalty. That bond of friendship secures the loyalty required to successfully navigate a romance, as well.
√ Meaningful conversations. The respect, honestly, trust, ability to share, and common interests all mean that there is nothing superficial about friendship. Can you be silly together and giggle like fools while reading damnyouautocorrect.com? I hope so! Can you watch dumb movies on Netflix and eat Fritos? You bet. But you will also have those deep, long talks about things that matter profoundly to both of you. Those connecting conversations are (ultimately) more sustaining than good sex (but good sex is really important!).
So if all the above is true of friendships, what better foundation for a truly successful love relationship than friendship? What are some clear benefits to you when you are friends first?
♥ Because the honeymoon stage in any relationship is fleeting, you will have the stability of your friendship to sustain you into the future. The fact that you not only love each other, but like each other too, is huge. And you know that going in. When “new” love/lust get in the way early on, you may not learn until too late that you really… don’t like each other.
♥ Sexual attraction is not enough for a meaningful long term relationship. It is very important, but without the connection of emotional intimacy and the ability to form a true attachment, physical intimacy is ultimately unfulfilling.
♥ The relationship is already established on a basis of compatibility. Lots of stuff can get worked out when you are simpatico.
♥ Love is not necessarily “logical”, but when a friendship is in place, your love relationship is more likely to be grounded and stable, and you can address any issues that arise with rationality (well, at least some).
♥ You can work out issues because you place a high value on the relationship. When a romantic relationship is new, without the foundation of friendship, it is vulnerable, because when issues arise you don’t always have the motivation to do what is needed. Think about it. You are not always in agreement with your friends but you value the relationship enough to be open to their point of view and learn from that knowledge or compromise for the greater good. You think no less of them just because you disagree because you respect one another. If you have that outlook in romance, your relationship can weather more of the challenges that come your way.
♥ You go into it with a lot of the information you need. You know your partner’s likes, dislikes, family, work ethics, life goals, relationship goals, sense of humor, etc. etc. Definite leg up!
♥ You have already built up the trust and habits of honesty and authenticity that are at the heart of all great relationships.
♥ You already know you can play together and really enjoy shared experiences. Bonus points, for sure!
♥ As true friends, you enjoy an interdependent relationship based on mutual desire, shared values, and love. As that love deepens, as with Rebecca and Todd, the rewards will be ever greater.
Sometimes friendship is just friendship. And that’s great. We can all use as many loyal, good friends as we can get. But, as with Rebecca and Todd, it can be the beginning of a deepening romantic relationship that will continue to grow and flourish.