May 01

The Beauty of Friendship

In Brief—Though marriage can be warm and lasting, we too often tend to consider friendship as less. It, too, can be rewarding. Friendships outside of marriage are equally as important. More than that, friendships can extend a person’s life.

Friendship Links Two Hearts—

“S/he’s just a friend” is one of the most used and abused phrases ever spoken. Books have been written about friendship and marriage, so the little I say here will probably be a reiteration of what has been said many times before.

How many times have you responded to a person’s assumption that the person you had dinner with Saturday night was a love interest with, “Oh, s/he’s just a friend?” The implication is that a friend is less than a love interest even if that was not your intent.

2 HeartsThink about it. That friend may be from your distant high school days, from your old neighborhood or the cubicle next to yours at work, but there’s a connection that has lasted over time and through different circumstances. It has enriched your life while your respective marriages may have come apart despite the vow “until death do you part.” Isn’t that friendship more than a relationship that’s to be brushed off with a thoughtless phrase?

Marriage and Friendship—

This is not to suggest that a good marriage is less than a good friendship. Both can be rewarding, but in different ways. Marriage certainly has a sexual component as do some friendships, at least in the beginning. The former evolves into routine over the years while a friendship evolves in a different and more rewarding way, assuming the sexual component ever existed. The day-to-day intimacy of marriage can become boring while a friendship survives with or without the day-to-day intimacy. Why? I think it has to do with being non-judgmental, kind and considerate. Someone you can laugh with. Someone you can cry with. Someone who’s always there for you. Someone you would die for.

I’ve had three marriages, the first two of which began with unexplainable attraction and a sexual liaison while the current marriage began with friendship and evolved into more. In the first two, I lacked maturity enough to appreciate the variations and realities of a close relationship. Looked at in retrospect, I was just a slow learner. With the current marriage, the friendship has survived, maturity has come gradually and the marriage remains solid despite the stresses of jobs, children and illness. Kindness and consideration for the differences of each of us has made the difference.

Friendships last not least because of allowing the friend to be who s/he is free of judgments as to what s/he does, was or believes. With the passage of time and emotional growth, sincere apologies for one’s earlier shortcomings can even ignite friendships with former spouses.

Friendships survive notwithstanding the passage of time and distances. If distance makes contact impossible, letters or emails can keep the connections going. Research has shown that people with active friendships live longer. Not only do they extend life they make life richer and more fulfilling.

I once suggested to my mother that she get out more with her friends. Her reply was, “They’re all dead.” That they were no longer around shouldn’t have prevented her from building new friendships. Old friends’ passings will happen as we age, but that doesn’t prevent us from finding new friends, those with whom we have a connection, with whom we can share our hopes and fears. But be kind, considerate and non-judgmental. Both will be more complete.

Friendship is beautiful. Treat it as the wonder it is.


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    • Arthur Ulene on May 1, 2016 at 18:27

    Lovely piece. This one REALLY made me think about the issue. I’ve been doing my best to treat Priscilla (my wife of 55 years) more and more like a friend….. not as easy as it sounds, because it really does involve total acceptance of her “AS IS”…… and I’ve always wanted to change her (not just her) to be just the way I wanted. Not smart, but I’m learning…. and our relationship continues to improve… even after 55 years. Thanks for today’s message. I needed to hear it again. Hugs…. ART

      • Don Bay on May 2, 2016 at 09:34

      Deep thinking that I admire. You exemplify honesty that is the basis of any true friendship. All of us need to approach everything we do or think—including friendship—from a place of honesty. Easy to say, but difficult to do. Thanks for the lesson.

    • Dave Meyers on May 1, 2016 at 19:07

    I have never had a large circle of friends. I know a lot of people, but to call many of them ‘friends’ would be going out on a limb. During high school I had a very small group of friends, one of whom I maintained contact with over the years until his passing. As an adult, I can count my ‘hang out’ pals on one hand.
    I was married for 27 years before it tanked….were we friends?…..maybe. But often one door closes and one opens, and for the last 10 years I’ve been with a Friend, Lover, and Pal. We won’t marry. We live separately, we are our own people. She, having been married as long as I had been, has redefined herself as self-sufficient and capable on her own. I have learned to appreciate her, perhaps, more for that trait than for any other. She is talented, smart, and beautiful, but I’m attracted to her because I feel like her Friend. Our connection is one of equals and while I can often help her out, she’s totally capable of solving her own problems. It makes our connection more like dating…..and aren’t you on your best behavior when you’re dating?
    We haven’t fallen victim to the hum-drum aspects of marriage…it always feels fresh.

    But among all the people I know, and among the small number that I can truly call ‘my friends’, you, Don Bay, certainly come to mind first. It’s true that we live thousands of miles apart now and that Email has become our means of connecting, but I am proud to call you a friend and I treasure the adventures that we had in our more youthful years. The day I met you is as clear in my mind now as if it had been yesterday….. Please don’t ask me what I had for breakfast.

      • Don Bay on May 2, 2016 at 09:51

      You are one of the smart ones, one of the lucky ones. You “dodged a bullet” and found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow…and you recognize and appreciate it. Treasure your relationship with Marilyn. It is precious.

      Writing this piece and reading the comments has made me realize that there are several levels to friendship. Until now, I never stopped to really think about it. I consider myself blessed to have you for a wonderful friend. You have shared your life in all its glory and sadness with me. You have led me to adventures I might never have had were it not for you. Yes, the distance in miles is great, but the distance between us is nonexistent. We are connected in ways I can’t define. Thank you for being my friend.

    • Elodie on May 2, 2016 at 00:54

    I’m one of those annoying people who always wonders what became of old friends and tries to find them to touch base. Sometimes it’s clear we’ve headed in opposite directions insomuch as politics and religion, but I do still care about them and hope they are happy and well. I touched base with Rick Mater a few years ago when I was visiting my daughter. And I enjoyed finding out what happened to the people I worked with at ABC.

    I touched base with another friend the last time I was there. It was so good to see her. She’d had a very rough time, though, and I regretted not knowing about it and being supportive.

    I know all friendships aren’t meant to last, but it’s hard for me to simply forget about them and not care anymore.

      • Don Bay on May 2, 2016 at 10:28

      As I mentioned to Dave, there are several levels to friendship. Acquaintance, whether at work or in life generally, is not the same as friendship. Friendship implies connectedness. We may be acquainted with the people where we worked and we may be curious about where life has led them, but that is not the same as friendship. Friendship is that connectedness that holds you together with a person regardless of time or distance. That friendship may be shallow or it may be deep, but it is the connectedness that defines it.

      In your life there are some individuals—whether you are related or not—with whom you are connected and about whom you care (love may not be too strong a word). Those are your friends.

      Being the warm and sensitive person you are, there is no doubt that there are people in your life who are drawn to you and you to them. You are connected at an undefinable level. Those are your friends.

      Unfortunately, some friendships will end for any of several reasons. Regardless, all of us have been enriched by that connection. It behooves all of us to let that one-time friend know honestly our feelings free of accusations. Friendship requires that.

      Above all, friendship is a treasure. Treat it as precious.

  1. I share many of the ideas and feelings from you, Don, and also Art and Dave. My wife is my best friend, and we tell each other that at least once a week. And like most men I know, she is the only real friend I have that lives near me. You and I were high school friends, then separated by time and distance for decades, only to reconnect only a few years ago, and I treasure our friendship. And I wish it was a next door friendship because the miles do make it harder.

    When I lived in Edmonton, before we came to South Africa in 2003, I had a group of four friends and we met together at least once every month or two to talk about being men and being in relationships and having the issues that everyone has. We sometimes went away for a few days to hike and hang out. We prohibited talk in our meetings about sports or work. We listened to each other and chided each other for stupid man behavior and supported each other when relationships at home or otherwise were troubled. I loved those men, and I moved away and lost those connections. I tried to keep the connections by meeting with them when we went back but inevitably our lives moved on, they moved away, etc.

    I was married to two women before Chris, and neither of them were friends. I didn’t know how to be friends with them, nor they with me. Just last week a couple met with us for a few hours. He is a South African Indian and she is a Canadian metis and they met while teaching in Zambia. They have lived in Canada for some forty years and come back here when his relatives have a wedding of something. They volunteered for several times for many months and we always see them when we are in Canada or they are here. They are dear friends and he, as a man, is a dear male friend, a rarity for me. But he lives across the world, as do you. There is a Canadian couple with whom we meet when we are there, and at the last meeting, just a two hour lunch, I asked him if he had men friends. He said no, as does my son. And we shared that we could be good close friends it only we lived close, but even in Canada we live in different cities.

    So thanks for this post. It brought tears, because friendship is so precious and so elusive, particularly for men.

      • Don Bay on May 2, 2016 at 13:14

      You are one of the few high school friends I have kept as friends. The factor that weighs heavily on the friendship I have with you and Donna is that both of you and your wonderful spouses are people I greatly admire. You have contributed to the betterment of the world so very much. It is said that we should leave the world better for our having been here. You, Donna and your spouses qualify without question.

      The beautiful thing about this post and the comments is that I have learned. That is what it’s all about.

  2. So I told my wife about this post and she asksed if I mentioned the laughter. And that’s huge. We laugh together so much, and that’s a cornerstone of our friendship.

      • Don Bay on May 2, 2016 at 13:16

      Keep laughing together. Spread your joy around. Laughter is important.

    • Kitty Courcier on May 3, 2016 at 06:51

    Your post is so timely. Three of my dearest girlfriends of the last 45 years were just at my home for a 3 day weekend. There have been years when all we did was to sent Christmas cards to each other. Over the last 45 years we have gotten together one or two of us every now and then. About 15 years ago we made an effort to all get together at least every 2 years. We’ve done really good at it. We do all live in California which has made it much easier, but it has taken a lot of planning at different times.

    The beauty of these get togethers is remembering who we where way back then and who we are now. And believe me we have all changed and in ways that we might not consider choosing each other as a close friend. But the shared life experience and the acceptance of each other as who we are now makes us appreciate our friendships even more. There is a true and rich love in that acceptance.

      • Don Bay on May 3, 2016 at 09:45

      This is a perfect example of the “connectedness” that characterizes friendship. Kitty and her friends have remained connected through all the years and changes in their individual lives. Though they have changed, judging those changes has not built a wall between them. This is what is meant by true friendship.

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