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.
Think 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.