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I think a big issue with relationships these days is that people (particularly men) separate the idea of a relationship from the idea of a friendship. That being said – I have my own thoughts and opinions on the concept of men and women being able to be ‘just friends’ with each other with no tension or desire for something more. But, that is a different conversation.
Whether or not men and women can be just friends should not separate the two concepts altogether. You don’t need to choose if you are going to be friends or lovers, you can (and should be), both.
Women have a far easier time deciding who they want to be just friends with and who they would pursue a romantic relationship with, but men tend to group all women together on the ‘potentially romantic’ side, and then just decide their order of desirability. For this reason, I also believe men try to actually avoid building a friendship with a woman because he doesn’t want to find himself plunging into the dreaded friend zone, and suddenly be seen more as a brother than a potential boyfriend.
But the issue this causes is that we are not building strong foundations for relationships. Friedrich Nietzsche once said: “It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.” This concept serves to teach us the importance of building a foundation for happiness that stretches beyond intimacy into friendship itself.
Friends see [and accept] all sides of each other.
When dating, we typically only want to show someone our best self. We are always well put together, well behaved, and well mannered. Of course, we should consistently try to be these things as often as humanly possible, but the fact of the matter is that we are all going to have bad days. We get stressed, we get sick, we face challenges. Life throws us curveballs – and expecting a shining exterior every second of every day is not only unrealistic, but it is also dishonest.
It doesn’t matter when you roll over in bed with no makeup on, a fever, and swollen eyes – a true friend will love and take care of you just the same. Someone who is just in it for the sex or as a fling, will not.
Friends have fun together no matter what.
You’re getting together with your best friend this weekend – oh no! What are you going to do? Where are you going to go to dinner? What movie are you going to see? How are you going to survive your 4-hour drive in the car together? These questions are never concerns when it comes to spending time with a friend, because it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you are together when you do it.
Friends are comfortable around each other.
Comfort is a tricky concept, because we cannot allow ourselves to get too comfortable in any relationship, no matter how long we are together. If this happens, eventually we transition over into complacency, and that is territory which is void of energy, romance, or excitement. We cannot fall into this trap, but there is also a good kind of comfort. The kind that comes with friendship.
The good kind of comfort is essential to being honest and open with each other. We need this to reveal secrets. Dreams. Desires. Fears and insecurities. We need this type of comfort to just be able to sit with each other in silence and not feel a nagging urge to say or do something to break the silence. This type of comfort only exists when a friendship is built, not when we spend our time trying to impress each other and not showing him or her who we really are.
Friends make great teammates.
Let’s say, for example, you are invited on to a game show and are required to choose a teammate, but you are not allowed to pick a family member. Where is the first place you turn? To your friends, of course. It’s not like you are going to choose a random person off the street – but what’s more is that your friends know how you think and you know how they think. You can work together and balance out each other’s strengths.
The reality of it is that this can be the case in much of life. You will be faced with problems and challenges that you need to figure out together. Even regular everyday tasks like piecing schedules together and figuring out who is going to pick the kids up from soccer practice which day, who will have dinner ready, and who will get the dog to the vet – become a giant puzzle that two people need to work together to solve.
Friends are always honest with you.
Let’s be real about this – someone who will always just smile and nod will never be honest with you when you need them to. They will never be able to give you constructive feedback or say anything that would hint you don’t have every aspect of life completely figured out.
Neither party wins in situations like this. You don’t win because if you wish to genuinely improve in an area of life and he or she always tells you everything is fine, you can never grow. Also, they never win because if everything is not really fine, then you will never learn what will make your partner happier and therefore never be able to work on it. Having this type of honesty is essential to a relationship – just always keep in mind friends are never degrading or discouraging, either. It’s about positive, constructive feedback.
Friendship lasts a lifetime.
Have you ever had a friend who you can go weeks, months, or even years without seeing – but when you do finally get together again it’s like nothing has changed? Imagine that kind of closeness, that kind of understanding, that kind of comfort, with someone who you are also in love with.
It goes without saying that you obviously won’t be going weeks, months, or years without seeing your significant other – but the understood, mutually felt longevity of your relationship provides you both with a secure, solid feeling that provides the comfort of knowing he or she is in it for the long haul.
A friend will stand by you no matter what.
When you are friends with someone, you are not only friends with them when things are great. You stand by them when they need you for support as they do for you in return. This is the type of unwavering love a relationship needs in order to thrive in the long term as well. Laying the bricks of friendship as a foundation is a great way to ensure this person will be there for you when the waters get rough.
You can have a friendship without a relationship, but you can’t have a relationship without a friendship.
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Originally appeared at James Michael Sama’s blog
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Photo: flickrCC/Chareze Stamatelaky