The key to a healthy relationship is the purposeful development of a healthy friendship. Couples who have achieved the merits of friendship, have strived to develop their relationship beyond the confines the marriage.
“Excluding some very good family relationships, the only other close adult relationships we have besides marriage are with our long-term friends. What is extremely interesting about these two affiliations is that marriage is the least successful adult relationship, whereas long-term friendships are by far the most successful.” (Glasser & Glasser, 2000, p. 17)
WHAT IS A FRIENDSHIP?
Friendship is a purposeful act that occurs through an emotional and psychological connection, linking two person’s together. “…Longterm friendships are the only human relationship, where without knowing that we are doing it, we use Choice Theory from the start (of the relationship).” (Glasser & Glasser, 2000, p. 17)
Developed by Dr. William Glasser, Choice Theory is a theoretical orientation that places all life decisions, commitments, and resolutions on the choices that we make in life. The theoretical approach proclaims that the individual is responsible for his or her behaviors, attitudes, perceptions, and responses within a relationship. Dr. Glasser’s theory states that we have a choice on how we intend on behaving within a relationship.
As individuals, we are responsible for initiating and commencing a friendship; how we intend engaging those friends; and the level with which we intend on developing the friendship. According to Dr. Glasser, “This is the reason that long-term friendships are the longest and strongest of all human relationships.” (Glasser & Glasser, 2000, p. 17) Whereas, marriages do not have the same level of cohesiveness. Sadly, not all marriages or intimate relationships have friendship as their core foundation. You may have encountered a relationship that has been established merely on infatuation. While infatuation is most commonly inspired by an intense passion or admiration for another; such relationships are most commonly fleeting, therefore lasting a very short amount of time.
THE BENEFITS OF FRIENDSHIP ON A RELATIONSHIP
“Friendship is born in that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’” ~ C. S. Lewis
Intimate relationships founded on the principle of friendship have a greater chance of survival. The benefits are numerous when friendship is employed. “Friendships can have a major (positive) impact on your health and wellbeing…” (MayoClinic, 2013, Online) If you are fortunate enough to be married to your best friend, then you have the best of both worlds.
While friendship can prove a benefit to health and overall wellbeing; it is important to remember that “friendship has to be nourished and nurtured regularly or it faces the danger of becoming a business (impersonal) relationship.” (Weasley, 2013, Online) Such impersonal relationships lack personal feelings, emotional connections, and are essentially sterile in nature.
“I have seen many distant and business-like marriages where careers have developed and children have come into the picture, and the priority of emotional connection has been left to die on the vine. Couples that don’t give attention to developing their friendship often come apart.” (Weasley, 2013, Online) If you avoid aiding and developing the friendship within your relationship; it may cease to be, and/or the disposition of your relationship may be filled with utter void.
“Laughter is not all a bad beginning for a friendship, and it is far the best ending for one.” ~ Oscar Wilde
The benefits of friendship are:
– “Increase your sense of belonging and purpose
– Boost your happiness
– Reduce stress
– Improve your self-worth
– Help you cope with traumas, such as divorce, serious illness, job loss or the death of a loved one
– Encourage you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as excessive drinking or lack of exercise.” (MayoClinic, 2013, Online)
– Improve your perceptions of self and others
– If you and your spouse are friends, then you have something with which you can rely and communicate the deepest of your desires.
– Couples who are good or best-friends, have a greater chance of proving lifelong partners.
– An intimate friendship, is a friendship based on loyalty, trust, perseverance and steadfastness.
– True friendship is based on the principle of the unconditional: it is an unrestricted state that does not waver or vary. It is the sort of state that offers unconditional love, unconditional acceptance, unconditional approval, unconditional forgiveness, and unconditional trust.
UNCONDITIONAL AND CONDITIONAL STATES
“Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.” ~ Tony Robbins
As an authentic friend, you are seeking someone who accepts you for you. As a married person or a person within a longterm relationship; you should have developed a friendship of mutual understanding, compassion, goals and ambitions.
The Conditional State
The conditional state says; “I will accept you and love you as long as you follow these rules or guidelines.” (Brown, 2010, p. 27) Furthermore, the conditional state is a barometer of acceptance and approval. Based on this principle, you will receive my approval and acceptance as long as you do not waver from our prearranged agreement. The agreement may be communicated through verbal or nonverbal understandings, but the agreement is an expected decree.
Placing conditions on yourself is not limited unto you alone. For “if you place conditions on yourself, then you place conditions on all others.” (Brown, 2010, p. 26) Conditions are a vice to limit or restrict others from going beyond an established boundary.
The conditional state limits the quality and quantity of trust. In a relationship, the negative side of a conditional state begs the individual to breach the boundary or an established perimeter.
The Unconditional State
The unconditional state is the polar opposite of the conditional state. The unconditional state accepts an individual whether or not they meet my expectations. It encourages me to accept them and love them beyond all deeds, actions, successes, or failures. As a parent, I will love and accept my children no matter what boundary is breached or expectation is broken. For me, love, true love does not yield to broken dreams or promises. True love, loves without borders, guidelines or stipulations.
The unconditional state does not waver or vary in its intention. It is the unconditional state that offers shelter from the storm, a shoulder to lean upon, and a hand to help guide them down life’s pathways. “True love–unconditional love–knows no limits.” (Brown, 2010, p. 27)
The unconditional state encourages growth, maturation, and proliferation. It is through the unconditional state the couples can flourish, developing into more complete people. Although negative deeds may have occurred in the past, you are not restricted to live in the past, rather you are encouraged to move forward leaving the past behind you.
DEVELOPING A HEALTHY FRIENDSHIP
“A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” ~ Elbert Hubbard
As a couple, if you desire to succeed, you must achieve friendship. Developing a healthy relationship occurs when we achieve a healthy friendship. If you are friends, then you are partners. If you are partners, then you are like two people rhythmically moving together on a dance floor. It is through the dance that you get to know your partner.
Developing a healthy relationship occurs when we show interest in our partner. “Developing and maintaining healthy friendships involves give-and-take. Sometimes you’re the one giving support, and other times you’re on the receiving end.” (MayoClinic, 2013, Online)
The development of a healthy relationship does not occur overnight, but it will occur in time, along with a healthy balance of perseverance, patience, and persistence You move forward despite life’s difficulties, trials, and tribulations. As a couple, your interest in one another’s lives should be heartfelt, frequently expressed, and ultimately, through a reciprocal action.
Author: Dr. Asa Don Brown, Ph.D., C.C.C.
Brown, A. D. (2012) Inspiring your child. Retrieved April 7, 2013 from http://www.ccpa-accp.ca/blog/?p=2380
Brown, A. D. (2010) Waiting to live. New York, NY: iUniverse
Mayo Clinic (2013) Friendships: Enrich your life and improve your health. Retrieved April 27, 2013 from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/friendships/MH00125
Weasley, A. (2013) The role of friendship in marriage. Retrieved April 27, 2013 from http://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/sex_and_intimacy/the_role_of_friendship_in_marriage.aspx
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA