When our partner is our best friend.
There is an African saying goes like this:
A friend is someone who knows your song and sings it to you when you have forgotten it. Those who love you are not fooled by mistakes you have made or dark images you hold about yourself. They remember your beauty when you feel ugly; your wholeness when you are broken; your innocence when you feel guilty; and your purpose when you are confused.
Linda: When you look up friend in the dictionary it says, "a person who knows you, who likes and trusts you, a favored companion, one who supports and sympathizes with you." A fruitful and rich discussion can occur when a couple sits down to discuss what exactly constitutes a good friendship, and which characteristics are most important to each partner. How partners define "friend" is a bit different for each individual. Here are some characteristics of a great friendship. See if you can add your own ideas to the list.
- fondness, affection, and caring so that we feel valued
- loyalty, allegiance, and commitment
- support, cooperation, and teamwork that helps us achieve goals
- connection that staves off loneliness
- companionship to share activities
- a high level of honesty
- a high level of trust
- a high level of respect
- enjoyment of each other's company
- fun with our playmate
- peace of mind that comes from being securely attached
- empathy, so that we feel acknowledged and understood
- reciprocity, such that there is a balance between giving and receiving
- acceptance, where we know each other deeply, seeing flaws and loving each other "as is"
- having similar life goals and purpose
- validating strengths already present
- bringing out the best in each other
What characteristics are of most importance varies from person to person. For some individuals, it is that their true friend shows respect and consideration by not making painful accusations. Many of us are acutely sensitive to being criticized and judged, and although we want to have honesty characterizing our relationship, it is essential to us that the information is delivered with tact, diplomacy, and caring.
A common characteristic of a strong friendship has to do with feeling that our partner is our ally, has our back, and would not take advantage of our vulnerability. Because they are our confidant, partners are privileged to have intimate information that others do not enjoy. That intimate information must never be used against us. And knowing that our friend will be there in our time of need gives us peace of mind. Friends would never kick us when we are down; they wouldn't abandon us in our time of need. And if the friendship would go into a period of decline from stress or neglect, there is willingness to do the repair work to revive the health, strength, and vitality of the partnership.
To have goals and passions in common fosters a strong bond. Any passionate area of interest can strengthen the friendship. It could be fine arts, music, poetry, politics, religion, being physically fit, a passion to learn or travel, or going for the joy and the fun. Whatever the area of interest, there will be occasions to stretch into the other person's world and to join the friend in that activity. When there is a spirit of good will among both partners, the friendship builds. While enjoying the shared activities, a feeling of being seen and known develops. As the habit is formed of spending time together in a meaningful way, trust builds. The way we are with our partner can become the most interesting and satisfying part of our life, and there isn't anyone in the world who we would prefer to be with.
For those who are committed to personal growth, the most important part of friendship is that our partner supports us to become who we can be. Our potential is maximized through our partner's belief in us. With his or her emotional support, we are able to take risks, try new things, and face our fears because our friend is there as a landing pad if we fall.
Being willing to invest in a deep friendships means risking being honest and authentic. Friendship is not always sweet, warm, and secure. There has to be room for confrontation and the darker parts of life. Our partner becomes our best friend because there are things that we tell our partner that are so intimate and private that we don't tell others. They have shown themselves to be trustworthy and can handle our imperfections and our greatness. We feel good about ourselves when we are with our partner, because we feel safe and also challenged to become whom we really can be. For the best of friends not only comfort us if we are agitated, but they will agitate us if we get too comfortable.
Friendship is the abundant wealth of our lives. It is the place where we derive the greatest happiness. Deep and sustaining friendships promote more than emotional and psychological health; they also promote physical health and longevity. When we succeed in reaching our life goals, celebrating with our partner amplifies the joy. To spend time developing the friendship aspect of our partnership is a wise choice of how to use our time, for the pleasure, passion, aliveness, and well-being that comes to us is immeasurable.
Linda and Charlie Bloom are excited to announce the release of their third book, Happily Ever After . . . and 39 Other Myths about Love: Breaking Through to the Relationship of Your Dreams.