Generations ago couples “courted” and got to know each other well before they hit the sack. They might have fooled around a bit but the fear of pregnancy kept most women’s legs pretty tightly shut! Unbeknownst to them they were actually building a friendship that would help them through the tough times ahead. By the time couples married they had a reasonable idea of who they were spending their life with.
Fast forward to the 21st century, we are lucky to have birth control and options for protected sex. Instead of pregnancy being the deterrent it once was, women are now free to be more, um-mm, free?! The downside is that the friendship required for intimate relationships to survive long-term is often missing.
This may be one of the reasons separation and divorce rates are so high. Plus we have options that our ancestors didn’t. If they were unhappy or dissatisfied in their relationship they had to fix it. Their only options were to find a workable solution, live in misery or murder their spouse. I’m sure a few went missing, some were miserable but the majority worked on it.
We don’t have these restraints. Instead, couples opt for the easy way out, separate and try to find love and happiness elsewhere. The problem with this is that many fail to realize they need to fix the issues created in their initial relationship so it won’t be transferred to the next. Serial cheaters are a prime example. Until they work on their cheating behaviour in their current relationship, it’s pretty likely they’ll cheat over and over again in others.
Today, couples that have a solid friendship are far more likely to work through their baggage, issues or hardships and remain together. It’s not just about communicating as friends but encompasses mutual respect, validation of opinions, understanding, acknowledgment and all the other goodies being best friends involves.
Friendship in new relationships
If you’re on the market or just beginning a new relationship, great! Hold off on the sex and concentrate on the friendship. It doesn’t matter what gender you are either. Simply spend time together, communicate and build a solid foundation for a strong, sustainable relationship.
Avoid placing a time limit on initiating intimacy because that will become the focus. It really doesn’t matter. As a guide when you feel comfortable being able to strip naked in front of your partner and jump up and down, you’re probably pretty comfortable with each other! Although holding off on sex may be easier said than done it’s much easier to begin as friends and work toward intimacy than the other way around.
Concentrating on friendship in established relationships
If your relationship is based on physical attraction and lust you’re in serious trouble if you want it to last long-term. We all know the passionate side of relationships is awesome but there’s got to be more. Eventually, that will subdue and you will need to have a friendship for it to last.
Rather than suddenly stopping the sex to work on your friendship, continue as you would when you want to befriend someone. Work on what you have in common, likes and dislikes, family history, strengths and weaknesses, fears and life experiences. You should know all the things friends know about each other and concentrate on building mutual respect, understanding and trust.
So why is friendship the secret ingredient to a happy, satisfying long-term relationship? Easy. Best friends look out for each other no matter what. They are comfortable in extended periods of silence. Everyone needs downtime. They treat each other as equals with respect, dignity, validation and compassion, not as possessions or objects to be abused. They have fun together, laugh together, communicate and enjoy each other’s company. Plus, when the s### hits the fan, who do you want to turn to? Not the friend with benefits that some couples resemble, but your best friend.
If your intimate relationship doesn’t have a solid foundation built upon friendship it will eventually crumble. It might last a few years, maybe even a decade or more but the most satisfying and happy relationships seem to have this one essential ingredient. Thankfully this is something we can all build upon, achieve and improve with age.
Image via nedhardy.com
Kim is a writer and SHESAID's resident psychologist. A self-proclaimed tomboy who understands more about relationships and men than she ever will about glitz and glamour. Follow Kim on Google+.