April 16, 2024

What Our Close Friendships Can Teach Us about Romantic Relationships.

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One of my best friends has recently moved to another country.

Now she visits three times a year at most, but when she does, we have so much fun together.

During our 20-year best friendship, we have never fought. Not even once. We might have had a few disagreements, sure. But mostly it’s been enjoyable—even when I’m hungry.

The last time we went out for lunch, she got stuck in traffic and I was, well, starving. I was upset. I was furious. I was “hangry.” Did I make her feel bad? Nope. In fact, I joked about it on our way to the restaurant. She’s my best friend after all; getting angry over little things is stupid.

The other day I found myself in the same situation with my husband. He got stuck in traffic while bringing me lunch and I was, yes, “hangry.” Did I make him feel bad? Yes. In fact, I scared the sh*t out of him and made a big deal about it. He’s my husband after all; getting angry over little things is ideal in relationships, right?

What happened got me thinking about love. Why is it that our friendships feel lighter in nature than our romantic relationships? I wouldn’t make a fuss over small things with my friend. Why would I do that with the love of my life?

I’m not the only one. I see how light my husband’s friendships are. I enjoy watching them turning everything into jokes. They can literally talk negatively about each other then laugh about it a few seconds later.

I’m not saying though that friendships are devoid of fights or misunderstandings. Almost a decade ago, I fought with a friend who was like a sister to me. To this day, we refuse to talk to each other. I also went through a rough patch with another close friend a few years ago, but luckily we worked things out.

Friendships end, too, but they tend to last more than relationships. If we go in and out of friendships as much as we do in relationships, our social circle would be so small. So what makes our friendships so enduring and long-lasting? What is missing in our romantic relationships?

After the unfortunate (silly) incident with my husband, I have realized that my friendships can teach me a lot about how to maintain a healthy, long-lasting relationship.

My friendships teach me that I need to have more fun in my relationship.

Yes, you heard that right. Fun.

I need to stop taking things so seriously, so personally. Don’t you feel the same? You must feel the same way. It is no wonder that when we first get into a relationship it all feels fun and light. Fast forward a couple of years and we get upset when we see our partner’s dirty socks near the laundry basket.

But I get it. Really. Fun and excitement almost always decrease in romantic relationships because our partners emotionally trigger us more than our friends ever will.

Our partners replace the love, attention, and validation that we have received from our caregivers. If we look closely, we actually realize that the behaviors in our relationship that are associated with shame, failure, unsafety, abandonment, fear, rejection, unavailability, and so on, can be traced back to our early days. Sooner or later they will come to the surface and transform fun into hurt, independence into codependency, and excitement into self-sabotage.

Partners can and will trigger our unhealed wounds because the relationship we have with them is linked to deeper, negative feelings from our past. Friends, on the other hand, will always be the place where we seek shelter, become vulnerable, and find solace—just like when we were younger.

Obviously, the solution is to bring what we have in our friendships into our partnerships—the fun, the vulnerability, the cheer, the safety.

Doing that won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. We can benefit from our triggers when they come up. Instead of shaming our partner when we feel dismissed, we can ask ourselves first why we are feeling this way. Instead of disconnecting from ourselves when we feel ignored, we can dig deeper into our feelings of rejection.

What I’m suggesting takes a whole lot of bravery and vulnerability. Before our knee-jerk reaction takes over when we’re triggered, we need to feel what’s coming up first. We can discuss how we’re feeling and maybe, together, look for the reason and the solution.

When we stop allowing our hurt, broken self to lead the way, fun spontaneously shows up again. Then our relationship won’t be reserved only for sex and romance. It will be an altar for friendship, trust, safety, and joy.

~

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