It’s September 3, 2015 and the night is coming to an end on my 21st wedding anniversary. It has been, at times, an interesting, befuddling, mystifying and deeply rewarding journey. Honestly, for a long time, I seriously doubted my ability (or, perhaps, willingness?) to remain committed to anyone for this length of time. But twenty-six years ago, while joining a Public Accounting and Consulting Firm in the Midwest, I met a man who expressed more respect and kindness toward women than anyone I had ever known. Instantly, we began to forge a friendship; not just any friendship, but one that morphed from a working partnership, in to a supportive friendship, then in to a romantic attraction, and then finally, in to a long term marriage that has endured both myriad pleasures and pitfalls.
Committed to our individual growth and that of the relationship, we patiently cultivated a connection based on unconditional support, radical honesty and real love. Friends and clients who have taken our relationship workshops are tempted to believe that we have been “lucky” to have found each other, or, “fortunate” to be so compatible. Rubbish! We are as different as the legends of Luna and her soft shimmering glow and Sol and his bright beaming radiance. Thomas is introverted, easy going, and prefers just the two of us hanging out and relaxing. I, on the other hand, am active, intense and enjoy being social and spending solitude time in Nature. We don’t believe in luck or the fact that both our suns reside in Capricorn. When it comes to healthy intimate relationships we know that genuine friendship is the foundation for a loving, evolving, lasting connection. Period.
If you are already in a relationship, or, seeking a relationship, notice the desires, needs and intentions that lurk below the surface. If the driving force for wanting a connection is any of the following BEWARE:
• The desire to be fulfilled or to control another person though sex.
• The longing to be with a person based on their physical beauty, strengths or accomplishments.
• The yearning for financial security and/or, to be taken care of.
• The need to be needed or to rescue someone.
• The hunger for prestige, power, or control.
• The wish to distract, avoid or divert from unwanted feelings and emotions, including emptiness.
Why are these needs/desires/longings antithetical to a healthy, committed relationship? Because inevitably, “stuff” is going to surface. When the boredom kicks in, when the stress surfaces (think money, sex, kids, etc.), when the illness arises, when the pain from aging emerges, when the shit hits the fan—IT IS THE FRIENDSHIP THAT WILL CARRY YOU THROUGH.
Ask yourself: “Do I truly like this person that I am…dating, spending time with, married to?” Our advice to couples in our workshops, and, in the couple’s counseling I perform is: “Would you want to remain friends with this person if you broke up or divorced each other?”
My in-laws don’t know this, but they have been very inspirational to me in both the “friendship” and “marriage” departments. Having married in 1951 (yes, sixty-four years together!), my mother-in-law is eighty-six years young and my father-in-law turned eighty-eight in June. Their marriage wasn’t arranged nor did they feel familial pressure to wed. I sense there was a common attraction and much of it was based on respect and the genuine desire to be with each other. And, after being married longer than some people remain alive, they still seem to possess a genuine admiration for one another.
Here’s our tried and true recipe for a great relationship: friendship creates the foundation for safety; safety builds the bridge for honesty; honesty develops the framework for trust. And all of these components constructs the fortress of a committed, loving, open and authentic relationship that will withstand the storms that will inevitably slam up against it.
Wanting to find the perfect anniversary card for my husband, I read through verse after verse, each one attempting to express some pathetic form of love. My beloved husband composes better expression of love than any of these cards, I thought to myself as I set each one aside. Finally, my eyes landed on a non-anniversary card, one that was sitting solo in the section marked “Love.” I picked it up and saw a simple image of oceanic waves gently lapping a sun-kissed shoreline. Below it, carved in the sand were the words: Love Is Friendship On Fire. Perfect. I couldn’t have said it better. Happy 21st Anniversary My Beloved Husband, Life Partner, Soul Companion and Best Friend.