In this series of posts, I discuss the importance of friendship within the romantic relationship. Earlier this week I emphasized the importance of liking yourself, being your own best friend.
Today I want to talk a little about how to build a friendship with your romantic partner. I am sure many of you are thinking there is no need for such a post because being friends with someone is a no-brainer, right? Well, yes and no. “Yes” because friendship basics like common interests and values, trust, loyalty and a sense of give and take hold true for both platonic and romantic friendships. “No” because we feel more vulnerable and the importance of those basics exponentially increases.
How do you really get to know someone you are dating?
#1. Keep your clothes on. Sounds a little old-fashioned, I know. When you have sex too early in the relationship, the sexual relationship can take priority over building a friendship. It’s not easy to put hormones on the back burner; but waiting to have sex until you know you are attracted to a partner’s personality as much as their body makes the sex that much better.
#2. Ask questions. My partner and I play a game I call the alphabet game. We played it a lot more during the early part of our relationship and we still play it. When we are on longer drives, we take turns asking each other questions using words that start with letters of the alphabet. For example: Who is your favorite Aunt and why? Tell me about a time when you played Baseball. When did you disappoint your Parents? What Qualities do you admire most in a person? What did you learn about yourself from your last Break-up? Q, X & Z were the hardest letters for us. Sometimes the questions were about serious topics and sometimes they were more lighthearted.
#3. Be Open. Dating partners are going to have their own ideas and opinions. Be open to at least listening to them and not judging them. Now, if a person’s ideas or opinions are SO opposite of yours that you feel you two are not a good match, move on. Be open to sharing your ideas and opinions, too. If the person across from you is closed-off or harshly judgmental to the point you feel defensive, again, maybe it isn’t a good match and you move on. Maybe you both find you differ on politics, but you come to a place of understanding each other (because you’ve been open) and find that, despite that particular difference, you really like each other. And instead of moving on, you both move forward.
#4. Give and graciously receive compliments. Telling someone you like exactly what it is about them that you like will probably lead them to do more of what you like. Saying “thank you” when you receive a compliment implies that you are confident and can accept positive feedback. AND we typically need five positive interactions for every negative interaction we experience. So, when you are building up good feelings toward each other you are more able to handle hearing a criticism. A friendship is more about building each other up, not tearing each other down.
#5. Have a sense of humor. Laughing at yourself and about minor faux pas reduces stress and relieves tension. I am clumsy. I trip over thin air. When my partner and I are walking down the street and I stumble, recover and keep moving, we laugh about it. He doesn’t get on my case or try to embarrass me and I don’t feel I have to apologize for being who I am. We try not to take ourselves too seriously. He farts, I fart, and we laugh. We go in for a kiss and totally miss the target, we laugh. I mess up something on the barbeque, he laughs.
Ok, so he doesn’t laugh, but, he gently reminds me again what to do. And he can do that because of all the other times that we’ve laughed or complimented each other or been open with each other – because we took the time to learn about each other. Do we still get on each other’s nerves? Sure. But we are more tolerant of each other during those moments because we are friends who really like each other.
I hope this has given you ideas to help you build a friendship with your romantic partner. If you need a little coaching, find a relationship counselor to give you both some tools for success.