Why Friendship Matters in a Long-Term Relationship
I think this is going to be a really obvious blog for people who are reading, but I've been surprised before, so it's worth it to share.
When I work with couples, I tell them that the work they do is broken down into three large themes (too much detail to get into, seriously), all of which are based around the Gottman's work. We spend time on conflict (duh - that's what most people come in for), existential issues (i.e. life roles, dreams, meaning), and friendship.
Seems really simple, right? "Just be friends with your partner!" is what they tell you, "Laugh together!" is what they say. But when you're in the throes of conflict, or when you can't even look at your partner without feeling resentment or rage or exhausting frustration or defeat, then laughing together seems like the absolute furthest thing from what you're capable of.
And, to be honest, that's not the type of thing I would tell you.
I would tell you that friendship is CRUCIAL to the success of a relationship (it is). I would also tell you that, barring extreme examples, it's something that can be rekindled and rebuilt, even if you don't believe me right now. I would also tell you that there's specific things we can do to rekindle and rebuild it. And yes, those things may feel forced or contrived in the beginning, but they help to clear up the blockage from the catastrophic wreck (how you probably see it, but not how I see it) that might be your relationship.
Think about it like this - if you weren't friends with somebody, would you want to spend time with them, want to build a life together, want to make sure that they felt cherished and loved? And, even further, would you want to fight with them? What I mean to say is, would it even feel as though it was worth your time? Would you want to try to hear where they were coming from, even if you disagreed? Would you want to laugh with this person and try to make their life pleasant, trusting that they want the same with you? NO. To all of the above. You wouldn't care about any of those things. And, if it's not glaringly obvious, all of those things constitute a healthy relationship.
Yes, arguing is found in happy, healthy relationships. Certain behaviors during arguing are unhealthy, but not arguing in and of itself.
My point is this. In order to have a healthy, successful, long-term relationship, you must be friends with your partner. Not in a "they-walk-on-water" way, but in an "I-know-you-and-accept-and-love-you" way.
If you're in a place where you're questioning whether your relationship is salvageable, or whether or not you can ever laugh with your partner again, then maybe it's time you reach out for a consultation. It might feel like it's over, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it is.