The Friendship Factor in Relationships

If someone were to present a recipe to ‘cook up’ a successful, happy, long-term relationship, it would probably include a few key ingredients. Maybe they’d start with a cup of love. Then they’d throw in a handful of romantic attraction. The recipe might also call for spoonfuls of intimacy, communication, commitment and trust. All these ingredients sound like the perfect mix, right?  

Well, the only problem is that there is no human being alive who can provide all those things all the time. Stress, time and negative events can all impact these factors within a relationship. So, while all these ingredients are important, I’d like to suggest that the most critical component and important ingredient in a relationship – that has proven to stand the test of time and helps partners to be more forgiving and loving towards each other – is friendship.

Couples who are friends, above all else, are better equipped to survive stress and hardships than couples who are not. Couples who have a strong friendship with one another are more likely to enjoy each other’s company, respect each other’s ideas, and be more forgiving of each other’s mistakes. They know so much about each other, and they still accept the other for who they are. Couples who are friends talk more to each other, know more about each other’s inner thoughts, fears and pressures, and keep these facts in mind when interacting with their partner. Couples who are friends have emotional intimacy and acceptance; they have fun together and turn to each other in times of stress.

Now, it is important to note that having a strong friendship doesn’t necessarily mean your relationship will last – although it does help! Again, time, life events and stress can often diminish the friendship if the friendship aspect is not tended to – even when you’re living with each other. If couples don’t make an intentional effort to communicate as friends, hang out with each other in an enjoyable setting, or remain emotionally close to each other, the friendship will fade. All I’m trying to get you to see is it takes intentional effort to create a sustainable friendship.

If you feel like you don’t know your partner very well – or you feel like your partner doesn’t know you – there are ways to increase your knowledge about one another and, in turn enhance your friendship, if the knowledge is retained and used. Simply put, feeling known by your partner and feeling like you know your partner will create closeness and friendship that couldn’t exist if this knowledge wasn’t there.

If you want to test how well you know your partner, here are 15 questions you can answer true or false to. If you answer “false” to any of them, you’ve just created a conversation starter for later.

  1. I can name my partner’s favourite hobbies
  2. I can tell you some of the important events coming up in my partner’s life, and I know exactly how they feel about them
  3. I know my partner’s worst childhood experience
  4. I can tell you some things that my partner wants to accomplish in their life
  5. I am familiar with my partner’s spiritual and religious beliefs
  6. I can tell you about my partner’s best friend in childhood
  7. I can describe in detail what my partner’s day was like yesterday
  8. I know where my partner likes to go when they want to cheer up
  9. I can list my partner’s three favourite movies
  10. My partner knows my current stressors
  11. I know the three most important times in my partner’s life
  12. I can tell you what my partner’s favourite date has been with me
  13. My partner knows who my best friends are
  14. I know how my partner would spend their money if they won the lottery
  15. Periodically, I ask my partner about their day

Ultimately, a strong foundation of friendship provides a solid base for a healthy, fulfilling and enduring intimate relationship.

Stephen J Thurston is Senior Pastor of The Covenant, in Chicago, USA. He is also an

executive and church leadership consultant, project manager, author of the book Mirror Moments, and supports leadership development.  Visit www.stephenjthurston.com

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