If you answered “yes” to the question “is your partner your friend?”, you’re well placed to make your relationship flourish. Keep up the good work! Keep strengthening your friendship bond, it’ll reward you well. Decades of research, combined with decades of experience in counselling couples, points to two simple truths:
1. Happy couples behave like good friends. They respect, have affection for and have empathy for each other.
2. Happy couples handle their conflicts in gentle and positive ways. They know that conflict is inevitable in relationship and that sometimes the same problems keep coming up over and over. That’s life!
What they do differently is they don’t get stuck holding onto their opposing positions. They keep talking together about these conflicts in respectful ways. They learn to listen to their partner’s perspective and they find compromises that work for both of them.
Just to be clear, friendship is the foundation for satisfying and erotic sexual relationships too! Sex is a central part of individual and couple comfort, intimacy, desire, pleasure, eroticism and satisfaction. Without friendship, desire and satisfaction cannot stand up to the test of time.
One-night stands, affairs and initial stages of relationships are sexually charged because you’re buzzing with hormones. You’re experimenting, curious about each other and want to know what turns the other on. This is hormonally-driven sex which is not sustainable for the long-haul. This phase of relationship always ends.
If you want to keep sexual curiosity and desire alive in a long-term relationship, it can only be done with a solid foundation of friendship. That way you keep sex personalized, playful, energizing, spiritual and special – if that’s what you want. Or you can make it relaxing, without performance pressure, without the fear of “failure” or rejection from your partner. To have these in your ongoing relationship requires constant negotiating with your sexual friend.
How else are we to deal with the awkward, confusing, disappointing, or downright mixed signals that often surround sex and sexual desires? Sexual friends keep talking and communicating to each other, both verbally and non-verbally about shifts in their sexual desire, eroticism, pleasure and satisfaction. Things are always changing. Things get messy, they get better (or not), or they get worse. That’s life! Have I said that before? Yet a friend can accompany you on this ever-shifting journey in learning about yourself and each other while your relationship develops and changes. As you and your body ages and alters.
If you answered “no” to the question of whether your partner is your friend, was he/she ever your friend? If not, you need to do some solid rethinking about your relationship. If she/he used to be your friend, would you like to recapture that state of friendship? There are clear and simple ways to rebuild your friendship. These have been identified by scientific studies and when you consistently apply them, they’ll work well to rebuild your friendship.
In a nutshell – the following skills are what is required to build or rebuild your friendship:
1. Avoid the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
These poisonous patterns of behaviour, if not stopped and replaced with their antidotes, send couples on a one-way trip to separation.
The Four Horsemen are:
• Criticism – complaining or blaming your partner using character or personality assassinations, like “You’re selfish” “You’re unattractive” etc. These are often accompanied by “You never…” or “You always…”
• Defensiveness – defending your innocence or counterattacking without taking responsibility for even a small part of your partner’s complaint. It can look like cross-complaining or whining.
• Contempt – this is criticism on steroids. It’s accompanied by hostility or disgust and reduces your partner to a lowly status. It often involves sarcasm, belittling, name-calling and hostility.
• Stonewalling – withdrawing from conversations, giving no verbal or physical cues that you’re listening to your partner. It blocks them out totally so they sense they’re talking to a wall.
There are proven antidotes to these four relationship killers. Research has shown that if you consistently practice these relationship builders, you strengthen your friendship and bring your partner closer. This opens you both to the possibility of compromise. We learn only through practice and repetition, there are no short-cuts. If you’re keen on rebuilding your friendship, start practicing now!
2. Practice the following skills:
• Softened start-up – start your complaint or discussion in a gentle way, avoid blaming or criticizing your partner.
• Listen carefully to your partner and see if there’s even one small part of their complaint for which you can take responsibility.
• Describe your own feelings, thoughts or needs. Avoid using “you” language. Don’t cheat by saying “I feel that you…” followed by a criticism.
• Practice self-soothing by calming your body’s stress response. Breathe deeply, feel your feet on the floor, look around at what you can see etc.
This is just a short description of what it takes to build and strengthen friendships. To get help in strengthening the friendship between you and your partner, you may need an experienced relationship counsellor & coach. Call 0421 961 687 or email us to schedule an appointment. International callers should call +61 2 8005 1742.
You deserve the best trained relationship coaches if you’re planning to invest time and money in your relationship. If you’re not ready to book an appointment, call us on 0421 961 687 to book a FREE 10 minute phone consultation to discuss how we may be able to assist you.