In a committed relationship or marriage, we forgo certain freedoms in return for living and sharing our life with our best friend. Before marriage the friendship tends to be carefree as you each have separate lives. Entering into a union starts the journey of becoming one.
We bring along expectations, desires, goals, and dreams which, many times, turn into demands on our partner. These create pressure on the relationship, robbing you of the carefree “giving and receiving” rhythm of love.
Here’s a recipe for a carefree, BFF (best friend forever) relationship:
1. As individuals, list your expectations, desires, goals and dreams
2. Come together as a couple and share the lists
3. Notice things in common and what might be complementary
4. Agree to support each other on things which are not complementary
5. Spend 1 hour a week as a couple doing fun or relaxing things
6. Spend 1 hour a week as a family doing fun activities with the children
Real life happens while on the journey to becoming one. You get rooted and your love deepens. Although marriage requires some work, it’s not all work and not all play. Self-awareness and collaboration, mixed with fun and play, is integral to carefree, BFF relationships.
Friendship is vitally important to the health of your relationship and/or marriage. As you remember what you enjoyed about being best friends and acknowledge the challenges you’ve encountered, the question is how to combine them both to best support you.
First, take an inventory of what you loved about being best friends. How did you express yourself? How did you listen and respond? How did you support each other?
Next, take a look at where you are now in relation to these answers. Are you still speaking in caring ways? Are you listening to what truly matters to your partner? Are you supporting each other with care and to the best of your ability?
Finally, when challenges arise, take time to see what’s important to you before opening your mouth. How do you want to be heard? When you are listening, do your best to understand what’s important to your partner and reflect that back. Once you both have been heard, be creative and open to designing a solution that lets you know you both matter. Once you start doing this, the joy and excitement will start flooding back in.
Relationships take work but what a fulfilling journey it is when you travel it with your best friend. It comes down to getting back to the basics.
Remember how much fun you had when you were dating each other, how nothing could get in the way of you being happy and in love? You and your spouse created magic moments together; it is important to take the time to re-create these moments and create new ones along the way! These moments are the reason why you fell in love with each other.
Just like you make time for things each day, you need to set aside quality time for your partner. If time is an issue then you need to schedule it for each other. Plan a weekly date night. Set time aside for each other when you are both fully present and make each other the priority.
Communicate with your partner. It is important to remember that men and women communicate differently. Determine what that means for you as a couple and remember timing is everything! Have fun and enjoy the journey reconnecting with each other!
Struggling to find a starting point? Ask yourself these questions. What did you do together when you were friends (go to dinner, play games, go for walks, visit friends’ homes, etc.)? You can still do those things on a smaller scale to bring back the fun things you enjoyed together. For example; you could take 20 minutes and play a quick card game on the couch after the kids are in bed (put them down 20 minutes earlier and let them complain – you’re in charge).
The important thing is that you make some “us” time, alone, where you don’t talk about the family or household issues but instead discuss your vision and dreams or whatever it was that you discussed as friends together.
When you are discussing issues, start by asking what each of you wants as the outcome of the issue so that you are in agreement about WHAT you want before discussing HOW you’re going to get it. It’s only natural that you would go about it in different ways, however if you have a common outcome, it’s easier to avoid having to be right and making the other person wrong. Remember, Friends don’t do that. They listen and support each other.
Sometimes we forget the past as we become immersed in the present and worried about the future. The best way to bring something into being is by defining it. As they say, a problem defined is half solved. If you want a strong friendship and a great relationship, you need to do two things – define it, then do it.
What does friendship look like? How does it feel? What does it include? Define friendship by discussing it, together, in vivid detail. What are both of you imagining that you’re doing, being and having while enjoying your time together? Take notes so you can reference them for ideas, feelings, emotions and things that relate to what you used to have in your earlier years.
The next step is to make the decision and start acting out the authentic heart-inspired script you both created together. It might feel a bit awkward as you break away from well-worn ways of how you’re currently interacting. However, like anything else, with focus, practice and strong desire, I’m sure you’ll find your way to rekindle and reconnect with the glorious thoughts, feelings and actions that made you the best friends you’ve really always been.
The foundation of a strong love relationship is having a positive emotional connection. That means being able to give and receive emotional support. Research has shown that having close ties with others is vital to all aspects of our health – mental, emotional, and physical. When the connection is lost we feel anger, sadness, hurt, or fear. So how is emotional connection built and maintained?
Fulfilling relationships don’t just magically appear on your doorstep fully formed. They are built one interaction at a time. Dr. Sue Johnson, author of Hold Me Tight, says that to build and sustain a secure bond we need to tune into our loved one by creating “moments of engagement and connection.” These don’t have to be big events like a special trip. It is in the little everyday things that you feel that your partner is connected to you in a meaningful way. There are lots of ways to do that.
Putting your partner first on your priority list. Not too long ago I was talking to a prominent doctor in town. He told me about a time a few years ago when his marriage had some real challenges. His wife was the president of a local organization and she devoted a lot of time to it. He said he just didn’t feel as if he was important to her. He understood why she needed to spend so much time and totally supported her in her position. She was just not making any room for him in her day. Fortunately, he was able to express how he was feeling and she responded in a way that made him feel that he mattered.
“Mattering” is the need to feel noticed, appreciated and depended on. It is important to believe that we count in others’ lives and we make a difference to them.
Daily rituals. One very effective ritual is to spend at least 10 minutes a day focused on one another – with no TV or other distractions. I recently worked with a couple who fought incessantly. As we talked, it became very clear that they didn’t spend time talking to each other about anything except TV and the things they argued about. They agreed that every evening after dinner they would turn off the TV and spend 10 minutes talking about what happened in their day. Within a very short time the frequency and intensity of their arguments changed significantly.
The more you know about each other the closer you feel — and it’s not just stuff that happened in the past, it’s what is going on in your partner’s life today. Sharing those small things strengthens the connection.
Attitude of gratitude. Compliments go a long way, so the saying goes. Have you ever told a young waitress that she did a great job and watched her face light up? If a compliment from a stranger makes someone feel good, how much more does it mean when it comes from someone you love? And compliments boost you whether you give them or receive them.
Feeling and expressing appreciation for things your loved one does has a very positive impact on the way you both think and feel. It’s another way of saying that you matter to me. Keeping a Gratitude Log is an effective way to increase your awareness of the things about your spouse that you are grateful for. Every day each of you write two or three things about the other that you are grateful for. Share them before you go to bed at night. Watch the benefits come rolling in.
Cuddling – the secret ingredient. According to a study conducted last year by the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University among middle-aged and older couples, cuddling and caressing help boost couples’ satisfaction in long-term relationships. We know from other research that when a couple touches each other their bodies release a powerful hormone called Oxytocin – often called the “love hormone.” It makes us feel content, reduces anxiety and stress and helps us feel calm and secure around our loved one. It’s true for both men and women.
Speak your partner’s love language. During his 30 years as a marriage counselor, Dr. Gary Chapman heard many couples say “he/she doesn’t love me” while their spouse protested that they did. He concluded that all of us speak a “love language,” a primary way of expressing and interpreting love. He also discovered that, for whatever reason, we are often drawn to someone who speaks a different love language than our own.
There are five love languages and we all identify primarily with one of them: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service and Physical Touch. When you and your partner are aware of how each of you interprets expressions of love, the communication channels open way up.
Each time you neglect to ask for what you need, or to confront someone who treats you poorly, you chip away at your confidence and self-esteem.