While developing friendship between spouses may be the road to happiness, it is rarely easy to do. Friendship implies an equal relationship between partners. It also feeds and grows on trust, respect, thoughtfulness, and courtesy. Each partner needs to know that the other appreciates him/her. Not surprisingly the more one spouse feels
appreciated, the more that person is likely to help and to please the other. We look for the excitement of passion and mystery in a relationship and look at friendship as perhaps a little boring. Passion may fade; friendship grows stronger.
Usually we think of a friendship as existing between women or between men. Let's start by defining what friendship is! Women who are true friends are supportive of each other and have many activities and interests in common. They frequently vent about problems and confide their feelings to each other.
Men more often have buddies and are reluctant to reveal any weaknesses and/or doubts within themselves for fear of appearing that they do not have their lives under control. I am reminded of a story an editor of Reader's Digest once told me. He and three other men played tennis with each other weekly for several years. They described themselves as friends. Suddenly one of them committed suicide which surprised and shocked the other three. They had had no idea their 'friend' had had any unhappiness or problems.
Men and women think and view themselves and their roles in life in different ways. I wrote about the difference in their egos and their brains in my most recent blog of theromancegame. (see link on the right) Communication is certainly a key factor in being friends, something most men resist. But partners, which friends are, do talk and they are not afraid the other will think less of them. They also do not criticize each other. They do go out of their way not to irritate the other.
What kind of marriage you have will also influence your ability to become friends and truly achieve happiness for both parties. Traditionally the man has been the head of the family and the major bread winner. The wife takes his name at the time of the ceremony as well as the role of wife and mother. Major decisions have been frequently decided by the husband. Today there are myriad marriage patterns which include the woman becoming the breadwinner, the husband taking care of the children, and any number of variations in between. Probably the marriage that has the most possibility of happiness for both people is one in which both feel they are partners. They are friends who talk about where they are going together, about their feelings, and how they are going to spend their money. They are considerate and helpful to each other. Yet for many, the old ideas of marriage in which the man is dominate often lingers on and may make becoming friends almost impossible.
Following my own advice in my book, "50 Ways to Find romance after 50" I met an interesting man, Harry Borgman, on an internet dating site. We have similar life styles. He is a recognized artist in both the commercial and fine arts fields and like me, has worked a good share of his life independently. I had been a widow for over 23
years and his wife had died the year before we met. Unfortunately we live many miles apart, our homes are quite opposite in architectural design, and we have roots and friends in our own communities. Thus our road to romance is not always smooth except we have become friends.(See my website romanceafter50.com for special book offer).
I was stunned when a business associate told me I should give up my own life and move to Harry's town. The woman should obey the husband, she said. Obviously that advice would cause more problems than it would solve for us. Nor does that attitude lay the groundwork for an optimum situation in which to develop a deep and exciting friendship.
Couples may need to look at their lifestyles to find how best to develop a life in which they can both achieve their own goals yet share adventures and responsibilities together. A good example of being supportive yet being honest with each other after retirement is the story of Bob and Ann Redd. Bob had been an accountant and an engineer and was really an energizer bunny. He exuded energy. Ann was more laid back. They had raised their children. Over the years Ann had developed her routine including a great interest in rug hooking. Suddenly Bob was at home and expected that Ann would change her life to suit his wishes. Ann was not willing to do this. She was not going to stop in the middle of her busy day to make his lunch and was firm and honest with him about this. This eventually led to his writing a book, "For Better or for Worse, But Not for Lunch." In fact in a way this freed him to follow his passion for writing and he became a regular contributor to "Choices" a magazine I was publishing at that time. He also became very supportive of Ann's interest and artistry in rug hooking. They eventually traveled around the country to seminars and to national shows becoming experts in the art together.
Being supportive also means helping the other when health problems arise which is often a part of aging. Pursuing good health can become a mutual goal. One of the couples in my book set the date of their wedding so that each could care for the other after their scheduled surgeries. Then once good health was achieved, they celebrated by enjoying life together.
With understanding and a good sense of humor, we may discover our most important best friend is across the breakfast table from us. There's the classic story of "The Acres of Diamonds" in which a man sold everything he had and ventured far and wide to find a diamond mine. He died lonely and penniless. The couple who bought his house found a diamond mine in their own back yard.
Sometimes we look for romance, for excitement, and most of all for a good friend in other places when that person is our mate. Put your new glasses on and look at your relationship in a new light. You fell in love with your spouse or your significant other once, perhaps long ago. With 'care and feeding' you may discover your best friend is right there beside you.