Issue 44 –
The Top Ten Challenges to Relationship:
Keeping Your Love Alive Amid Life’s Routines
Challenge 4: Friends
It is extremely important to have friends and not to depend solely upon your partner to fill all your interpersonal needs. However, it is possible for our friendships to divert our primary linkage to someone other than our partner.
In the past, this has been particularly true of women. Their friendships have been deeper and more intimate than their marriages. They felt that they could say anything to their friends, but that they had to be cautious about what they said to their husbands. When they needed comfort they spoke with their friends not with their husbands. When they were unhappy about something that their husbands said or did, they did not speak to their husbands about it, but aired their concerns with their friends instead. Rather than saying to their partners, “I did not like it when you . ” they called their friends and discussed the matter with them. This shifts the primary linkage from the husband to the friend.
There is another way in which the primary linkage moves away from the relationship and to the friendship. This is a particular problem when one partner is an overly responsible person who gets very involved with the needs and problems of friends. There is a point where the balance between the friend and partner is shifted and the relationship loses. The energy is withdrawn from the partner and goes to the needy friend.
For instance, Bob and Jill are sitting at the dinner table. Jill tells Bob a funny story about their daughter’s success with her potty training. Bob proudly tells Jill about his contract to build three homes in the new housing development in the next town. They are having a great time together. The phone rings. It is Jill’s friend, Marla, who is having marital problems – again. Rather than finishing her meal with Bob, Jill leaves him at the table and talks for an hour with Marla. She links to Marla, her friend who needs her. She breaks her linkage with Bob who, she thinks, can manage on his own. If this happens frequently enough, the primary linkage is no longer in the marriage but in the friendship, and the marriage becomes an empty form rather than a living relationship.
As you might notice from this interchange, friends often carry our disowned selves, or missing pieces. If we look at the example of Bob and Jill, we see that Jill is not allowed to be needy like Marla. Jill, as a responsible type of person, must abandon her own dinner in order to care for Marla. She does not have the option of saying, “I’m sorry but I can’t talk just now, Bob and I are eating dinner. I’ll call you back tomorrow.”
The question to ask yourself here is Who is my best friend? In general, when you have something really important on your mind would you rather talk to your partner or your friends? For a truly intimate relationship, the answer will be “my partner.” There is a saying “It’s wonderful to be married to your best friend.” When the primary linkage is in the relationship, that is just the way we feel; our partners are our best friends.