You’ve seen them. The couple who, in the midst of a busy restaurant, are oblivious to life around them. Staring at each other, gooey-eyed and grossing people out at surrounding tables. It can be endearing. They’re in the ‘getting to know all about you’ phase. Right now, they don’t need anyone else in the world, but it won’t stay that way. Or, at least, it shouldn’t, if they want their relationship to thrive.
Don’t tell them, but they actually need other people for the long term health of their couple-hood. They need their friends. Here’s why.
1. You Have Different Points of View
Men and women don’t communicate alike. Or for the same purpose. The early, gooey-eyed phase is a case in point. At the start of a relationship, the man is on a recon mission. He’s gathering info about a woman in order to know how to ‘do life’ with her. Once he has enough info, the mission is done. No further deep and focused talk is required. That phase is over. He is now ready to move on to the next phase: Doing life.
The woman experiences the gooey-eyed phase entirely differently. What the woman is thinking: “I’ve finally found a man who will talk with me. It must be love!” And, trouble can begin just as fast. The trouble is, he is finished with that intense level and type of communication just when she is starting to think she can count on it.
Ladies, I know you want him to, but he probably doesn’t need to talk through life events the way you do. He’s Mr. Fix It, not Mr. Discuss It. Men, she doesn’t want you to fix it. She just wants you to listen to her and, where appropriate, discuss it with her.
If we are going to celebrate our differences – and accept them – this truth needs to be heeded: You each need people of your same gender to talk to. Ladies, you need girlfriends to unload the bulk of your talk on. Your man, likely, has a threshold much lower than your needs. Gentlemen, you need other men to bond with. And, likely, the bond won’t be formed around the words you share. (But you knew that without me having to say it, didn’t you?)
2. You Need a Second Opinion
Life isn’t Leave It to Beaver. No one grows up perfectly. Our ideas of how life works and why our spouses do what they do could be based on bad examples. This means we need another perspective on, well, everything. You will not always be able to see how you’ve contributed to a conflict. But a good friend will.
Maturing means learning to see for yourself where you’re off the straight and narrow, but the learning process can be slow. Often, our straight lines look more like Celtic knots when we start in a relationship. We need trusted friends (who are unlikely to be perceived as a threat to our marriage, by the way) who know where our line is crooked. And, they need to be bold enough to let us know when we’re messing it up.
3. You Can’t Vent To Your Spouse About Them
This one is for everybody. If you’ve ever been in a relationship with a person who doesn’t have anyone to talk to but you, then you’ve heard it. Venting is healthy, to some degree. Unloading emotions in words instead of action can be a far better choice. For example, “I’ll scoop his heart out with a spoon!”, is better said than done.
But if you’re the only person your spouse confides in then, eventually, they will vent about you. To you. And you won’t like it. Neither do they I’ll bet you can’t listen to how much you’ve put them through for long without buying into it on some level. Or resenting it deeply. Even if you know they’re only venting.
Personally, I have some awesome girlfriends and one incredibly wise mentor who can hear me vent just about anything without passing judgement on me. I’m grateful to have people who understand that arguments are rarely one sided. If your friends are quick to condemn your spouse when you vent, they’re not being friendly. They’re being destructive.
Your relationship is a part of the structure of your life. You want friends who will help shore it up, not be a part of the demolition crew. (Please don’t take this too far. There is such a thing as an unsafe relationship that needs to end or undergo massive change. That’s not what I’m talking about here.).
4. Everything Does Come to an End Eventually
No one likes thinking about death (of a person or relationship), especially in the middle of life. But the reality is, the two of you are unlikely to pass away on the same day. Plus, we live in a climate of divorce and a culture that practically promotes it. If your partner has been your only true friend in a long life, how would you feel if they passed away before you? You would have two major things to mourn at once. Obviously, you’d mourn your lost partner. But you’d also be in mourning for intimacy and human connection.
Being known by others is a legitimate need. Not only would a true friend or two help you deal with the pain of loss, they would also be able to share the memories that made your partner worth mourning. Divorce would be even worse. The tearing apart that happens to people who divorce can be incredibly painful. Good friends will help you talk through your struggles. Incredible friends will keep you so busy that you can’t even think about them.
These are all compelling reasons to cultivate deep friendships outside your relationship. But will you do it? You’re busy with work. You’re focused on your kids. You want to spend your limited free time on your marriage. And, yes, making new friendships or improving old ones takes effort. But it’s nothing compared to the effort of going through any kind of crisis with only your spouse in your corner.
He or she is only one person and an imperfect one, at that. Sorting through the wrong lessons both of you learned growing up, having only each other to vent to and facing life’s challenges with only one person to help carry the burden is a recipe for disaster. Doing life is simply too big a burden for a couple to carry on their own. If comfort is what you’re going for, you need friends to carry some of the load.
Fill your life with, not only your spouse, but with good friends who will build your relationship up to a level that your grand kids will tell their kids about.