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Read Letter

Long Span Bridge

My dear Jil, I’ll try and explain it to you, this friendship stuff. But we’ll need to do some visualisation. It’s my way of “seeing” things. Imagine a long span bridge. Rather long. At one end you have “Sex” signage, and then just few meters after, you have “Romance.” Then imagine that at the very other end you have “Obligations,” and further after, you have “Disagreement.” And so at one extreme, you have “Sex” and “Romance,” and at the other end you have “Obligations” and “Disagreement.”

Both extremes are separated by that very long span of concrete. That long span is friendship in marriage. You need friendship in marriage. It’s a sine qua non, something that’s absolutely needed.

One of the reasons marriages collapse is because of that missing long span called friendship. As much as sex is very desirable, truth is, in marriage, the regularity may not be as imagined. There are intervening life ablutions. In between trying to get on with life, coping with stress at work, traffic, pesky neighbours, annoying colleagues, demanding bosses, social demands, mother-in-law, your own family, your mother trying to introduce you to everyone at a party… there are so many issues on the mind of the average couple sex is the last thing they’re thinking of. It’s one more reason sex alone can’t sustain a marriage however critical it is in marriage.

As for romance, well, romance sometimes requires money. Besides you have to be in the mood, you have to create the mood. It’s hard to be romantic when you’re thinking of house rent and school fees and utility bills. And so you have all these administrative ablutions of life crowding your marriage and if you’re not careful you’ll become irritable. And when we’re irritable we tend to take it out on the next person – the person proximate to us. Absolutely unfair. It’s like road rage. Someone angers you but you take it out on the person next to you on the highway. There’s road rage and there’s marriage rage – taking it out on our partners because they’re the ones proximate and available. If you don’t learn to control yourself, you’ll end up punishing the very person who loves you. Marriage rage is non-discriminatory. You essentially punish your partner for some irritable stuff that happened in the office, something he knows nothing about. It is wrong to do so. It is wrong to take out your frustrations on your spouse. The poor bloke won’t even understand what’s going on. And he’ll either fight back or retreat, hurt. A retreating and hurt spouse can end up being an incubator of the undesirable. We need to be mindful of the feelings of our spouse in marriage. Those feelings go deeper than we imagine. Once there’s heavy commitment in a relationship, insensitivity can hurt deeply. Be careful about insensitivity.

The point I was trying to make is the fact that friendship is critical in marriage. When the sex and romance can’t happen, the friendship is what sustains the marriage. Unformed and untested friendship is the real danger in marrying someone too soon. Not only do you hardly know the person but friendship has not developed. And friendship is the long span in marriage.

Now, when we think friendship we tend to think gist and going out together and all what not. But friendship is bigger than that. It’s in friendship we talk about commitment and loyalty. It’s in friendship we talk about someone having your back no matter what. It’s in friendship we talk of betrayal. That tells you how deep friendship is. Spouses must have each others’ back. And that’s not necessarily saying the other party must be perfect. But in marriage, spouses become each others’ sanctuary. They’re each others’ safe place. But when there’s betrayal in marriage, a marriage can end up fractured. Some never recover. Why? Because there are expectations in friendship. And there are assumptions in friendship.

There’s the general assumption friendship is present continuous for example, that it’s supposed to just continue. You assume your friend will always be your friend. And we carry those assumptions into marriage, which is okay. But then there are expectations about friendship too. And those expectations define obligations. The first expectation, of course, is identification. You don’t expect your friend to deny you in public or distance himself from you. You want your friend to boldly declare in public he’s your friend. Friendship is funny without identification. It’s within friendship you have those heavy commitments in marriage.

Love assumes friendship in marriage. Both of you have to develop the bond of friendship. Without friendship, a marriage will be dry. It will be defined by obligations. After the obligations are met, then what? That is the question many couples face in marriage. Now, there’s a statement Solomon made that’s kind of intrigued me. It’s one of those Solomonics: He that hath friends must show himself friendly. In other words, if you want friendship in your marriage there’s first and foremost attitudinal disposition. Does your attitude portray someone who wants friendship? That’s the question. You can’t be mean to your spouse, lash out indiscriminately and then claim you “want us to be friends.” It doesn’t work that way. You have an obligation not to do friendship destruction stuff if you want to be friends with your spouse.

Now of course love will absorb those things but the fact that love is absorbent is no licence for bad behaviour. Revisit the friendship part of your marriage. Work on it. Friends care for each other, friends enquire about the welfare of each other. Friends know not to raise some issues until the right moment, taking the feeling of the other party into consideration. Marriage doesn’t magically succeed. It takes effort on both sides. Daily effort. You do your bit and have your expectations. The other party does his bit and has expectations. That’s marriage. But there are things we take for granted in friendship that must not be taken for granted. The most critical is that present continuous stuff – present continuous identification, present continuous care, present continuous loyalty… That’s what friendship demands. You can’t do without friendship in marriage. You won’t be happy.

Your mentor, LA

When the sex and romance can’t happen, the friendship is what sustains the marriage. Click To Tweet
Tags : True friendship, Attraction, Love, Genuine love, Considerations, Choosing, Friendship, what to look for in a marriage

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