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Focus on the friendship

August 1, 2011

The minute I got engaged and started combing the interwebs for inspiration and what-in-the-heck-do-I-do-now wisdom, I noticed a certain trend. All these brides kept referring to their significant other as their best friend. I know what you’re thinking–Uh, Kristine. That’s not exactly a ground-breaking discovery. You’re right, it’s not. But when you read as many wedding blogs and first-hand accounts from just-been-there brides as I do the constant use of best friend stands out.

Bride and groom via Love and Lavender

Think about it. There are many roles our significant others play in our lives. They’re our lovers, our confidants, our partners. Why is it that the role of best friend seems to stand out on the wedding day? Or even before. From my own experience, the thought that most often overwhelms me with watery eyes and an enlarged heart is the thought that I’m marrying my best friend. I’ve never thought of my fiance as my best friend more than I have since our engagement. And no other thought I’ve had about him, and us, makes me feel as unbelievably blessed. It’s kind of a crazy phenomenon.

Or is it?

One of the foremost marriage researchers in our country, John Gottman, makes the point that happy marriages are based on a deep friendship. It’s pretty much at the core of his theory {which is empirically supported in case you were wondering}. It’s their friendship–their high regard, mutual respect, and general like of one another–that gets them through the tough times and protects them from destructive tendencies. Although it doesn’t prevent conflict {Newsflash: Nothing does!}, a strong friendship will help a couple override negative feelings and irritations more often than not. In addition, a foundation of friendship helps to maintain and increase passion {read: romance} since it enables a couple to connect and remain close with one another {read: intimacy}.

Is it starting to make sense?

Let’s bring the point home. Oxytocin is a chemical released in the brain when bonding activities occur. What this means is that when you’re developing a deep connection with someone, your brain responds. The result? Those warm, cuddly feelings of love {hence, the nickname “the cuddle hormone”}. During engagement {as well as the wedding}, you’re experiencing bonding activity after bonding activity keeping that oxytocin flowing in your body. And if the true foundation of loving, lasting relationships is friendship, then wouldn’t you expect to feel more connected to your best friend as more of the cuddle hormone is released? Think about it.

Can you tell we’re bff? Via Meg Takes Photos

All that to say {I know, that was A LOT to say}, don’t forget about your friendship. In fact, FOCUS on it. Build up those positive thoughts and feelings you have for your partner as a kind of store-house for future conflict and disagreement. Wondering how to do that? Gottman suggests it’s done by learning all you can about one another. Love maps, he calls them. In his experience, he’s found that couples who have strong love maps for one another are better able to weather the storms of life. In knowledge, there is strength, he says. And without knowing who your partner is, how can you truly love him/her?

Fondness & admiration

Another helpful tactic for building that storehouse of positivity is simply to remind yourself of your partner’s positive qualities. Make it a practice. When he does something you like, repeat it to yourself. When she acts in a way that makes you fall in love with her all over again, make a mental note of it. Better yet, TELL EACH OTHER. Say it aloud. Not only will it help you remember but it will make your partner feel loved and appreciated. A double whammy {and no, that’s not a technical term}.

Connect, connect, connect

What do friends do? They make time for one another! They share with one another! They enjoy each other’s company! The act of turning toward your partner, connecting with him/her, can be as simple as doing the grocery shopping together. It can be as easy as listening to your sweetheart talk about her hard day. Or helping him with a project around the house. They don’t have to be grand gestures. You don’t have to go on a two-week vacation {although, hey, those are nice too}. You just have to remain present to one another.

Create shared meaning

Think of your marriage as a culture you’re creating. You’re going to fill it with rituals and traditions and come to an understanding about what it means to be in your relationship. It will be your story which will mean something altogether unique to the two of you. So, what’s your story? What are your goals, your hopes and dreams, what do you want to accomplish together? What do you believe in? What principles do you stand for? You may not agree on everything but how do you incorporate your differences? How do you create room for two stories? These questions can be answered in an open, honest, and trusting atmosphere. Talk. Dream. Create. {Doesn’t that sound like a cheesy promotional ad?}

——

What do you think, my dears? Have you experienced this best friend phenomenon for yourself? And how do you maintain your friendship with your significant other? How do you continue to learn about one another? Connect with each other? What are your shared goals and dreams? I’d love to know.

xo-Kristine

Gottman citations taken from his best-selling book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. A must read in my opinion. Check it out here.

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