Importance of Friendship in a Relationship
At GroundWork Counseling in Orlando, our couples therapist provides individual couples therapy with couples who are struggling, or those who wish to improve their relationship. Our Orlando couples therapist utilizes the Gottman Method of therapy, which research has shown to be one of the most effective forms of couples therapy.
When we think of important factors in a lasting romantic relationship, we typically think of communication, intimacy, and sex. Recent research by Dr. Gottman, a renowned couples researcher, suggests that friendship is the most important aspect of a healthy relationship. While other factors – like communication, intimacy and sex – may be important, Gottman has found that a foundation of friendship has the best and longest lasting effects on a romantic relationship.
If partners can work toward maintaining a foundation of friendship in their relationship, they can have:
- A more committed relationship
- A more loving relationship
- A more sexually satisfying relationship
- A longer lasting relationship
- A healthier relationship
In a modern relationship the individuals are partners in the relationship. When we look at a friendship, we see two people who work together to maintain a relationship as well as two people who work with each other to solve challenges that arise during their friendship. In a romantic relationship, the same concept applies. The two partners (friends/significant others) work together to maintain their relationship and work together to solve problems.
Having a friendship foundation in a romantic relationship allows the partners to be more efficient in solving their problems because of their equality. Each partner’s thoughts and feelings are validated and considered just like in a friendship.
When we begin a new relationship, we often hold back thoughts and feelings that may cause problems in the relationship. For example, if one partner is trying to figure out what to wear to a party and they put on something you believe looks terrible, you may hold back your thought so you do not upset your partner. If we look at a friendship, this kind of thought would be expressed. Fear of hurting someone’s feelings about something as trivial as an outfit does not weigh as heavily on a friendship because honesty is an extremely important quality of friendship – not to mention how appreciative one would be that they didn’t go to a party looking below par.
Friendship in a relationship works the same way. Both partners should feel free to express him/herself, whether it’s about an outfit, or even the way one partner treats the other. For instance, if one partner wishes the other partner would show more physical affection, such as holding hands and kissing, he/she should feel comfortable expressing his/her feelings with their partner. The foundation of friendship makes expressing oneself more comfortable.
Have you ever noticed that you criticize your romantic partner much more than you criticize your friends? Why is that? In reality, we rarely criticize our friends because we try to accept them the way they are. Why don’t we do that with our significant other?
When a romantic relationship has a strong friendship foundation, partners are less likely to criticize each other because their mindset is more accepting (the way it is toward a friend) and less critical. If both partners can give the same time and energy to accept each other that they give a friend, the relationship can be improved. Maintaining a relationship is the exact same as maintaining a friendship. One has to make an effort to see their partner, listen to their partner, be playful with their partner, and love just like they do with their friends.
Studies have shown that focusing on friendship in a romantic relationship aids lasting relationships. One particular study had participants fill out questionnaires to assess the amount of investment they generally put into their relationship. Results suggested that those who scored highly for investing in the friendship aspect of the relationship were more likely to score higher on romantic commitment, love and sexual satisfaction.
Just like the criticize section stated: partners must be willing to put in the same effort toward a romantic relationship as they do in friendships. By doing this, their relationship will grow in strength and closeness.
At GroundWork Counseling in Orlando, our couple’s therapist has received specialized training in order to provide evidence-based couples counseling to most effectively help couples, utilizing The Gottman Method of couples therapy.