I love love. Who doesn’t?
Above all else, I’m drawn to men and women with whom values, character, and humor sync up. If we’re talking about romance (and more), then libido must be compatible as well, when it comes to the man I love.
More than likely, any pairing with all of these qualities – admittedly, not so easy to find – will outlast the whirlwind courtship or the hasty remarriage. There will be common interests (at least a few), and plenty of differences (or things would be dreadfully dull).
I’d say it’s a case for friendship. Or friendship plus.
I read two articles today which are not explicitly related, but seemed to “hook up” nicely in my Monday Morning musings and, to my mind, make the case for friendship.
The first was on Huffington Post, as a divorced mother involved in a long-term committed relationship explains her reasoning behind saying she will not remarry. Currently, she and her boyfriend see each other roughly twice a week, which is what they can manage around jobs, exes, and children.
… twice a week we get together and enjoy the best parts of a relationship without ever having to confront the problems that inevitably arise when a couple shares a home, a bank account and children…
Yes, there are moments of loneliness, reminders of all that I don’t have. But there are many more moments of profound contentment and joy, and the feeling that I might have hit on a formula that is — if not perfect — pretty great.
Pretty great sounds, well… pretty great!
Health Effects of Loneliness
On the loneliness note, the second article of interest appears on Yahoo News, with the latest in medical research explaining why loneliness endangers health. One could assume that the inherent stress of facing the world alone is part of the picture – and it is – but increasingly we’re learning the ways in which our immune systems are impaired.
We’re beginning to own up to the individual and collective costs of cultural isolation which is exacerbated by divorce, by an economy that leaves us despondent or constantly under stress, by loss of communities due to uprooting for work, and the growing alienation that many feel from others in their lives.
So how do these two articles come together – at least, for me?
Friendship, Community, Connections
As I ponder Ms. Shapiro’s relationship as she recounts its advantages (despite societal pressure to remarry), what I observe is this. She and her loved one have achieved a workable arrangement which suggests they share values including responsibility to their children, recognition of how much they’re juggling, and appreciation of how fragile a marital bond may become.
Lonely moments? Ms. Shapiro admits to them. Then again, how many of us have lived lonely years inside our marriages, and just as many in search of a partner – especially when our culture insists on as much?
One might assume that to manage, both Ms. Shapiro and her boyfriend, as single parents, rely on a supportive network – friends, community – concepts we used to take for granted.
Single Life, Post-Marital Life
In hindsight, perhaps the machinery of friendship – common values, like character, shared activities, etc. – is a significant part of what was missing in my marriage. Something I’ve learned, as I’ve done my laps in post-marital dating waters.
In my single days, friendships filled my heart and served as my fortress. The women in my life sustained me, as did friends even during my marriage. But friendship after divorce can be problematic.
Think about it. Even if you’re wildly in love with your significant other or spouse, don’t friendships offer a different sort of refuge? Don’t they nurture and encourage us, beat back the blues, and help us stand up to those periods of loneliness?
As for quality relationships on our terms, that work for both adults involved – I believe they bring out our better selves, and for some of us, promote connections to more people rather than fewer.
Friendships Change; The Need Does Not
True friendship exemplifies caring for others, laughter as good medicine, honoring commitments as basic to trust, managing conflicts when they arise, and affection as essential glue in human interaction.
We live out loyalties, acknowledge the gifts and challenges of personal history, and accept our differences, imperfectly, as well as our commonalities.
I’d like to make the case for friendship learned when we’re young, nurtured throughout our inevitable trials, offered without strings and yes, occasionally we misjudge and we’re hurt or exploited.
I’d like to make the case for friendship as we grow older, our ability to reconfigure communities as we need them, our freedom to choose relationships that are realistic and loving given our individual familial, financial, medical, marital, and professional circumstances.
Virtual Communities, Real Relationships
I’d like to express my own wonderment – still – at the overwhelming power of real community in a virtual world. We reconnect with long lost friends. We invariably create new connections. We move beyond the screen to the telephone, to meeting face to face, to taking the proper time to truly cement lasting friendships.
Here’s to the men and women who are brave enough to stare down loneliness and say yes, I see you, but I’m going to find a better way. Here’s to the men and women who recognize loneliness in an acquaintance or a stranger, and reach out to ease their pain.
Here’s to adults who are willing to try respect, love, and admiration for one another without sacrificing others on the Happiness Altar, nonetheless arriving at relationships that work. And my guess is, friendship forms the foundational structure.
© D. A. Wolf