Friday, February 01, 2008

Relationship Advice

This CNN article (via parenting.com) has some pretty good advice that contradicts some standard relationship conventional wisdom. I think the points about sex and arguing in front of the kids are especially good. But there was one I just didn't get -

Myth: Spouses should be best friends as well as romantic partners

It sounds wonderful, doesn't it? After all, you and your husband know each other better than anyone else, so why wouldn't he be your best friend, too?

What we say: "Romantic relationships are different from friendships. One person can't be everything to you," says Andrea Smith, a mom of two in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania.

In other words, don't beat yourself up if it sometimes feels like you're closer to the mom next door than to your mate. "It would be great if your husband is someone you have fun with, respect, have great sex with, work well with as a parent, and is your soulmate. But almost no one gets all that in one relationship," says Wexler. And if you and your partner manage some of these things, "you've been blessed," he adds. The trick is to keep your bond going on some level. "Stay involved in your partner's life. When you separate in the morning, make sure you know at least one detail of each other's day -- and ask about it later," says Wexler.

It helps to be grateful for what you do have. "Rick and I have been together since high school -- and he's not my best friend," says Deborah Coakley, a mom of three in Ridgewood, New Jersey. "But after everything we've gone through, he's definitely my most constant friend."
I don't think there is a right way or a wrong way to create and maintain a relationship. The only hard and fast rule is that both people should be happy with whatever arrangement they have. That said, I don't really get the point here. Maybe they have a different definition of best friend than I do. This is the part that confuses me - "It would be great if your husband is someone you have fun with, respect, have great sex with, work well with as a parent, and is your soulmate. But almost no one gets all that in one relationship,". So what in this list do you not expect? How can you be married to someone you don't have fun with? Respect? Any relationship without respect is doomed. No great sex? That's fine, but only if neither partner cares. Unaddressed differences in sex drive is a killer as well. Working well together as parents? And what's the alternative? Soulmate is a bullshit romance novel idea, so I think we can ignore that.

I'm not saying that I think spouses/significant others should want to spend every minute together, or even that they agree on everything all the time. That's unrealistic. I like alone time, I like spending time with friends without Michelline, we have divergent interests and hobbies in some cases. But she is my best friend. What that means to me is that when I see something interesting or exciting, she's the first person I want to share it with. I can be completely unguarded with her without fear. She's the person I most enjoy spending time with. We've been together for 20 years and we never run out of things to talk about. Our interests overlap in most areas. The things that are most important to me are also important to her. I see us together 40 years from now and I don't feel limited or constrained by that, I feel excited about the prospect. And the sex is great ;)

I don't expect that all successful marriages will be like ours, I know that's not the case. But I don't understand a committed relationship where one partner feels emotionally closer to someone else, and that's what I get from the quote above.

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15 comments:

michelline said...

I love you. And now I'm mad at you because when I read this I started crying. Then I forgot I had makeup on and so I smeared it. I am now sitting here at work with a naked face :)

And you're my best friend too.

Chris Howard said...

Mmmm, naked ....

Mrs. Furious said...

This is interesting. Mr F and I are best friends... but we haven't been together as long as you all have and my "best friend" Alexis and I have been friends for over 26 years so there is a different closeness that comes from that and of course the femaleness... but for me that doesn't usurp my friendship with Mr F. I mean we talk to each other all day and I can't imagine not doing that. I might go a week or two without talking to my friend.
Having said all that I think it is not uncommon for women to have a very close emotional relationship with their female friends... I'm hoping some Mrs F readers come over and comment on this! Cause if you haven't noticed the majority are NOT sexually satisfied and that can kind of trickle down into the emotional relationships as well.

Mr Furious said...

Oh Mrs F, you made me smear my mascara too...

Just kidding, Mish.

From everything I've seen about the two of you (C&M) it is clear you are best friends, and if there is such a thing as a soulmate, you guys are probably it.

Mrs F and I are "best friends" in fact, at times, it has seemed like the balance has tipped that way over "spouse".

We share all of the same core beliefs and agree on the importatnt stuff. Our interests can also be divergent.

For each of us I think the kids are a unifying force and a priority in out lives for now, and when they are older we will revert more towards the way things were before they were born.

That's not to say it's "kids first, marraige second" it's more like "total family package."

Chris Howard said...

Having said all that I think it is not uncommon for women to have a very close emotional relationship with their female friends... I'm hoping some Mrs F readers come over and comment on this! Cause if you haven't noticed the majority are NOT sexually satisfied and that can kind of trickle down into the emotional relationships as well.

I think it's a fallacy that a person can only have one "best" friend. I certainly think you can have strong emotional ties to someone other than your spouse, and they may be just as strong. So I understand where you're coming from with Alexis. Michelline and I have talked about the fact that neither of us has a long-standing best friend like that. Most of our friends are friends to both of us. I have one friend I keep up with whom I've known since elementary school, but we're not close like that. In fact, he's the one that's kept it going. Michelline's oldest friend that she still sometimes keeps up with (I'm thinking Malinda here) isn't particularly close either. We may be anomalous in this regard.

As for sex, I firmly believe that sex is one of the pillars of any romantic relationship. Not that sex has to be any certain frequency or type, but that a couple has to honest and open and accepting about each other's sexual needs. Frequency has to be addressed openly or resentment will fester. So I absolutely agree that it has an effect on emotional relationships. This is really another whole post, but I think that couples are pulled in different directions by our culture. On the one hand, people hear they should have to have sex so many times per week, and feel inadequate. On the other hand, emotional issues are considered more mature than sexual issues, and partners with higher libido are often expected to just get used to it.

That's not to say it's "kids first, marriage second" it's more like "total family package."

Sure, and I can see that. It doesn't have to be a competition between the different areas of your life. I think that in many cases, couples unconsciously gravitate toward one extreme or the other - all parent or all spouse.

Mrs. Furious said...

I also wanted to make the point that you must keep in mind (from the point of view of the articles original reader in mind... and I've read this magazine and it is not exactly highbrow) that most marriages are NOT good ones. The reality is at least half will end in divorce and that doesn't mean the other 50% have good relationships it just means they aren't divorcing. I think being married to someone who does fulfill all those categories IS rare... I think making a good informed choice of partner in the first place is rare.

Chris Howard said...

most marriages are NOT good ones.

Excellent point. So Parenting may be playing to their typical reader a bit there. But I think it's a dangerous idea, because it becomes a bit self-fulfilling. You accept the idea that not having a great relationship is normal, and don't bother to work on it. I think it's also worth pointing out that you don't get to become and stay best friends if you think that some work isn't required. Work like having open discussions about what you want.

Unfortunately, I think you're right that it is rare. But I don't think we should accept that as unattainable. It's not like it's so rare that people can't find examples around them.

michelline said...

Work like having open discussions about what you want.


I think the problem with this is that most people aren't open and honest with themselves, so how can they be with someone else? So I think the first step towards having a good relationship is to KNOW YOURSELF and be honest with yourself.

Toast said...

I wanted to comment on this last week. I have a few very close friends -- Fridge and VMH being two you guys know -- that I've kept ties with for 20 years now. But Tracy is definitely my "best" friend. We rarely spend time apart outside work, and it's not a clingy/co-dependent thing, it's simply because there's no situation which would be made better by the other not being there. When Fridge and I go out to a sports bar, for example, Tracy being there is a plus, not a drag. She's just the kind of person who makes every experience better than it otherwise would be.

Chris Howard said...

I saw that you linked to this post on your sidebar shortly after I wrote it. I was wondering if you were going to comment because as I was writing it I had you and Tracy in mind as well. If you're ever inclined, I would be interested in your thoughts on what makes a good relationship. I think your perspective would be interesting, seeing that you had an earlier marriage that I gather was not a happy one before you hit the jackpot. I've only ever had the one serious relationship.

Toast said...

We can talk about it over dinner when the lady and I breeze through Jacksonville next month.

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