My Best Friend!
This morning I’m thinking about my partner as my best friend. What are best friends and can we cultivate this experience with our partner?
As an example, On Mother’s day, I knew Stephen wanted to paint all day because he was preparing for a Classic Car Show with his car portraits which happened last Sunday. He introduced a new element to his style of painting and was enthusiastic to get the public’s response. But, because it was “my day” he willingly put aside his needs in order to spend the day with me as I wanted it to unfold. He made a sacrifice. Ultimately, he was ready with his new painting and enjoyed showing the body of work he’d created over the last year. Here’s a short excerpt from his day at the Classic Car Show.
Sacrifice is the first word that comes to mind, surprisingly, as I reflect on partners as best friends. As a feminist, some part of me decided long ago that sacrificing for my mate was a throwback to another time and was a word I should throw out of my psyche. It was clear in the feminist culture of the 60’s and 70’s when my adult thought processes were being formed, that sacrifice was not the action of a feminist.
But, as time has moved on, I’ve had a sea change. Stephens statement to me in our marriage vows was “pleasing you pleases me.” I thought this very romantic and all well and good for him but I didn’t truly understand how that could be. My statement to Stephen during our vows was “I see you.” I wanted our committed relationship to be a journey where both he and I would reveal ourselves as we traveled through life together.
Now I get it. I understand what he was saying in his vows. The very word sacrifice has morphed for me into a noble virtue I value. I get it that giving of myself freely delivers so many rewards in our relationship that I’m moving towards this way of being more and more – and it’s happening effortlessly. No one is more surprised by this turn of events than me!
Definition of sacrifice – to willingly give up something precious in order to gain or maintain something. Willingly is the operative word here. Among the benefits of choosing sacrifice are the automatic sensations of empathy and compassion. I get to experience what it’s like inside another human being’s head and, most importantly, his heart!
Best friends treat each other with care. They hold each other’s welfare gently and speak softly (most of the time!). Disagreements will still happen, however. You will want different things. You will fight and lose each other for awhile. You will fight to find each again.
What prevents us from being best friends with our spouse? Here are just 3 examples of ways of being that might get in the way.
Fear of being vulnerable. Vulnerability feels like you might die. What if you’re not understood? What if you’re rejected? These are real possibilities and yet the other side of the coin is a real possibility as well. Revealing yourself to another person can lead to true intimacy. Isn’t it worth the risk?
Selfishness. Our brains must remain flexible and open in order to receive another’s point of view. It really isn’t natural to our species. It’s a lifelong journey of learning how to be and, if we were very lucky, we got some early training that was directed towards the positive aspects of selflessness. Probably for most of us though, it was demanded that we “share”. As adults, we can choose to explore the virtues of having a giving nature.
Lack of commitment. This is a sticky one. Are we ready to run if things aren’t going our way? Oddly, I return to the idea of selfishness here and the positive side of being selfish. I’m actually thinking of myself and how I have grown to understand the intricacies of intimacy by keeping my feet in the room. Me and Stephen, every day, reaching out to each other in intentional ways – working on finding each other over and over again.