Friendship, Romance, and Love: Ingredients for a Successful Marriage

A couple who has reached middle age cook together in the kitchen, smiling and enjoying themselvesWhat is it that brings two people together? Is it attraction? Chemistry? A feeling of connection? When you fall in love, are those things enough to keep you “in love”? Those three key ingredients may be a good start, but there are three others I believe are essential to the success of a long-term love relationship.

Friendship

For some of you, this may be a a “duh” moment. But some people may not actually consider their partner to be a friend, even though one of the essential elements in most successful marriages is friendship. Think about it this way: In a marriage, you spend large amounts of time together and share many activities. You should enjoy being with that person beyond feelings of sexual chemistry and attraction.

Think of your best friend.  Best friends often have similar tastes, interests, and desires, and they generally share a deep bond of trust and confidence in one another. In short, they “have each other’s backs.” Wouldn’t you want your life partner to exhibit these same qualities? Many of the couples I’ve talked with who have done well over the long term have a basis of true friendship as the foundation for their marriage. They truly enjoy being together, sharing experiences and making memories together. They have a bond of trust and the security of knowing their partner is their best friend. Many of these successes, in fact, began as friendships and developed into love relationships later on.

Relationships grow over time. While I do believe there is such a thing as love at first sight, friendship at first sight might be a better way to start. Love relationships that begin with a foundation of friendship may better weather the challenges all relationships are likely to face than relationships that are not characterized by feelings of deep friendship in addition to any romantic feelings.

Romance

Romance carries about as many different nuanced meanings as there are people romancing one another. Each partner or couple may have their own ideas about romance and what it means to them. The one constant about romance may be its goal: To care for and support the person you love. Whether you demonstrate your feelings through nights or weekends out together, time in the bedroom, relaxation, or sharing household responsibilities and working on them together, the things you do as partners in pursuit of happy and fulfilling lives may equal a great romance.

If you’ve not included romance in your “relationship recipe,” it may be the missing ingredient you need to ensure a loving, lasting long-term relationship. Remember, for a true romance you need to be vulnerable and show your partner your heart not only with words, but also with actions. Showing them they have that “something” that draws chills of passion from your very being can help rekindle feelings of romance or make room for them to grow.

People show each other they care in many ways. Romancing your partner can mean small gifts, words or other intangible tokens of love and affection, or perhaps an extravagant gesture that sweep them off their feet. Perhaps your partner knows you care simply through your constant, loving presence. You are likely to know best what makes your partner feel loved.

Love

This one might seem obvious, especially following “romance.” But love is not the same as romance, and there are different kinds, degrees, and ways to express love. Let’s break it down.

The all-consuming passionate love that makes your heart race and your stomach flutter may more accurately be termed the beginning of love. Some couples are able to maintain that level of excitement throughout their lives, but others find this ardor cools to something that feels more like safety and security. They may begin to feel comfortable with their partner and assured of their returned affection, and passionate love morphs over time into the enduring commitment many long-term couples enjoy.

Another kind of love is the deep and abiding love that leads you to feel like you’re “home” with your partner. You may feel as if they are your safe haven or your other half. They may be the most important person to you. This is why the friendship piece is such a key ingredient and essential to the feelings of safety and security.

This love is what brings you home to your partner (and family, perhaps) every night. You might have these feelings when you wake up with the baby at 3 a.m. This love may be what you ground your own feelings of faithfulness and trust on. This is the love that leads you to put your partner as a priority in everything you do and consider how your decisions affect not only you, but also your partner: You stop thinking of “you” and “me” as separate entities and begin to think of “us.”

You can have one of these without the other two and still have a fulfilled and content life with your partner. I am not suggesting everyone needs to have all three “ingredients.” But in my experience, those couples who report their relationship to be characterized by these three components do sing the praises of their particular blend of friendship, love, and romance—the ingredients that keep them coming back together each day for another taste of their own, unique recipe for long-term love.

© Copyright 2017 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Stuart Fensterheim, LCSW, therapist in Scottsdale, Arizona

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • A wife

    A wife

    November 30th, 2017 at 1:48 PM

    My husband and I have love and friendship not so much romance any more I wish we had more romance like get me flowers sometime or a special party for my birthday. I dont think he thinks that way you know like I do and its not romantic to have to ask!

  • Stuart Fensterheim, LCSW

    Stuart Fensterheim, LCSW

    December 9th, 2017 at 11:53 AM

    There’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking for what you want in a non-blaming or non-judgemental way. No that’s not particularly romantic, but your husband may not even realize that there is something missing for you. If you’re feeling like you’d like him to make more of an effort to be romantic, let him know. You both should be courting each other, no matter how long you’ve been together. You can lead by example and do a romantic gesture for him as well. Maybe he’ll get the hint!

  • Gabby

    Gabby

    December 6th, 2017 at 10:38 PM

    In couples therapy I coach clients on using “we” and “us” language to build connection and a sense of team

  • Stuart Fensterheim, LCSW

    Stuart Fensterheim, LCSW

    December 9th, 2017 at 11:54 AM

    Thanks for the comment Gabby! Yes, that we and us language does change perception from a “me and you” to an “us” way of thinking about ourselves as a couple.

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