New relationship may be compared with freshly sprung sprout trying to get over the soil with its weak roots. The fact that you call each other ‘friend’ is only a good pair of shoes before a long and difficult journey. Each war strategist would ensure you that first successful manoeuvre does not guarantee a victory. It is improper to compare friendship with war, as they are opposite to each other, but it is obvious that the same laws work here. When you start new relationship there is always second and more significant step – strengthening of this new connection. When there is a two couples’ relationship the situation is even more complex: despite the fact that you meet each other as couples, there are still four personalities communicating.
It is difficult to give a precise recipe, how to stop you losing friends, when you get in a relationship, but I will still try to give you five most effective ways to sustain a new friendship:
1. Devote your time. My sister has once expressed quite simple idea: friendship is like an indoor plant, you cannot forget to water it. Only now, when I gained quite a lot of experience at dealing with people, I can say for sure, that people are not cactuses, they need plenty of water and, when talking about friendship, the water is our time. It does not necessarily mean that we have to meet our friends each day, but we should not forget that time, devoted to them, makes the relationship stronger. Friendship is, however, an engagement. You cannot visit your friends only when you are passing by or only when the season of your favourite sport is over. It is quite the reverse – sometimes you have to devote your most valuable time. For instance, you have to wake up in the middle of the night, because your friend’s car has broken, or you have to go to a funeral of somebody who was dear to your friend, even though you have tickets to Tim Minchin’s show. Situations like these only strengthens your relationship.
2. Take into account the differences. Even though opposites attract each other and the relationship between different people may be successful, the differences between couples should not be ignored. Even very simple casual habits might burden the friendship. Let’s say that carnivorous couple has vegetarian friends. A couple that eat meat will probably not invite their friends to a grill party, where they will have an unique opportunity to see how a pig is slaughtered. One common mistake couples often make is underestimation of friends’ financial prospects. When spending time with your friends, keep in mind that the thickness of your wallet is not necessary the same as your friends’. If people cannot afford themselves certain payed entertainments, they will probably politely refuse to meet you and you will not even know the real reason. If the situation is not clear, you may ask your friends straight: “Are you ready to spend some 100 dollars this weekend?“. If the friendship is real, money should not be a forbidden topic in your relationship. As Gandalf says: If you are a friend, you speak the password, and the doors will open.
3. Know the limits. Sometimes we have an erroneous view that our friends are like sponges that absorb everything (our criticism, attention, requests) till infinity. But it is not like that. Friendship, just like everything else, has its limits. Some limits are felt intuitively, but some are crossed even without thinking. For example, you will rarely hear from your friend a request: “Listen, I am leaving this weekend, could you look after my wife?“. Meanwhile, asking to look after your kids for a couple of weeks, while you are on holidays abroad, sounds pretty usual and normal. Nevertheless, two weeks of babysitting might be a real challenge, especially for those who have no experience with kids. Before asking such thing you should think twice. A very good moral about ignorance of the limits is shown on Winnie-the-Pooh cartoon. There is a scene where Winnie and his friend Piglet decides to visit their friend Rabbit. Pooh and Piglet enjoys the Rabbit’s hospitality as long as they eat up all his ration and finally everything ends up with Pooh stuck in the hole of Rabbit’s House. Know the limits and no hole will be too small for your belly.
4. Give your attention to both partners. It may seem from the first sight that in two couples’ relationship there are two units in a contact. But you should not forget that in this kind of connection there are still four personalities. All different, all with their likes and dislikes. That is why it is essential to divide the attention to everyone equally. Let’s assume that three of four in your relationship adore horses and fourth person is not interested in them. In this case, there is no use in subscribing to riding classes. Imagine square-shaped platform placed on a ball. And imagine four people standing on each corner of the platform. If you want to keep the balance, everyone has to stand on their corner. If one person is missing, there is no balance. Simple as that. Friendship of two couples will also not survive, if only two people of four share the same interests. The better halves will find the meetings boring, they will not put efforts to strengthen the relationship. If this happens, it is better to abandon the idea of having such couples’ relationship, or it is wise to continue it only for those two, who share something in common, what definitely leads to leaving your partner at home with his/her old pal TV.
5. Be an altruist. The very essence of the friendship is, however, giving. Seeking only for profit will not take you far. There is an apt joke about real friendship. It says that true friendship is when you walk into a person’s house and your Wi-fi connects automatically. Sharing a password of your Wi-fi with others may seem as an insignificant trifle, but this is where the sharing starts. You have to give your friends your attention, your time, you have to confide at least some of your fears and dreams to them. Frankness leads to trust, gifts can melt the thickest ice. It is a universal law. If you have followed my idea in the third advice (“Know the limits“), you probably remember that there is no need to share your wife or your kids with others in order to prove your friendly intentions, but rational generosity is like oil for the engine of the friendship. If you oil the engine on time, you will drive smooth for a long time.
Of course, it is almost impossible to create a universal list of advices. Sometimes an advice may fit one person, but may be totally unsuitable for another. Maybe you have met people who, opposite to Winnie-the-Pooh’s friend Rabbit, have unlimited resources of food or at least extremely wide entrance to their house. In such case, I am happy for you, but, anyway, it is always wise to think about the needs of both sides and never to loose the common sense. And the most important thing here is the fact that friendship is not some self-propelled device, it is something that you have to build with your own hands.
(c) Fabula Saulė, 2016. All rights reserved. You may not use this content without author’s permission.
Photography: Frank R. Snyder