Saturday, May 16, 2009

Making, Keeping, and Enjoying Close Friends...Life Skill No. 5

There's an old saying, "You'll know a person by the friends he or she keeps." It's probably very true that the people we're most comfortable spending our time with indicate something about us, our values, and our priorities. But there's another side to this coin, too. You're getting a message when you know a person has very few friends. Maybe it's that he or she doesn't get much satisfaction engaging the company of other people?

The emotional environment of courtship and romance does something to people. For one thing it's stimulating and motivating and fun just knowing there's a new person in your world who is going out of his or her way to spend time with just you! It's intoxicating to realize someone thinks you're special and actually demonstrates that belief by making room for you in his or her life-- and in a way that's different from the way they treat anyone else. And because courtship and romance does that, it creates something of an artificial environment--one whose dynamics will not always be and feel exactly the way they do during the courtship process. That can be curiously tricky.

The emotional environment of dating and courtship is comparatively short lived. Those highly stimulating dynamics prompted by interpersonal mystery and intrigue and punctuated by a precious sexual tension don't stay "that way" and with "that kind" of intensity forever. The motivators prompting partners to do things for each other, to be there for each other, and to sacrifice for each other or for the relationship's well-being, can gradually decrease; but certainly not because they don't care for each other anymore. It's just that the novelty begins to wear off. Thankfully for us all it's not really "gone." It's just not the main focus anymore and it takes a little more effort to "spark" it and then some valuable dedication to "fan it into those hot flames."

So, what does this have to do with the person I mentioned above who has few friends? Exactly this: the dynamics of courtship and romance prompt partners to take emotional and inter-personal risks that they wouldn't otherwise take. They'll go places they normally wouldn't feel at all comfortable going and they'll do things they otherwise wouldn't feel comfortable doing. They'll sell each other on the idea that they're far more comfortable with people and making friends than they really are in fact. Is this a malicious act on their part? Certainly not--it's just the way everybody's wired to respond internally to the special dynamics of courtship and romance.

So, how does one really discover, for sure, the kind of comfort a courtship partner has for making, keeping, and enjoying close friends? Start with the two points I offered at the end of the last blog entry and add the following helpful suggestions:
  • Spend time together in the company of each others friends. Choose settings that provide opportunity to get well acquainted and on a first name basis with each other.
  • What do you know about your partner's "old" friends? For example, friends from junior high, high school, or college? Is there any contact or communication with them now and how frequently?
  • How often does your partner talk about his or her friends? What is the character of those comments? For example, is it friendly, unfriendly, positive, negative, etc?
  • What have you observed about how easily your partner makes friends? Does he or she follow-up those friend-making experiences by spending any planned time with them?
  • How easy of difficult is it for the two or you to plan and then spend time with each others friends? For example, after you've developed a clear dating or courting commitment to each other--one your friends all recognize--do you feel there's a difference now in your inclination to spend time alone together vs. with friends and family members?
  • Do you feel, or does your partner feel, a very strong preference to spend your together time away from the "interruptions" from friends? If so, how does that preference feel to you both right now? Have you discussed that question to your mutual satisfaction keeping in mind that you'll have lots of time to be all alone together if or when you decide to make your relationship permanent, i.e., marriage? What might this preference to be alone begin to look and feel like if you two were married? Is that OK with you?
Be yourself. Have fun. More next time

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