When arguably the most beloved television couple, Chip and Joanna Gaines, were asked “what makes your marriage last?” Chip simply responded, “Well, we like each other.”
This reminded me of another glorious, though fictional couple:
And quotation by Friedrich Nietzsche:
“It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.”
Liking the person you love is essential, but hating the person you love is a story we hear much more often.
So many people are chasing an artificial idea about what romantic love should be. I am so completely frustrated by the love story that’s told over and over again—one that begins with an instant attraction and culminates in a sweeping, passionate romance that is completely unrealistic for two complex humans to maintain consistently forever. While many relationships start out this way, that initial flame eventually starts to wane, and we are left feeling like it’s time to move on—after all, what’s left? In the highs and lows of a relationship, what’s consistently left is friendship—it is deeply liking the person. It is the essential foundation for building a life with someone, yet it is left out of so many stories to the point where people forget how necessary it really is, and they don’t know to look for it.
While I don’t have a vast array of anecdotes to choose from, I have experienced the feeling of being attracted to someone whose every quality I did not like. I don’t know what it is—our brains self sabotaging maybe? God’s way of amusing himself? Regardless, it’s a real, chemical phenomenon that seems to be a rite of passage for all. Such a real phenomenon, that those emotions can easily be mistaken for love.
A literal thought I had once was- “I hate how he interacts with my friends, and how he talks to people in general, but he is SO. HOT. so maybe it could turn into something really great.” I saw nothing wrong with that logic. And who can blame anyone for using that line of thinking? Our society glorifies loving someone in spite of things. Exhibit A:
I’m all about a good challenge and disagreement every now and again, but what happens when Noah and Allie pictured above stop looking like a gorgeous, young Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling? The Notebook would have you believe you get a person to die with whilst holding hands, but if you rarely agree on anything, you’re probably just going to get a messy breakup once you finally take a two minute breather from making out. Once that breakup happens, you might think to yourself, “I don’t know how to make a relationship work,” but there is a good chance that you were just looking in the wrong place. You weren’t starting by looking for a friend.
Now I want to be clear—I don’t think there is a right or a wrong way to meet someone. I don’t think you have to be “just friends” first. I do believe that the friendship that is built within your relationship is its most important component, because it will always be there no matter what life throws at you.
If you like the person you’re with on the same level as a good friend, it makes everything easier. You don’t have to be stressed out at parties if you like the things your partner says and how they treat people. You don’t have to worry about becoming bored with one another if you like what your partner cares about and find their perspective interesting. If you like who your partner is and how they carry themselves, you’ll start building small moments of realizing how much affection you have for them, and those moments are the threads that keep the fabric of any relationship together. It is why Jane Bennet in Pride and Prejudice urges Elizabeth, “…Do anything rather than marry without affection,” because she recognizes that if the liking is not there, it doesn’t matter how rich (or how hot) Mr. Darcy is.
Romance and passion are the easiest parts of a relationship to maintain when you create a depth of friendship underneath it. I wish there were more stories out there that chronicled the growth of a partnership so people would stop feeling stressed comparing their relationship to a superficial ideal. For now, I will just continue to sing the praises of passionate agreement, fireworks of genuine affection, and the sexiness of knowing that your partner is also, in the truest sense, your friend.