I finally realised that for myself friendship is so close to romantic attraction. If there is deep emotional compatibility and any physical attraction between me and a guy, then trying to build a “friendship” is almost guaranteed to result in a little romantic chaos. One event really sticks out in my mind concerning this. That time when I responded so over-enthusiastically to “a certain someone” that I had to run away afterwards. Since then I’ve been beating myself up endlessly. Just what came over me that day?! Why did I have to behave like that?! Oh man, if I had not acted that way, that day, then he and I could actually have been friends! But my recent realisation makes me to believe that that kind of explosion would ultimately have been inevitable in any effort to build friendship between him and me. If I had managed to escape that particular interaction without acting in that strange way, then perhaps one day we would have been talking, and then we would have held one another’s gaze a little too long, or a little too intently, and then I would have felt compelled to run away; or perhaps one day I might actually have sighed as he and I hugged, and then I would have felt compelled to run away (and as fast as I possibly could – oh, mortification!) Or perhaps one day after eagerly chatting away in innocent friendly conversation, I might have looked down to discover to my horror that without realising I had been holding his hand for the last half hour. And then slowly looking up into his face with that same look of horror, from his facial expression I would have instantly deduced that he had been aware of it all along, and he had allowed me to keep holding his hand for the sake of sparing my feelings. At this, I think I would not even have bothered to run away. I would just have wanted the earth to open up and swallow me right there and then! Or – this is probably way too much information but honesty compels me to admit this. That naughtiness that I have carefully cultivated since childhood but tried to keep at bay around attractive guys may have overcome me and I fear that I would have been capable of looking boldly into his face, and brazenly proceeding to very deliberately squeeze that hand. And after that I would probably never have been able to face him again – ever ever! How can someone apologise for doing something like that? How does one even attempt to convince someone that you subscribe to and pursue the highest standards of sexual purity and carefulness after behaving so provocatively? How do you attempt to rescue any semblance of friendship without embarking on a long and unspeakably embarrassing discussion that ventures into all kinds of territory such as “needs” – or the difference between “needs” and “desires”? (Now of course I can’t help dreaming about squeezing someone’s hand! All the same, I am so glad that that did not happen!)
All of these possibilities are so plausible! In fact, I actually think that any of these are much more plausible that what actually happened. I think on balance then that I should be grateful that what did happen was simply overenthusiastic and did not actually involve any gazing deep into his eyes, or inappropriate sighing, or unknowingly holding his hand! I have been so embarrassed by the way I behaved that day. However, for all I know, that inexplicable overenthusiasm might have been a gracious divine gift, to alert me to the attraction I could feel for this man, and to cause me to run away before I had done any of these worse things!
A part of me thinks that well, perhaps if these things had happened, depending on the man in question, if I had played my cards differently, instead of finding myself in an awkward situation, I might actually have found myself with a boyfriend! But that is not the way I personally want to start a relationship. Thank God for feelings and attraction and so on. But no. Just no.
At any rate, realising that this is the almost inevitable consequence of trying to build a friendship with someone I could be attracted to like this, made me ponder a few other things. It occurred to me that with a couple who share a high Huggie-Wuggie quotient in common and emotional compatibility, when pursuing a deep and authentic friendship that involves caring for one another, sincere and candid communication, possibly even honest heartfelt arguments, then expressions of romantic interest are almost inevitable and will happen almost spontaneously just because this is who they are. It is as if this is the perfect environment for these yearnings to thrive, and at the very first opportunity they will manifest themselves, without necessarily any deliberate effort on either side.
This led me on to other thoughts, namely this: So many couples talk about losing the fire or the spark of attraction between them after a few years of marriage. Could this be a solution: to work on your friendship, to help reintroduce that atmosphere that is conducive to expressing those yearnings? What I mean is working on your communication, the trust between the two of you, the intimacy…. That kind of attitude when you are first getting to know someone, and you find them so fascinating that you want to find out absolutely everything about them! As I write this it occurs to me that there are two important ingredients to that initial fire that blazes between two people as they are courting, or after they are just married: firstly that conducive environment of friendship, and secondly the emotional/sexual hunger caused by years and years of unsatisfied yearning. So you finally sit down at that table, and it is like when someone has not eaten anything for months and months. Of course you are going to be ravenous for one another! But then, as time goes on, that initial urgency subsides; you start getting used to one another, taking one another for granted. Well I am going to have to think a little further about how to remain hungry for one another. This post is about maintaining the right atmosphere for those yearnings to be expressed. One thing though that has occurred to me in the past is this: that the way to remain exciting is to remain deeply grounded in God. God is the author of creativity, inspiration, beautiful character and other amazing things like that. So if I remain deeply grounded in God, and full of His Spirit, then exciting things and ideas will keep pouring out of my life to keep dazzling my husband, hopefully helping me to remain irresistible to him! And vice versa.
The reason why it occurred to me to write this post is this: I was thinking about how people might try to revive a stale marriage by trying to allure one another, or wear attractive clothes, and it just made me wince! I guess the point comes when you both realise that the fire has well and truly gone out. Well for so many marriages that also seems to coincide with a loss of friendship, to the point where so many couples start behaving between themselves like one another’s enemy. So then the solution I am proposing is to simply try once again to build up a friendship. By this point, when you might essentially consider one another as enemies, it might be so very hard to express vulnerability towards one another. Trust may essentially have disappeared between the two of you. But all the same, I guess you have to find a way of communicating to your spouse that you sincerely want to be their friend, and you sincerely want to serve them in that friendship. I am trying to think of a way of initiating this within a marriage that has gone cold. Perhaps you could tell your spouse that you would like to work on the marriage, and then ask them for ways that you could serve them. You could also apologise for all the ways that you might personally have failed to be their friend. In terms of serving them, it might start off kinda slow, like cooking their favourite meal once a week or pulling your weight with the household chores or whatever it might be. But then as trust slowly rebuilds between the two of you, then it can build to talking about deeper things such as those things which might usually have been yelled at one another; talking about mutual hurts disappointments, frustrations; beyond that also tentatively sharing hopes and dreams with one another, until the point comes when you are eventually flowing in real, deep sincere friendship with one another. And then by God’s grace it would not take so much more effort to spontaneously fall into hugs, or to find yourselves gazing deep into one another’s eyes, or to occasionally find that you are accidentally holding one another’s hands!
As I am writing this, it occurs to me that a very one-sided interaction might arise, where you are giving your absolute all to serve your spouse in friendship, but they are not reciprocating at all. I guess that what you could be doing during this time is simply to be praying for your spouse, asking God to touch their heart, while you continue to pour out as much love and friendship as you can, trusting that God would eventually enable a truly double-sided interaction between the two of you.
Thinking now about me and my husband, I hope that he and I would never ever stop being friends. I hope that he and I would never stop laughing together, and teasing one another. I am a little notorious in my family for sharing jokes and relating “funny incidents” that no-one else ever finds funny. To make it worse, I have a habit of starting to laugh halfway through sharing the joke as I am overcome by the “humour” of what I am describing. “And it was really funny!!!”, I will try to convince everyone. And they will all just stare at me! I guess that could be the kind of cute thing that spouses could tease one another about! What I guess would also be great would be if we had specific times to work on our friendship, thinking how could we make this thing stronger? How could we improve our care for one another? How could we work on our communication? What practical steps could we take? How could I serve you more? (Yeah, I knew you were waiting for me to say that – why don’t you think of how you could serve me more, mister?! Yeah, I said it! – Tosin has already forgotten all about the prayers!) Erm, yeah! Also, what vision could we have and be working to for this marriage? I guess that doing this regularly would enable you to maintain an emotional intimacy with one another, and would also help you to make sure that the goals you are working towards are useful and empowering for both spouses.
It is not about holding out an impossible aim and constantly beating ourselves up for not attaining that level. Rather it is about having something exciting and inspiring and motivating to work towards together, and treasuring one another as partners and companions on this phenomenal journey.