Relationships and Friendship

I’d been intending to participate in the Carnival of Aces for a while now, but each time I either missed the deadline or couldn’t think of anything to write about that I really wanted to say. However, this month’s topic of relationships let me write about something, and a relationship, that I’ve been tossing around in my head for a while. It’s kinda messy though. Feel free to pick it apart.

Among the asexual community, there has been a lot of discussion about the difference between a friendship and a romantic relationship and why the latter is so privileged over the former among many people. However, my question is this: how on earth can a decent romantic relationship exist without friendship?

Good friendships, the ones that endure, take a long time to develop. For them to succeed, they require the potential for and continuation of growth of camaraderie, trust, affection, and understanding. Friends are often defined as those with whom you can be yourself around and who will accept you for who you are, warts and all. In my opinion, all of these factors are essential in a romantic relationship as well. However, I also think that those with the best romantic relationships are those who have learned to be friends with their partners, who have built their relationship on a solid foundation of friendship that coexists with their romantic feelings for each other.

I have been in exactly one romantic relationship in my life with a friend of mine who I developed romantic feelings for. This person has, and continues to be, a good friend of mine. I don’t think I would have been romantically attracted to him if we hadn’t been friends already, nor would have I continued to crush on him for as long as I did if we hadn’t become close friends over that year. Even though it’s been years since we broke up and I am no longer romantically attracted to him, I would still say that I love him, and not simply “as a friend”. I am glad we are friends and I am happy to keep it that way, but from our friendship, I have grown to love him as himself, as the person that I’ve known for so long. Even when he enters a romantic relationship of his own, I will most likely continue to love him, because how can I not?

Some of the best romantic relationships I’ve seen among my friends and other people are those that arose from a pre-existing, firm friendship. What I don’t get are romantic relationships that begin just weeks or days of the people first meeting. How can those relationships last when there’s no foundation to build them on? I know some people do have happy, satisfying romantic relationships that began the way I just described, but it still boggles my mind. Attraction of any kind, be it romantic, sexual, whatever, is way too fickle to be the sole basis of any kind of relationship.

Now that I think about it, I think the boundary between friendship and a romantic relationship is a lot slimmer than it looks, to the point that I, too, am confused as to what exactly (besides increased physical contact, in many cases) is supposed to differentiate a “mere” friendship from a romantic relationship. When my friend and I started going out, I wasn’t sure how our relationship was supposed to change. This occurred before I knew I was ace, but even at the time, I wasn’t crazy about touching him the way I knew everyone else was expecting we would, i.e. sexually. Other than that, I had absolutely no clue what we were supposed to be doing differently. We had already developed a pretty good connection with each other when we were friends. Why was the fact that I was romantically attracted to him supposed to change how we interacted?

Also, I think friendship is such an essential part of a romantic relationship because it not only provides a foundation, but it also widens the boundaries of that relationship. In a friendship, each person is allowed space to exist outside of that friendship. They can see other people or do activities that don’t fit within the space of that particular relationship. In Mad Ship by Robin Hobb (one of my favorite authors), one character tells another that it is possible to love someone while remaining free, but in doing so, it is necessary for each person to recognize that they each have needs that the other can’t fulfill, which means allowing their partner to let other people into their life. And that’s how any kind of relationship works. No one but my parents will ever know me as their daughter, nor will I know them as anything but my parents. Romantic relationships, in which the expectation is that this relationship will be the sole important relationship in each person’s lives, make me feel like I can’t breathe. I have room in my life and my heart for many people, why must a romantic relationship eclipse all the others, even if that person is the one I’m “closest” to?

In the end, I continue to love my friend, and we continue to build and maintain a friendship that the both of us value. We have a lot of history between us and he means a lot to me, as a person and as a friend. However, like I said, I don’t think I could have ever grown to love him if we hadn’t developed the friendship we did. Romantic attraction and feelings come and go, but relationships, solid, meaningful relationships of any kind, are what allows love to grow between people, and friendships are prime breeding grounds for love.

Published in: on August 1, 2011 at 8:34 AM  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] Emily (from things and stuff) thinks it’s important for people in romantic relationships to be friends as well as partners. […]

  2. I agree with all what you say, and I’m glad it’s written clear and explicit.

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