Love needs Friendship if it's Going to Last!

The elegant equation that balances lust and like is worth calculating in love.

Posted Aug 14, 2015

If you are hoping for lasting romance, make sure you like each other first and maybe grab a meal together, too!

Even with the slew of self-help relationship books available at the touch of a Kindle or Nook Library button, the divorce rate continues to remain unfortunately high. And, perhaps not surprisingly, one divorce in your history is a strong predictor that a second marriage might end the same way. Thus, the hopes for a “fairy tale romance” seem to be fading and “ever after” has lost its appeal or believability for many young people as witnessed by the tendency of all of the Millennials who choose to put marriage “on hold.”

Waiting to marry might not be such a bad thing, if the results of a recent research study hold true across populations. It turns out that the happiest marriages are those in which the spouses also consider themselves best friends, as well. The stronger the friendship bond, the healthier a romantic relationship turned out to be. And friendships are seldom “love at first sight” events – they usually take some time to be established and consistent care and feeding to be maintained.

“She likes me, she likes me not”

What does this advice really mean for couples? First, it suggests that liking someone is essential to being able to get along long term. Positive regard is an important response we need to feel for the people we care about in our lives. It is surprising how many marriages turn into unions of complacency rather than unions of companionship. To keep the satisfaction level high, take an interest in your spouse as if your spouse were a friend! Don’t assume you know everything about your partner – no matter how long you’ve been married.

The Hardest Thing about Marriage is Deciding Where to Eat?

Don’t just ask your wife where she wants to go to dinner. Don’t just ask about her day, either. Care about your partner's experiences and interests. Confirming popular beliefs, it’s been found that the members of a couple do grow increasingly similar in their appearances over time. It turns out that we tend to unconsciously mimic the facial expressions of those people we are around. When you ask your partner about his day, do so with a warm smile and kind eyes – if this is what you would like in return. Showing genuine interest in your partner’s experiences will also deepen the bond between you as friends and companions and will be more likely to ensure that your frustrations about a bad day at work are met with warmth and compassion, as well.

Beyond empathy and compassion, taking turns making decisions and being willing to compromise are two additional -- and significant -- indicators of positive regard and friendship. Being willing to put aside your own aversion to some types of restaurants or cuisine choices is something you would probably do for a friend from time-to-time. Do this for your spouse, as well.

More about that Romantic Dinner…

On a related note, in a recent study about women’s responses to romantic images, it turned out that the way to a woman’s heart may be through her stomach just as it has been rumored about men. In a recent study addressing the effect of hunger versus satiation, it was revealed that women responded more positively to romantic images when their hunger had been quelled. It was hypothesized that the drive to satisfy physical hunger overshadows other forms of pleasure-seeking or appetite feeding.

Animals and humans alike incorporate food into their courtship rituals and with good reason. Until our physical hunger for nourishment is satisfied, we are not going to be moved by poetry, chivalry, or physical attraction. Meeting this basic need seems to trump the drive towards procreation. Sharing a satisfying meal with a pleasant companion is a great entrée to fulfilling a different type of appetite, however. Friendship coupled with romance can be a tasty combo, whether you choose to go vegan or opt for porterhouse steak!

Breaking bread is a communal ritual that brings us closer to those around us. Find ways to build this compassionate, invested, and rewarding connection into the time you spend with the one with whom you want to spend the rest of your life. Whether you are enjoying a romantic "loaf of bread, bottle of wine, and thee" moment in the park, a slice of pizza in front of your favorite show, or a hot dog in the stands at the staidum, relish the pleasure that arises from satisfying fuel for the body and satisfying companionship for the soul.

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