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by Donna Loza, LCPC, CADC, CODP I

A foundation of friendship can build healthy marriages or relationships.   Maya Angelou, said, “We are more alike, my friends, than we are different.”   What binds people together, what tears them apart?  When couples come and ask me to help them communicate better, I always start with, “what brought you two together?” Or “how are the two of you more alike than different?”   I tend to have folks write down, who they are as a person.    I encourage them to take out that sheet of paper and write down, what makes them, unique?   Then I have them compare the notes with the other?   I encourage them to circle similarities and reflect on, are those still the same things that are holding you together? 

We are all too familiar with dating or getting to know another, putting one’s best behavior forward.  This idea of dating, taking each other out, spending quality time together, doing nice things for one another; initially, showing the other person, what it would be like if they chose us.  

Just as in using a dating app, we create a profile, an image of what we are about and why another should pick us.  We swipe, we look, we connect with a profile of something that could be a potential friendship.  When we finally get a chance to text, write, talk on the phone, or enjoy a face-to-face interaction, we get a chance to feel or experience what that person is like in the present moment.  

As in dating, we experience what it is like to be with that person, giving us a glimpse what life, in the present or in the future might be like.   As time goes on, we get a chance to uncover how much this person whom we are getting to know, is similar or not similar to what was shown to us in the beginning.  There then, becomes the dilemma.  So often, I have folks in my office, saying, “When we dated, they were nice, they made me laugh, they opened the door for me; then we moved in together or got married, and all those nice things that made me feel special went out the window.”  What happened?

An observation is that when folks stop dating each other, they stop experiencing together.  Let me say that again, when folks stop dating each other, they stop experiencing together.  When folks stop doing for the other, caring, listening, tending, there is this breakdown that occurs.  They get hurt, they begin to fight, “Why are you like this, when I met you, you were not like this!”  The concern is that some folks, not everyone, have this notion that once they are married or in a relationship, they don’t have to work on their relationship anymore.  On the contrary, the relationship, has just begun.  When two people are married or sharing life together, they make a commitment to one another.  The relationship is just beginning, and it is about the two people that were brought together based on similar interests, goals, likes, morals, values, while dating.  Here is a great question, “How are the two of you, then, nurturing, those similarities together?

Now, when finding relationships that work, it is best, to be up front with who you are.  It is far easier to be someone that you are, than someone that you are not.  Some additional questions to ask when trying to find new relationships:  What are some things that we have in common?  Are we both interested in being social and enjoying being out of the home or are we both introverted and enjoy spending quiet time together?  Do we share a similar interest in sports or being active or do we both prefer being home and watching a movie?   Do we share similar family styles are do we come from completely different backgrounds?  

Here are some healthy ways to date or cultivate connection: 

1: Prepare meals together. 

2: Take walks or exercise together.   

3: Get outdoors and be in nature.  

4: Leave notes or sweet texts messages about what you love about the other or how you are looking forward to seeing them later. 

5: Sit down and eat meals together.  Create a routine. 

6: Be fully present, leave electronics in another room. 

7: Music, listen together, sing out loud or dance together.

8: Touch, hold hands in public or private.  

9: Laughter, share jokes, smile at one another. 

10: Remember things that are important to the other, and ask about those things. 

In cultivating connection and nurturing those relationships, we learn to ask each for what we need.   We learn to share with others who we are which in the end, fosters friendships based off mutual interests, hobbies, and goals.   The biggest take away, is to never stop dating each other, and in doing so, we move towards one another rather than apart. 

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