After an uproariously good time with friends at my place for dinner last night (it wasn’t entirely the margaritas), I’ve been thinking about the value of friends in a single person’s life. Yes, they are important for the married folks as well, but there is something vital about learning how to be a good friend before you marry one.
For example, none of my friends are perfect, I am not perfect, and yet we all chose to make time in our busy schedules to be available to each other out of appreciation, concern and love for one another. No sense of obligation could tie a group of busy, determined and social people together like love does. My most happily married friends assure me that its not obligation that holds them together. They spend time with each other because they not only decide to but because they want to.
These people, who know my past, present and hopes for the future, are my lifeline to connection in a world that feels increasingly isolating. They are also the ones who can help me see destructive patterns or positive attributes… who can “tie me to a tree” or encourage me to take a chance… who take the time to laugh with me or cry with me (or offer to kick his ass for me.) I trust them more because they KNOW me and love me and have seen the real me — scars and all.
I’m incredibly careful about who I let into that “circle of trust” because they influence my heart and life. For me, learning how to be careful about who influences me, has made some of my dating decisions much easier. After all, if I wouldn’t want him as a friend, why would I want to date him?
I think we all hope that when we get married, we will marry our best friend with which to share life’s trails and joys. I’ve really started to understand that learning how to be a good friend to someone else, teaches me how to be a good friend to my eventual spouse. Friends teach us to fight fair, to apologize with sincerity… the importance of flexibility, forgiveness and accepting someone as they are and not for who you want them to be. Friends also help us understand what makes us tick, why laughter is so important to some and serious contemplation to others. Good friends will help us grow into stronger and more self-aware people. Marriage only continues the trend, but I’ve always been really glad I learned the importance of things like forgiveness, faithfulness and telling the truth even when it hurts BEFORE I got married.
I’m also glad that life has taught me that one person can not meet every need. I have friends who do movies with me, friends who teach me how to cook, friends who pray with me, friends who meet up to exercise with me, friends who hold my hand when I am feeling blue. Some of my friends are the kind that I could call in the middle of the night to help me out or hold me accountable to my goals and others are the ones who always volunteer to do airport runs or help me move. A very few of my friends can keep me on the phone for hours or make me laugh with nary a word spoken.
The most stark lesson I’ve seen played out over years of interviewing singles: the people who rely on one person to be their all in all, can wind up to be the loneliest and most bitterly disappointed people in the world.
So here’s to my friends and your friends and being a friend! When we are rich in friendship, we are rich indeed.