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What is friendship within romantic partnerships?

Friendships and romantic partnerships are very important types of relationships we might have. However, these relationships are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Friendships are healthiest when there is a level of intimacy within them, likewise romantic partnerships are healthiest when there is a level of friendship within them. In fact, friendship in relationships is identified as an important factor in the second level (or floor) of the Gottmans’ Sound Relationship House, which is fondness and admiration. Being friends with a romantic partner involves a number of factors, which include: respect, admiration, and play. All of these factors can have positive impacts on our relationships. 

How does friendship affect romantic partnerships? 

When romantic partnerships have a level of friendship, the relationship can experience many healthy benefits. Beyond affection and intimacy, friendship in partnerships can facilitate respect and fun, which can make your relationship feel both safe and exciting. Research also suggests that partnerships which have a level of friendship are often happier and last longer than those that do not. Further, the Gottmans have identified fondness and admiration as the antidote for contempt in relationships. This means that the deeper our friendship is in our romantic partnerships, the more we are able to avoid things like sarcasm, putdowns, and disrespect which can be extremely harmful in any kind of relationship. 

How can I increase friendship in my romantic partnership?

Many friendship experts state that the best way to strengthen friendships (which can be applied to friendship within romantic relationships) is: quality time, shared interests, and vulnerability. Think about the things that have made you and friends so close and how to apply this to your romantic partnership. Talk to your partner about your interests and theirs and try to identify things you have in common. This could also open the door for developing new interests. Spend quality time together (consistently) doing some of your shared interests (e.g., bike riding or exploring new restaurants). Lastly, allow yourself to be vulnerable with your partner. This might mean reaching out to them when you miss them, or telling them how much they mean to you (e.g., “I’m very proud of what you’ve accomplished and am happy you’re in my life). The key to all these steps is to dedicate consistent effort to develop friendship with your partner.

This page is also part of the Roamers Therapy Glossary; a collection of mental-health related definitions that are written by our therapists.

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