I can't even begin to tell how important friendship is to me.
Fortunately, Stephanie Coontz can.
In a NY Times editorial earlier this week (Too Close For Comfort) she wrotes about the risks of modern marriage.
Coontz pointed out,
"St. Paul complained that married men were more concerned with pleasing their wives than pleasing God. In John Adams’s view, a “passion for the public good” was “superior to all private passions.” In both England and America, moralists bewailed “excessive” married love, which encouraged “men and women to be always taken up with each other.”
From medieval days until the early 19th century, diaries and letters more often used the word love to refer to neighbors, cousins and fellow church members than to spouses. When honeymoons first gained favor in the 19th century, couples often took along relatives or friends for company. Victorian novels and diaries were as passionate about brother-sister relationships and same-sex friendships as about marital ties.
The Victorian refusal to acknowledge strong sexual desires among respectable men and women gave people a wider outlet for intense emotions, including physical touch, than we see today. Men wrote matter-of-factly about retiring to bed with a male roommate, “and in each other’s arms did friendship sink peacefully to sleep.” Upright Victorian matrons thought nothing of kicking their husbands out of bed when a female friend came to visit. They spent the night kissing, hugging and pouring out their innermost thoughts."
"The insistence that marriage and parenthood could satisfy all an individual’s needs reached a peak in the cult of “togetherness” among middle-class suburban Americans in the 1950s. Women were told that marriage and motherhood offered them complete fulfillment. Men were encouraged to let their wives take care of their social lives."
"Instead, we should raise our expectations for, and commitment to, other relationships, especially since so many people now live so much of their lives outside marriage. Paradoxically, we can strengthen our marriages the most by not expecting them to be our sole refuge from the pressures of the modern work force. Instead we need to restructure both work and social life so we can reach out and build ties with others, including people who are single or divorced. That indeed would be a return to marital tradition — not the 1950s model, but the pre-20th-century model that has a much more enduring pedi- gree."
Does my agreement with these statements point to the fact that I am a bad wife, and a dismissive mother. Hardly. I can barely let my husband go out to a movie at night because the entire time I am curled in a ball praying for his safe return. I do know that putting all one's eggs in one basket works for some. Not for me. I was once in a relationship were I was so taken by the person that I lessened or severed other relationships. Untimately, it was bad for me and bad for the relationship. I'm just glad those same friends were there when I came out of my stupor - perhaps they shouldn't have been.
This same boyfriend also told me that a good relationship is not two people looking at each other, but out into the world. Well, that wasn't exactly right either. Lovers have to look at each other SOMETIMES. I would agree that spouses and children come first, but friends should be a very close second.
P.S. I got flowers today from one such friend. He sent them all the way from Africa.