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Section 11
Friendship in Intimacy

Question 11 | Test | Table of Contents | Couples
Social Worker CEU, Psychologist CE, Counselor CEU, MFT CEU

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In the last section, we discussed using intimacy to foster intimacy.  After initializing the Overcoming Limitations on Intimacy as in the last section, the next three steps are to identify a chronic complaint, isolated the desire, and compose a list of target activities on which to request action. 

In this section, we will discuss preserving and protecting friendship within the intimate relationship.  We will specifically discuss five roadblocks to friendship in the intimate relationship.  These five roadblocks are, there’s no time, "we’re not friends, we’re a couple," "we don’t talk like friends anymore," the ravages of conflict, and reckless words.  I find that once couples understand these roadblocks to friendship, they are better able to implement communication strategies that may help preserve friendship, ultimately resulting in a productively intimate relationship.

Charlene and David had been married for eleven years.  They began therapy after Charlene realized she had been contemplating divorce due to feelings of loneliness.  Charlene stated, "I just feel so isolated and disconnected in our marriage.  I need a friend!  I feel like I just can’t take the loneliness anymore!"  With Charlene and David, failure to nurture their friendship had virtually eliminated intimacy.  

5 Roakblocks to Friendship

♦ # 1 - Lack of Time
I explained to Charlene and David that married couples often find several roadblocks to maintaining a friendship, and that the first of these roadblocks is the lack of time.  Charlene stated, "You know, you’re right.  When David and I first were married, we’d talk for hours about politics and religion.  But after we had our son Tim, we ran so short on time!  I mean, when he got to school we were both working, and there’d be soccer practice and PTA meetings and work… when we got home David and I would just collapse in front of the TV!"

♦ # 2 - "We’re Not Friends, We’re a Couple."
I explained to Charlene and David that the second reason couples may fail to preserve friendship is the idea that "we’re not friends, we’re a couple."  My colleagues frequently report that they see married couples who state, "of course I was friends with my spouse when we met.  But now we’re just married."  As I explained to Charlene and David, this point of view can undermine a couple’s attempts to nurture their friendship.

♦ # 3 - "We Don’t Talk like Friends Anymore."
In addition to the lack of time and the idea that "we’re not friends, we’re a couple," a third reason couples may fail to preserve their friendship is not talking like friends anymore.  Charlene stated, "with my friends, I talk about things that interest me, and we never argue.  But at home, David and I always have to talk about Tim’s college expenses, how we’re going to afford to fix the roof, whose turn it is to cook. And then, of course, we end up fighting.  It sucks!  I don’t remember the last time we talked about anything just for fun."

♦ # 4 - Ravages of Conflict
A fourth roadblock to preserving friendship in relationships can be the ravages of conflict.  Charlene stated, "We went out for a change last week, to an art show.  I’ve always loved ceramics, so we were looking at the pottery.  We started chatting about the exhibits, and all of a sudden we were having a huge fight about money, just because I mentioned that I’d love to have my own potter’s wheel!"  As you can see, Charlene and David’s casual conversation hit one of their triggers which was money issues.  Are you treating a client like David, who causes conflict so often during casual conversations, that they avoid talking as much as possible?

♦ # 5 - Reckless Words
In addition to lack of time, the opinion that "we’re not friends, we’re a couple", not talking like friends any more, and the ravages of conflict, a fifth roadblock to preserving friendship in marriage is reckless words. Charlene stated, "When we were arguing about the pottery, and how much money it would cost, David said flat out ‘if you wouldn’t waste so much damn money on your bad tan, we might be able to afford a hobby like pottery.’  I was so hurt!  I felt cheap!  How am I supposed to talk to David about anything if he’s just going to be nasty when he gets upset?!"  

Clearly, when couples are upset, they may lash out at each other, which undermines their friendship.  Would you agree that this leads to partners feeling that it is unsafe to share deep feelings, if these feelings are going to be used against them later in a fight?

♦ 3-Step "Friendship Talks" Technique
I invited Charlene and David to try the Friendship Talks technique. I stated,
Step # 1: "First, you should plan a time when you can talk interruptedly.  
Step # 2: You may want to verbally agree beforehand that you will ban conflict issues and problem solving from your talk.  
Step # 3: Take turns picking out topics that interest each of you. Some topics you could try are current events in sports, a movie you’ve recently seen, or something in your family’s history you’ve been thinking about."  

Charlene stated, "You know, that’s something that would really interest me. David said once he had a relative who fought in the Civil War.  I’d love to hear more about him."  

♦ The Interview Technique
I also suggested the Interview technique to David and Charlene. In this technique, couples take turns pretending to be their favorite television interviewer, interviewing their partner about his or her life story.  I stated, "This can be really fun!  The best interviewers are great at listening, and drawing people out of themselves.  This can be a good way to practice listening and sharing as friends, and you can learn something new about each other, too."

Are you treating a couple for issues related to a lack of intimacy who might benefit from these techniques?

In this section, we have discussed preserving and protecting friendship within marriage. We also discussed five roadblocks to friendship in marriage. These five roadblocks are, there’s no time, "we’re not friends, we’re married", "we don’t talk like friends anymore", the ravages of conflict, and reckless words.

In the next section, we will discuss techniques of intimacy discipline.  There are 2 diverse techniques of intimacy discipline that I have found highly effective in creating the kind of healthy climate in which broken relationships can heal and sound relationships can grow and flourish.  In the next section, we will discuss how discipline is control and describe the first of the 2 techniques of intimacy discipline.  The technique described in this section is a technique for reserving the sanctity of the marriage bed. 

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Mackinnon, S. P., Sherry, S. B., Pratt, M. W., & Smith, M. M. (2014). Perfectionism, friendship intimacy, and depressive affect in transitioning university students: A longitudinal study using mixed methods. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science / Revue canadienne des sciences du comportement, 46(1), 49–59.

Olsen, M. R., Schredl, M., & Carlsson, I. (2013). Sharing dreams: Frequency, motivations, and relationship intimacy. Dreaming, 23(4), 245–255. 

Quinn-Nilas, C., Goncalves, M. K., Kennett, D. J., & Grant, A. (2018). A thematic analysis of men’s sexual compliance with unwanted, non-coercive sex. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 19(2), 203–211.

Richter, M., & Schoebi, D. (2021). Rejection sensitivity in intimate relationships: Implications for perceived partner responsiveness. Zeitschrift für Psychologie, 229(3), 165–170.

Trinh, S. L., & Choukas-Bradley, S. (2018). “No messages needed—Just pats on the back”: Exploring young men’s reports of male and female friends’ sexual communications. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 19(3), 430–438. 

Wadlington, W. (2017). Review of Pragmatic existential counseling and psychotherapy: Intimacy, intuition, and the search for meaning [Review of the book Pragmatic existential counseling and psychotherapy: Intimacy, intuition, and the search for meaning, by J. L. Shapiro]. The Humanistic Psychologist, 45(2), 183–185.

What are five roadblocks to friendship in the intimate relationship? To select and enter your answer go to Test.
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