I've realized that common beliefs aren't enough for a friendship to thrive. In fact, they aren't necessary for a regular friendship. What's important for a friendship is common interests. If you and your friend have no common interests, or very few, you will eventually grow apart. But if you have common interests, those will keep you close. Common beliefs are only necessary in a romantic relationship.
The question that really plagues our friendships is not whether they work. It's what we choose to do if we discover that we have no common interests with a friend. The logical thing to do is to let the friendship dwindle and die, or if that is unacceptable, to cultivate some new interests. The problem, though, is that many people take one of two fatal courses of action. Either they do nothing about the problem, hoping that their friendship will last just on its merit, or they take the cultivation to an extreme by taking part in activities they hate.
If your friend likes monster truck rallies, and if you can't stand them, you don't go to them every week and hope the togetherness will keep you close to your friend. It's more likely to bring tension and resentment into your friendship.
If, however, you list your friend's interests, especially his or her passionate interests, and you see some you think you might enjoy, those ones you might enjoy are the ones to cultivate.
Just as a farmer who tries to cultivate apples in southern Florida or oranges in Wisconsin isn't likely to have success, in friendships we must also choose carefully those interests which are similar to our interests. The farmer must cultivate crops which grow in environments similar to the one in which he wishes to grow things.
But the problem is larger than just friendships. People make the same mistakes in selecting a spouse. Instead of rejecting someone as a potential mate upon learning he or she has a serious flaw which will cause problems, people tend to try to ignore or subvert the inevitable by trying to change their mates or themselves in unreasonable ways. You have to be whom you are or whom you truly want to become. You can't be what someone else wants you to be.
-=- On Singleness -=-
I was a looking single for more than fifteen years, and during that time, I came to some realizations. One was that feelings can be extremely deceptive. Another, which was articulated by someone else, was that if a man and woman have as the most important thing in their respective lives the same thing, they have a much better than average chance of remaining strongly bound together, and that otherwise, they are more likely than average to end up separated. A third realization was that when a couple wants to end up together, they are likely to perceive most events as confirmation of their relationship.
My latest realization, however, has been the most interesting one. It was articulated by a speaker at a recent conference I attended. What makes the realization interesting is that it indicates a need on my part to change the criteria by which I should choose a mate.
This will seem irrelevant to anyone who wishes to disregard the concept that the Bible is true and worthy of study and application to life, but for the rest, read on:
The Bible states that God made for Adam a suitable helper for him. God made the woman such that she complimented Adam and was able to help him with his life purpose.
In the same way, men and women today should seek suitable companions for marriage. I should seek a mate who fits my life purpose, my job or ministry. If I do not, I am likely to find myself alienated from her because she may not understand my work.
Some people say, "When you stop looking, the right one will show up."
I do not agree with that. That idea makes God sound as though He just makes us wait for the sake of waiting, and it makes looking sound foolish. Looking too hard is not healthy, but some people are not looking too hard. Some people are just looking. Looking with a great ache, but looking critically. Not looking for someone to fill an empty slot, the way an extra fills an empty space on the stage, but rather looking for a lead character. Not just anyone will do. Perhaps a hundred or thousand could fill the role, but it must be someone who fits very certain, very firm standards. These people are not wrong for looking, and the reason they have to wait is not because they need to stop looking. They may stop looking right before their mate is ready, but for these people, the mate did not arrive because they stopped looking.
Also, if you stop looking, you may never see someone who could fit you very well.
Common interests (discussed in my thoughts on friendship) are just as important as common beliefs in a marriage. For example, for a woman to develop a strong relationship with a man like me, a man who loves to write, she needs to be highly interested in reading and/or writing, herself, since writing is so important to that man. He will write, and he will want constructive feedback on his writing. Common interests are the only solid way to stay close enough to a potential mate long enough to build a foundation and a relationship and a marriage.
Many couples today substitute sexual activity for common interests. That's why so many couples seem to be close until they marry. The stresses of life and the diminishing amount of sex between two people who don't really love each other remove the one thing that was tenuously holding those couples together. If they don't split at the onset of this estrangement, one or both partners often turn to affairs for the feelings of affection and closeness which were once imitated by their sexual activity.
This is not the only cause of affairs, but it is a common one.
A poorly chosen mate is very unlikely to be part of a lasting marriage. Unfortunately, most people who fall into this mistake don't learn from it.
Common interests are crucial to strong friendship, and strong friendship is crucial to a strong marriage.
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