Saturday, October 15, 2011

Friendship as a Value

In my workshops, I challenge people to identify the things they value. The majority of the time, we're talking about professional values, so I hear things like excellence, autonomy, diversity, integrity, etc. However, working with Dr. Pam Love, motivational speaker and author of "I Want My Vagina Back!" (IWMVB) and recently speaking with Brother Bartell Keithley, Jr. about his "Booty Boycott" (BB), (yes, it's called the Booty Boycott), I have become interested in exploring the values people hold in high regard, for themselves, in relationships. In particular, I am curious if and at what point "friendship" shows up as a value.

In IWMVB, Dr. Love talks extensively about aligning your values and your choices, and Brother Bartell discusses getting back to valuing friendship within the context of a relationship; and keeping the intimacy at bay until a solid friendship is developed (with his end goal being marriage). While this seems so incredibly simple, it is not how the landscape looks on today's dating scene. I'm going to venture to say that what I'm talking about spans the Millineal and Gen X generations. It seems that, today, the physical attraction supersedes the value system. 

Physical attraction is a positive, given that it is much harder to start a relationship with someone that you're not physically attracted to. And I'm actually glad for it. God has just put some beautiful human sculptures here on earth and to Him I say "thank you". However, I am concerned that it sometimes blinds people from the realization that there the relationship is being built on it. The boy meets girl thing is is going from 0 to 60, in 30 seconds, these days. And, people are arriving at 60 with a person they don't actually know and/or sometimes even like.

Don't get me wrong, I am also not against physical or sexual attraction. It will serve both parties well, at the appropriate time. But until then, it can murky the waters when it goes unchecked by our values. When sex shows up, the craziest things get swept under the carpet, dismissed, explained away and tolerated. These are things that don't promote a general caring about the other person, but a pursuit of something more shallow. Men may tolerate the crazy jealous women who break things, tap into voice mail, check their email, and more. Women may tolerate, cheating, no shows, dismissal of dates they've expressed as important, having no one checking for their well being and more.

I'm suggesting that having a genuine desire to know what the person you're getting to know is connected to, cares about, hates, loves, does for fun and supports is somewhat important whether you're going to keep it casual or interested in the long haul. A want to know their source of pain, insecurity and what makes them feel most loved. A want to know if their mother feels better from the sickness she had last week and if they enjoy what they do for a living. A want to know how they process pain, what brings them joy and how they handle tough situations. A want to know what kind of character they have and what they stand for in life. A want to know if they enjoy action flicks or romantic movies. A want to know how authentically they are living. And, mostly want to know why, beyond the physical attraction, in what way and how they want to be connected to you.

Some will suggest that this is too much information, as they are not looking for anything that serious. I don't believe that the relationship has to be headed towards anything super serious to begin to learn about the person you're connected to. As a matter of fact, I think the expectations of what this relationship might turn into should be checked at the door. Part of the problem with the beginnings is that assumptions about the future are made without enough information of what the future might entail Hence, getting to know what you might be getting yourself into by becoming friends.

I have friends in all types relationships statuses. Some are married, with boyfriend, divorced, looking and single by choice. I've observed a few of my friends during their dating process. There are some who just pop up with a man. I can speak with them one week and the next week, they have a new bo. It always begs the question, "where did he come from?" The stories are similar, they met at a club, party, get together, online or some other place and there was an amazing attraction. Once upon a time I would simply give her the "go girl" and a high five. However, as I watch the journey of these relationships, I can't help but to think something's missing. It turns out that usually there is. It is the fundamental foundational elements I mentioned above. The who? what? and why?

I don't think every relationship has to be deep; however, I've yet to meet a woman who actually doesn't care how or if a man cares for her. I have met women who tolerate how men treat them because of insecurities, not wanting a commitment, having a warm body, sex and/or the fear of being alone. 

Here's the thing. After the initial comments like "you're so beautiful", "hey sexy", "I would love to see you again", "how can I get in touch with you?", etc., there are some basic ways I think we could continue the process in another way. Call me unrealistic, but I believe we could start to do this thing a little differently. And, I believe the net result would be more meaningful relationships and healthier people. Not all of them will have the same level of depth or blossom into the same time of relationships. However, I am confident that they will cause us to leave people in a better condition than when we first encountered them, just because we took a moment to have an authentic experience. We could begin to treat people like friends and see how far we would get.

I'm sure my own recent encounters prompted my exploration of this subject. It has caused me to evaluate my own experiences and to understand the "why" behind my encounters. I'm not suggesting that anyone change their process, if they are living authentically, happily and fulfilled. My point is only for those who are having less than successful attempts at this human experience, as it relates to potential romantic encounters. Again, I'm also acknowledging that success does not always have to mean a deep and long term relationship each and every time. I  believe Brother Bartell would disagree :)

Many believe that men don't care about this authentic experience. They believe that their make up only allows for a one track mind; that at the end of the day sex is the goal. In addition, many believe that men will take the quickest route to get there. And if it is an easy path that doesn't require much work, so be it. However, depending on how desirable they find the woman, they may work really hard to get there. It is up to each person to understand their value system and what will be necessary to move forward in an regard.

I know not every man is the same and I know quite a few who are solid and caring human beings with more to them than the journey to the end goal (although I do recognize that as a part of the hope. . .for both parties :))

Identifying and living according to your values is the first step to ending up in a healthy place. Might it just be possible that we're living in the "land of make believe" when we don't consider that friendship is a value to be considered?

Just thinking out loud.

Live true.

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