John Gottman, PhD is considered today’s leading researcher on what makes relationships work. He actually hooks couples up to electrodes and measures them when they argue and talk. Dr. Gottman claims he can predict with 91% accuracy whether a couple will make it after chatting with them for fifteen minutes.
This fact from his research seems to surprise everyone: 70% of both men and women rate the quality of the friendship as the most important thing in a successful relationship. People are surprised because the media portrays men as so sexually fixated that they assume sex is their highest value, however, not so according to Dr. Gottman. This supports the idea that anything couples can do to enhance the friendship will increase longevity and greater degrees of happiness and satisfaction.
On the other hand, David Deida, another of today’s relationship gurus, believes that friendship between men and women kills sexual attraction. He believes sexual attraction is based on mystery, otherness and the masculine/feminine polarity; and that friendship neutralizes all that. Deida teaches that what women truly want is to be ravished, which sounds mysogynist because men are supposed to ravish women and women are supposed to surrender to it. Until you consider that romance novels are all about this and are the biggest-selling genre of books.
I met a therapist who formerly worked with David Deida and currently has a private practice specializing in seeing clients who have been damaged by his work, particularly women. Many others have been helped, however. His controversial ideas resonate with a lot of well-educated, outside-the-mainstream people.
The latest expert on the scene is Esther Perel, author of Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic. She adds fuel to the fire by writing, “The very ingredients that nurture love — mutuality, reciprocity, protection, worry, responsibility for the other — are sometimes the very ingredients that stifle desire.”
A lot of people yearn for a lover who is their best friend. A friend of mine who’s in a long-term relationship and will remain so, says that she and her partner are not friends, at least not in the way she is with her girlfriends. He thinks they’re best friends, but she would never talk with him the way she feels free to talk with a woman.
I don’t have the answer. Do you want to be friends with your lover? I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts.
© 2013 Catherine Auman