Friendships: Could they be just as important as romantic relationships?

nThe federal government decided in March of this year not to consider married couples living together as one family. Regarding the communication restrictions in force at the time, this made sense: Many couples see each other frequently anyway and they are physically close. But as practical and beautiful as the regulation was for many couples, it also made clear which personal relationships take precedence over all others in our society—the romantic, monogamous love affair.

Which raises many questions. What about other forms of love relationships, with open forms for example? And is it really fair that the relationship between spouses is more important than, say, friendship? Because even closely related friends often see each other regularly and are physically close, couldn’t that justify the one-family rule as well?

Especially since friendships have been put to the test in recent months. Ironically, at a time when many needed their friends in particular, they were unable to maintain contact with them as usual. Despite the decline and decline of accidents, many people still weigh the number of friends they meet – after all, there is still the risk of injury. Singles in particular felt the loss of friends. 62 percent of singles who took part in an online survey conducted by insurance company Swiss Life Select in April 2021 complained of psychological stress.

Relationships in a pandemic

“Friendship is the little sister of love” – this is how relationship expert and author Wolfgang Krüger explains the different status of both types of relationships. “That’s because love includes so much more: sexual arousal, everyday life together, and having a family.” But birth rates have been declining for years. “Many people are no longer able to move into a family,” sociologist Janusz Schupin of the University of Kassel told Zeit in 2010. This is due to the long training period, the subsequent search for a job, the time-consuming profession, and the fact that many partnerships break up before the age of 30. He predicted that friendships would thus acquire social significance in the future.

Friends – the new “nuclear family”?

Relationship expert Krueger has already noticed this development today. “The importance of friendship is increasing right now, even more than romantic relationships,” he explains. “Today, people want to be free to choose who they share their lives with and to be freed from the shackles of family.” This crystallized recently at Christmas and Easter, when the federal government announced that some holidays could only be spent with the “nuclear family”. Some showed little understanding. Why not be able to spend a few nice days with your closest friends if your family lives abroad, for example?

The social meaning of friendship is renegotiated. Krueger explains that friendship is increasingly recognized today as a means of autonomy. “People are looking for intimate, reliable relationships in which they can tell everything while still giving them a sense of freedom.” This also has an impact on romantic relationships and family models. Forms of partnership such as polyandry, i.e. simultaneous relationships with more than one person, or open relationships are becoming more and more popular, and new models of parenthood are also establishing themselves. Case in point: In co-parenting, friends raise children together.

Alternative forms of relationship

Man and woman kissing on the table

Studies show that those who have good social relationships are happier, physically healthier and even live longer. Additionally, friendships can develop liberating potential. A person in a violent relationship, for example, may be able to muster the resolve and strength to leave their partner with the help of someone they trust.

Friendships can be critical to the system. This was stated by the writer and activist Gloria Watkins, born in 1952, better known by her pen name Bill Hawkes, who is considered one of the most influential feminists of her time. In her book Communion, she writes in the early 2000s that “romantic friendships” — the intimate, passionate, but platonic relationships between two people — challenge the idea that human bonds are intimate, lasting, and meaningful only when two people are sexually active with each other. else. So they are an attack on the patriarchal system.

Don’t lose your “girlfriend” so easily

Unlike romantic relationships, friendship is governed by few social rules. If you get acquainted with a person who can become a friend, then you will not wait several days with a call, as some people do after a pleasant courtship – to maintain their “composure”. Friendships also are not subject to any renewal compulsion. Even if we see a friend only once a year, we hardly remove the label “friend” from it.

Friendships are so much more than fooling around and going out dancing and binge-watching TV shows together. So agrees Bill Hooks, who wrote in her 2000 book All About Love: “Many of us learned as children that friendships should not be given equal priority with family. By doing so, we capture our first glimpse into the salvific community of love and care. The love of our friends enables us to transmit this Love into other relationships with family members and romantic partners.

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