There’s a famous country song called “Lookin’ for Love in All the Wrong Places.”
People spend a lifetime doing just that. This is the first of three articles about what I have learned about looking for love in the right places.
At the start, I need to confess that I got it wrong for many years.
Born in Detroit as the only child of older immigrant parents, I spent a lot of lonesome boyhood time as a nerdy, needy kid. I got praise for behaving properly, receiving straight “A’s” in school and for being a piano prodigy.
Through musical performing, I discovered it wasn’t just the “jocks” that could get the girls so I spent my adolescence in pursuit of romance or, more bluntly, sex.
Sure, I had childhood and teen buddies but – fast forward a decade plus – the first time I ever asked for friendship was in the middle of a rainy night, without even the courtesy of a phone call in advance. When Terry opened his door, bleary-eyed, all I could do was burst into tears and blurt out, “I need a friend!”
Thank God, Terry didn’t turn me out. Instead, he pulled me inside, hugged me, made a pot of coffee, sat up with me and listened, and I do mean listened, for hours.
When his wife got up to get ready for work, Terry made us all breakfast so Judy could sit with me for a while too. Then, having convinced me to take the day off, Terry called in “sick” just to be available in case I needed him during the day.
I will never forget it. Even though we now live far apart, I will always love Terry.
It took a major crisis to drive me to knock on Terry’s door and “discover” friendship, and by then I was past 30. I concede that I’m an alpha male of German descent and a slow learner.
That was more than 40 years ago. Here we are in 2020, and what-all hath the coronavirus pandemic – with all its oddness, including quarantining, social distancing and working virtually from home – wrought? Lots, heaps, oodles.
Among these oodles are some stunning realizations. My wife, Laura, and I run a retreat ministry, and one woman called to ask whether my wife and I could help improve her marriage.
“With all this extra time at home, my husband and I became keenly aware that each of us is lonely. We love each other. We do! We want to stay together for all kinds of reasons. But we find that we are not really friends.”
“Ouch,” you might say.
But maybe not. Maybe this couple can not only improve their marriage but also enrich their individual lives as well.
Their joint dilemma is common in marriage.
Many couples essentially live alone together, bearing and rearing children, supporting each other’s education, training and career rise, but never approaching the intimacy a friendship can hold – or, if they say “She/he is my best friend,” they are putting a spin on it they may not recognize as a spurious spin.
To be clear, I am not saying spouses can’t be friends as well as lovers, co-parents, partners in homemaking and economic security and playmates; of course they can. But most don’t.
As the song from George and Ira Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess has it, “It Ain’t Necessarily So.”
In the second of this three-part series, I will share what I have learned about friendship – what a friendship is and how to get one or two and maybe more.
Right now, let me simply say a friendship is above all a closely personal, deep, open, loving bond whose value lies in its exemption from the rules of usefulness.
A minister (American Baptist), pastoral psychotherapist and consultant, Landgraf, with his wife Laura, co-leads retreats for couples and individuals. Laura also has a mission of her own as an author, activist and speaker.