Strong Friendships as the Bedrock of Solid Marriages

23 Jan 2019

The fourth of this year's MICS grand recipients weighs in on her research proposal. In this case, how to strengthen the foundations of romantic relationships by strengthening the friendship between the partners.

You’ve received and STI grant to do a Master’s in Social Science Research specifically in the area of family and family policy. What, specifically, will you look into?

I will investigate the importance of friendship as a basic requirement for the good development of young people into adults. This interest comes from my love for the family and because of the importance of solid marriages. I think one of the problems that marriage is experiencing nowadays is due to an absence of solid boyfriend/girlfriend relationships, so I want to investigate that topic and try to find a possible solution before the problem arises.

In 2017 the Spanish National Institute of Statistics (INE) registered 173.626 marriages and 102.341 cases of divorce, separation and nullity of marriage. According to the data, there are 2.2 marriage dissolutions for every 1,000 habitants in the country. These numbers show us that something is happening with marriage nowadays. What is causing couples who started full of joy, hope and enthusiasm to give up on their shared project?

Social scientists have cited any number of reasons – philosophical, cultural, economic, political, technological... What will you focus on?

I try to see the problems that married couples are experiencing in a more anthropological way. I agree with P. J. Viladrich, who said in his book The Agony of Natural Marriage that the problem is not marriage itself, but rather that humanity has forgotten what the implications and dignities of human beings are. We might say that the problem comes from the heart, or perhaps from the lack of practicing, every day, what love really is. As Aristotle says, we can love where we find good, and where we find good, we can also find friendship.

How should one practice love daily?

I would say that we can practice an interpersonal love in a pure and real way through friendship. My theory is that boys and girls need to learn not just the importance of friendship itself, but also the importance of learning how to be good friends. Then they could build relationships based on friendship and confidence without masks or false expectations.

Young people need to stop being afraid of being part of the “friend-zone” of the person they fancy and start being real friends with that person instead. Relationships built on true friendship will be solid and transparent and will result in real communities. Solid friendship can make people rely on each other despite external problems or factors. If a romantic relationship flourishes from friendship, it will do in a powerful and solid way. Because only then, as Antoine de Saint Exupèry says, that person becomes unique in the world. And if it doesn’t, those friends involved in the relationship will already know what and how it is to be loved so they will not look for “lower loves.” Imagine what marriages would be like if they all began with a true friendship. I believe that strong friendships can yield strong romantic relationships that can yield strong families, and therefore stronger societies.

How do you propose to study your theory?

I will join with a researcher who is working on the development of a project that studies friendship. I will focus our attention on friendship itself, then, when we have good basis and enough knowledge about this main topic, I will migrate mine to relationships. This project is just starting but I am confident it will lead to great things and I am really excited about it!

I will focus on Pamplona’s university students and what they think about friendship, love and romantic relationships.   

Do you have any early ideas as to practical methods of fomenting solid friendships among potential romantic partners, or do you hope they will arise from the research?

Having read what is already written on the topic, I have some general ideas of what can be done, like promoting fellowship at schools and universities in order to create proper environments where a good and true friendship can be developed.  I hope to develop more specific practical methods as the project progresses. 

I am deeply grateful to the Social Trends Institute because this opportunity has changed my life, and I hope I will be able to change the lives of others through my research.