From 'Just Friends' To Marriage, And Lessons Learned Along The Way

FriendZone So today, I'm happy to announce that it's officially been three years since Zaz and I said, "I do." And what an amazing three years it's been!

But it's also been 6 years since we both agreed to "just be friends." And after experiencing the ups and downs of the first few years of this remarkable ride, I've got to accredit the strength of our relationship today to that friendship.

These days, "The friend zone" always gets a bad rep. A simple Google search will bring up a myriad of articles instructing one on either how to avoid it or how to escape it, if you've already somehow found yourself "trapped" in it.

What mostly draws two people together at the outset of a relationship is attraction. Which is great, but remember that at the core of every strong relationship is trust, and trust is built on character, not attraction.

Having a strong friendship at the core of your relationship says, "Our bond is deeper than simply the romantic feelings we have for each other.” And I can vouch for that 100%. Turns out the "friend zone" isn't as useless as they say it is. Here are a few things that happened during my time there, which led us to a stronger, healthier relationship:

The Communication.

First things first. Communication is the most important, yet most complex part of any relationship. Ask anyone in a relationship what their biggest struggle is, and chances are it's something to do with communication.

One thing that makes communication so difficult in a relationship is fear. The fear of being vulnerable. The fear of rejection. The fear of not being seen as you want to be seen by your mate.These fears are enough to keep you caught up in the habit of only telling your partner what you think they want you to hear instead of simply being you.

One of the first things I loved about Zaz was how easy she was to open up to.You know when you try to be vulnerable with your partner to test how they'll receive it, and they make you feel so safe and comfortable that all of a sudden you want to open up to them about everything?

Yea, that was her.

And of course, feeling that made me want to do the same for her as well. The fact that we were comfortable doing so since early in our friendship makes it so much easier for us to be open and honest with each other today about our marriage.

Sure, we have our disagreements and challenges like every other couple, but we're blessed to be able to lean on that foundation of honesty and transparency to make it through those bumps in the road.

Because love rejoices in truth.

Which leads to my next point...

The Acceptance.

She saw me at my worst. At that time in my life, I was in a financially and emotionally messy place. I was finishing up architecture school while working multiple jobs and was often stressed and frustrated.

While these were the very things I was avoiding talking about when I was on the dating scene, I always felt completely comfortable opening up to her about what was going on in my life.

Instead of her using my baggage as a reason to distance herself from me, which is what most of us would do on the dating scene, she used it as an opportunity to show me the love and support I needed to overcome it all. I rarely felt judged by her, but was always met with a sense of compassion and empathy when I opened up about something.

When your only focus is on how this relationship can further your own agenda, it’s easy to see temporary hardships that someone is going through as deal-breakers. She showed me early on that a little bit of selflessness and compassion was the best alternative to criticism and judgement.

Her making it comfortable for me to fully be myself simply allowed her to love me for who I really was, without trying to guilt me or mold me into someone it would be easier for her to love.

'Preciate that, boo.

The Trust.

It’s crazy how folks often trust their friends more than their own partner. I always saw this as a result of how we tend to slow-cook our friendships, yet microwave our romantic relationships.

Like anything worth having, trust simply takes time to develop. It's something you both have to earn through shared experiences. It's fragile and delicate and needs to be treated as such.

Taking the time to get to know Zaz intellectually, emotionally and spiritually gave me all the reason I needed to be able to trust her. Over time, her true colors came to light, and in a good way. I learned her values, her priorities and her boundaries and she lived with the type of integrity that I came to respect and trust.

Through our actions, we continue to prove that we're always looking out for each other's well-being. Are we perfect? Not at all. But we trust each other in every way because we've built a strong foundation around honesty and acceptance.

At the end of the day, I'm not sure if we would have grown to love each other the way we do if it weren't for what we built while in the friend zone. But I can say that what was built during that time, although unintentionally, is a major contributor to the strength of our relationship today.

So if you and your partner don't have a solid friendship as the foundation for your relationship, it's never to late to start developing now. But that's another blog for another day.