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In any relationship the L word is the key to exceptional friendship. And in this case the L word isn't love.

I tried to come up with an acronym for FRIEND. I began with Forming Reciprocal Integral Engagement…then I couldn’t think of words for the N and the D that would pack the punch I was trying to achieve. I thought of nourishing for the N. But nourishing what? What could you nourish in a friendship that began with the letter D? I thought maybe the meaningful impact that friends have on each other is too profound to simplify with an acronym. So I googled it. There were 2 acronyms and I absolutely HATED the first option. Framework Initiative for Exchange Networks and Dialogue. Lifeless and too technical. But I did like the word dialogue because communication…that is – healthy communication – is at the core of healthy friendships.

I’m working loosely with Forming Reciprocal Integral Engagement & Nurturing Dialogue as an acronym for friend, and I’m applying it first to my relationship with my husband because he is my best friend and has been for the majority of our 41-year marriage. The acronym is important because reports that 30.8% of Black couple’s divorce, 18.5% for Hispanics and Whites 15.1%. I don’t believe the propaganda regarding divorce rates for Blacks and Hispanics for a host of reasons. But that’s another story for another time. I do believe, however, that some couples buy into the hype that divorcing is fashionable and the I Can Do Bad By Myself phenomenon is worth trying instead of fighting to improve a troubled marriage.

If at all possible, don’ buy the hype, because that’s all it is... a counterfeit, glamorized package of crap dressed up to look appealing, powerful and sexy.

If we've learned nothing else from COVID, we surely learned that life is precious and we need to find the time or make the time to listen to each other. Shared thoughts lead to extraordinary new beginnings in some cases when they are presented in truth. In fact, the 2 key components for successful friendships in any relationship, including marriage, are honesty and humility. So please, today open your mind and heart to listen to your friends. It is one of the greatest gifts you can give to anyone because listening is a precursor of acting. And when you listen, you then have the knowledge to grant what is needed.


Just as change begins with you-so does showing love. In fact, any positive changes you make are for the betterment of yourself and the marriage and are ultimately an expression of love. You decide to do better because you want better for yourself and your union. Love is spiritual, mental, intellectual, emotional, physical, sexual and can be all of the aforementioned all at once. Or it can be the focus of one of the attributes amid the backdrop of all or some or one of the others. Either way, love is both simple and complex and is anything and everything but never nothing. Love never fails. It is always…something…wanting…needing…giving…receiving…engaging…living…breathing. It is power wrapped in humility. It is fundamental and abstract simultaneously. What generally shapes how you define and express love is past experiences and your family of origin (the people who raised you).

In a marriage love is the many ways you say it, show it and respect it. Simply put, you can’t just say you love your mate. You have to show it. And you can’t just show your mate that you love them. You have to say it…and mean it - and claim it - and celebrate it.

That begins with the process of communication which has to be developed in layers in marriages. Each layer strengthens the communicative bond and creates an atmosphere of trust and confidence. The first layer begins with what we say – verbal communication. It is perhaps the most critical because it sets the tone for all of the other communication layers. I believe that lack of verbal communication is arguably the single most significant threat to successful marriages. And that’s over financial problems.

Healthy verbal communication involves the interchange of thoughts processed through words and coupled with emotion and respect. It involves speaking which equals sharing, listening which equals understanding, and responding which equals connecting. So the 3 layers of communication are sharing, understanding and then connecting. The mutual sharing, understanding and connecting on ideas, hopes, fears, dreams and everything in between without fear of betrayal and/or rejection is what elevates typical marital relationships to one that is superlatively loving, trusting and happy.

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Nicole Levell
Nicole Levell
Sep 28, 2023

I love this!!

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