When I (Amanda) was in college, I had a really great friend, Dave. He’d dated a few girls, but those relationships never worked out. All Dave’s friends really liked the girls he dated, and things always seemed to be going great until they’d suddenly break up. Our group of friends was starting to wonder if he was a commitment-phobe! One day my friend Jen and I were talking to Dave over dinner, and we jokingly asked him about the commitment issues we’d noticed. Dinner that night ended up lasting for hours as we talked it all through. A week later Dave told us that he’s been thinking a lot about our conversation.

Dave even talked about it with his mentor, who suggested he go to counseling. There were some issues from his past Dave had never dealt with that were connected to his lack of commitment in the present. Dave’s mentor probably never would have suggested counseling on his own because he wouldn’t have been able to pick up on Dave’s commitment issues the way his good friends could.

Keeping it Real

Friends often understand you in different ways because they spend more time with you and you’re able to be more honest with them. This gives friends more insight into your daily life, and there are certain things that only close friends are able to notice and call out.

When someone gets into a relationship, one thing you hear a lot from his or her friends is, “She’s changed.” Your friends might notice that you’re happier or more content since becoming involved in a relationship, but more often than not, a friend who says, “You’ve changed,” doesn’t mean it for the better..

Give your friends permission to keep it real with you. You don’t want all your friends secretly thinking you’ve changed for the worse while you blindly push forward in a new relationship. Stay humble and take what they have to say seriously. Remember, they can see things from a different perspective than you can.

Outside Eyes

When you’re in a relationship, it’s very difficult to be “inside eyes” and “outside eyes” at the same time. A relationship that only has inside eyes can succeed, but it could be even better if you allow people on the outside to speak into the process and provide perspective.

My (Ryan’s) best friend in college once asked me to help him decide whether or not to break up with his girlfriend. He asked, “What do you think of her?” I said, “I think she’s horrible—rude, critical, maybe even crazy.” I paused and looked my friend in the eye. “But I don’t know the girl,” I told him. “I only think of her this way because that’s how you’ve portrayed her.”

Every time my friend had a fight with this girlfriend, he’d call me and tell me about it, painting himself as a perfect prince and her as purely evil. But I was hearing only one side of the story. For all I knew, she might have been awesome, and he could have been a jerk. “Now tell me about all the good things that you haven’t shared,” I told him. “I need a full picture of your relationship if I’m going help you make this decision.”

Healthy relationships don’t make for sexy conversation. We love to hear about the “juicy” stuff — the drama, screaming fights, broken dishes, and ultimatums.

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Healthy relationships don’t make for sexy conversation. We love to hear about the “juicy” stuff — the drama, screaming fights, broken dishes, and ultimatums—and then we roll our eyes when our other friends report, “Everything’s great.” When I starting dating Amanda, my friends complained that I never talked about her. I knew that if I told them about our relationship, they’d think it was really boring. I couldn’t imagine telling my friends, “We hung out, watched a movie, and then went to a restaurant in our sweatpants.” So I found myself embellishing everything I could think of.

My friends responded positively when I talked about Amanda’s “feistiness,” so I started subconsciously making her seem spicier than she really was. It was more interesting from a storytelling perspective but I realized that I was painting an inaccurate picture of her. That wasn’t fair to Amanda. What if I ended up asking these same friends to help me make a decision about her one day? They’d be basing their advice on inaccurate information.

Whether your relationship is scandalous or completely dull, try to paint an accurate picture of it to your friends.

Give them the Okay

It’s just as important to give your friends the space and permission to be completely honest. Every few months, I text a couple of friends and ask, “What are my blind spots?” One time when Amanda and I were dating, my friend Daniel told me there were times I seemed worried too much about my “brand.” He encouraged me to be on the lookout for times when I was concerned about how Amanda was going to make Ryan Leak look. “She’s not dating your brand,” he told me. “She’s a part of your life.” He was right on the money.

There were also moment early in our relationship when I became so busy that my friends had to remind me not to take Amanda for granted. I didn’t always realize how much I needed her around, but my friends always knew.

Every relationship can benefit from friends like these. Like it or not, your success is dependent on the community around you and the people in your world. If you want to have an amazing love story, you need more than friends — you need friends with benefits.

Excerpted from The One: An Amazing Love Story Starts With You by Ryan and Amanda Leak. Copyright © 2015 by Ryan and Amanda Leak. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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