Today, I begin a series of reflections on marriage. On Wednesday evenings, Charlotte and I are meeting with seven couples in a conversation about marriage that will last several months. Preparing for this weekly conversation has given me the opportunity to reflect on marriage in general, and our own marriage in particular.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about the importance of friendship within marriage.
Hopefully, you married a friend. If you are not married, but plan to be married, ideally you will choose to marry a friend. This is critical if you wish to have a lasting marriage and experience joy along the way.
Marry someone who is first your friend.
Marrying your friend suggests that you enjoy this person, you trust one another, and you value one another. Hopefully, you enjoy this person through conversation, the routines of life, and simply being together. Physical attraction, sexual intimacy, and transparency can actually increase with time when we experience a growing marital friendship where thoughtfulness and selflessness are regularly expressed.
Continue to value your spouse as your friend.
Many people will marry a friend and then allow their friendship to die. Something is wrong when I treat my wife as I would treat no other friend. Think for a moment about normal, everyday friendships. If a friend is constantly rude, disloyal, undependable, and self-centered, you might wonder after awhile if you really have a friendship with this person. In fact, you may decide you would rather invest your time with other friends.
Many marriages end because husbands and wives stop behaving like friends.
Marriages would be helped by husbands and wives renewing their friendship with each another. This would mean eliminating behaviors that should be not be a part of any loving friendship. This also means being intentional about behaving in ways that rebuild and give energy to their friendship.
Remember that appropriate space is necessary in friendship.
Space is necessary in friendship and marriage. Appropriate space gives a man and woman the freedom to love each another within their marriage. Some people want too much space and it becomes very difficult for them to remain emotionally connected with their spouses. It is possible for a man and woman to be independent selves with little in common other than sharing the same bed at night. No real friendship. No emotional connection. He does his thing. She does her thing.
On the other hand, some couples give one another almost no space. They might feel as if they must do everything together. He or she might insist that they have the same opinions on most everything. Years ago, I asked a woman a question regarding our congregation. Her answer was, “Why don’t you ask my husband? He does our thinking.” (What?)
When there is no space, a husband or wife may feel personally threatened if their spouse expresses a different preference or idea.
Yet, in a healthy friendship or marriage, the individuals have space to think, feel, and act as persons. Yet, they daily lean toward one another, wanting to stay connected, and only doing what will bring health and life to their relationship.
What are some other ways that friendship with one’s spouse bless and enhance the marriage?