Finding A Friend in your Marriage: Part 1
Last week, my husband and I went to Taco Bell. Jody had the week off, and we had been busy that morning working together in the yard – one of the highlights of our “staycation.” Jody and I both love yard work. Seriously! We were having a great day, and Jody was thrilled that I had agreed to Taco Bell – I am not a fan of fast food. So, there we were at the counter ordering and laughing about the morning. We had gotten our food and were sitting at a table eating when the young woman who had taken our order left the counter and came over to our table. She told us that she couldn’t help but “thank us” for sharing our happiness with her. She could tell that we were both “married and best friends; what a cool combination.” We thanked her for her kind words. Then she left and went back to work taking orders. Jody continued enjoying his crunchy tacos and I, my seven-layer burrito. We discussed the beauty of the gift of kind words that the young woman had given us. Then we talked about the truth of her words. We are best friends and have been for almost 38 years! That experience at Taco Bell confirmed what has been brewing in my heart for much of the past many months – friendship and marriage should go together! So, get ready for a new series.
My husband and I started our relationship the fall of our Junior Year in High School; we started as friends. Jody and I enjoyed easy conversations around the lunch table in a group of school friends long before our feelings for each other deepened. We liked each other as people first. I appreciated his vantage point on issues and found his character appealing, even before I noticed his big muscles 😊! I am thankful for that. The basis of our relationship was that of friendship. Our friendship made a safe launching pad for our marriage and has made me ponder the importance of friendship in my marriage, and in all marriages.
One of the questions Jody and I ask couples during the marriage groups we host in our home is, “Did you marry your best friend?” Those who answer, “yes,” have almost always had an easier road. And, they report that they feel more connected to their spouse; even during difficult times. I believe that friendship in marriage cannot be over-valued. I believe it is God-ordained! And, I’m not sure why more emphasis is not put on friendship during the dating process. Physical attraction seems to get the lion’s share of people’s attention, but it is fleeting at best (Proverbs 31:30). Sometimes we warn others, “Don’t date this friend or that friend … you may end up losing them as a friend.” I suggest, my single friend, that your friend group is a smart and wise place to look for a potential mate, but only if you have surrounded yourself with godly friends.
Keep reading friends! This July Word Washed Wife is taking a closer look at four aspects of friendship in marriage:
1) What the Bible says about Friendship
2) Becoming the Recreational Companion your Husband Wants
3) Becoming the Listening Ear Your Wife Wants
4) Friends with Benefits
What does the Bible says about Friendship?
Over the past few months, I have been looking at what the Bible says on the matter of friendship. The Bible has numerous verses about the value of friendship (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, Job 2:11. John 15:15, Proverbs 13:20, Psalms 133:1), to list just a few. Throughout the Bible you can find many great examples of important friendships - Jonathan and David (1 Samuel 18), Elijah and Elisha (2 Kings 2:2) and Naomi and Ruth (Ruth 1:16-17.) Jesus calls us friends - what an honor (John 15:15)! The Bible also speaks to our need for community - we need each other (Hebrews 10:24-25)! We were not designed to live alone (Genesis 2:18). The Bible further states that friends are to share each other’s burdens and are to sympathize and support a friend during life’s battles (Job 2:11). Friendship is also a great foundation for spiritual growth (Proverbs 27:17 and Proverbs 13:20). All these benefits from being a friend sound pretty good for marriages too, huh? So why do we not claim these verses for our marriage? Instead of camping out only on the topics of submission and headship in the yearly sermon or two on godly marriage, why not camp out on how to be a very good friend to your spouse? Submission and headship are key concepts, don’t misunderstand me, but in the balance of all of scripture, friendship is also essential! Invest in the friend you are married to and see how God will use this to bless your family, your church and your community 😊!
What makes a good friend?
In his book, The Meaning of Marriage, Tim Keller states that to have a true friendship, these three things must be present: transparency, constancy and a common thread. In every Marriage Group (Keller’s book being a key resource) that Jody and I have led these past several years, I have pondered Tim’s statement. I believe Tim is correct! To be a friend, you must be transparent. If you hide something in a relationship, it will negatively impact the relationship. You can’t allow yourself to be known by another person if you hide things from that person. In any friendship worth having, you must let your guard down and allow the other person to see you, to know you and to like you. God cannot be part of a relationship where truth is not present - He cannot tolerate a lie. Second, a friend must be constant. You must continue as a friend even in disagreements. That is what real friends do! They practice forgiveness; sometimes repeatedly. A fair-weather friend hits the road at the first sign of trouble. A godly friend reflects the truth found in Proverbs 17:17 - that a friend loves always. The last requirement, a common thread, is the trickiest. This is a requirement for a common passion that connects the lives of two friends. For Christians, Christ and His Great Commission is a great common thread – this can knit your hearts together as you faithfully serve your heavenly Father. Having the same hobby, following the same sport, reading similar books, and having the same political persuasion can also serve as threads that bind you to your mate. Sometimes in marriages, the children become the common thread. WARNING: This can be dangerous if this is the only common thread in a marriage – children will grow up and leave your home. A couple’s only thread can’t be that temporary. Couples need to develop additional common interests if they are to maintain a healthy friendship with each other.
Now, let me meddle a little 😊.
Are you and your spouse still best friends?
I hope you are up for this topic. Your marriage can be blessed by taking a purposeful look at your friendship with your spouse. I know from experience that couples who are best friends don’t divorce. Instead, they are consumed with a desire to be together. They have a mutual passion – they are actively involved in ministry together. They have a shared dream - they know to where God is calling them, and they are both actively pursuing it. They love to spend time together and steal away as many minutes as they can each week for just the two of them.
Here are some red flags to look for in your marriage … their presence may mean that your friendship with your spouse is anemic or neglected:
· Do you dream of getaways with friends outside your marriage instead of trips with your spouse? If so, you may need a heart correction.
· When you are alone with your spouse, is the conversation only a “strategy meeting” about how to tackle life? If so, you may need to reinvest some time and energy in books or events that first brought your hearts together; you may need to fuel the conversational tank.
· Is the first person you call during an emergency or a moment of celebration someone other than your spouse? If so, you need to reprioritize your friendship; it may be time to step back and take a critical look at what you are valuing and make some corrections.
Has raising children trumped your relationship with your spouse?
I believe that children are a blessing sent from God! The years that Jody and I spent raising our three beautiful children are some of the best years we shared. But, we did not allow our children to unseat each other from the Captain’s chair. Well, not for too long 😊. Kids have a weird way of wanting to be King, or should I say, Dictator. It is very tempting to create an entire life around children and become, if you will, a kid-centric family. If you have let this happen in your family, repent now. Jesus desires to be the center of your family, and no matter how time consuming is the job of raising your children, you must not let this job replace your top two relationships – first with God, then with your spouse. PLUS, it is just not good for the kiddos! Being in the center is too much pressure for most kids. Furthermore, children want their parents to love each other well. They may not know why, but the reason is they seek stability. Children need a strong platform from which to grow. Having three children in three years took its toll on Jody and me. We sacrificed our friendship for a tough, no-sleep season. We became battle buddies for a few years. But, we always wanted more of each other. After our kids became a tad more self-sufficient (potty trained, could dress themselves and could communicate novel ideas) we found our way back to friendship. It took our concerted effort and some creativity, but it was worth the effort. You can do this too!
Here are questions to ask yourself to see if you have allowed your children to replace your spouse. If you answer, “yes,” to two or more, your children may have an unhealthy hold on your life – “Houston, we have a problem!”
· Do you and your spouse talk less than 30 minutes a day about things other than child care issues?
· Have you have ever cancelled a date because of a child’s soccer game or for a birthday party for the friend of your child?
· Does everyone in your circle of friends know your children’s bedtime and nap times and plans their visits accordingly?
· Have you managed to get away from the kids and run away with your spouse for a romantic weekend in the past 5 years?
None of this is unfixable. Identifying the problem should be your “job number one!” Then, strategize the repair. Use the “two heads are better than one” strategy. Schedule a time with your spouse to review your friendship status. Not on FACEBOOK, but in the real world 😊! Determine the top three things that need to change to get your friendship going in the right direction and get busy doing those things. Remind your spouse of their importance to you and how much you enjoy being their friend! Be kind. Laugh. Play. Don’t forget that God cares about this issue as well. And remember, some time together on your knees in prayer is the perfect bandage for your friendship boo-boo!
Next week we will dive deep into what men want out of friendship. Keep reading, friends. Stay cool in this July heat and stay washed in His Word!
How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.