by Leslie De Morais
Opinions differ regarding what a marriage needs to either become strong or stay strong. The following is from a list I compiled of ten essential characteristics couples need to build a strong and lasting marriage.
Item #6: Friendship
For many couples, the typical time line of events in their relationship begins with attraction, which leads to friendship, which develops into love resulting in the mutual decision to marry. It is a natural progression which grows in momentum and intensity as time passes. Whether your relationship followed this particular order or not, friendship is an important facet for every marriage and not one to be taken lightly.
A Friend Sincerely Enjoys Your Company
”Experts on happiness say for a happy marriage there has to be more than passionate love. For a lasting union, they insist, there must be a genuine liking for one another. Which, in my book, is a good definition of friendship.”1 – Marilyn Monroe
Known as the sex symbol of her day, Marilyn Monroe had a great quote regarding the word friendship. Although the “Blonde Bombshell” could have easily emphasized the aspect of physical attraction in a
relationship as the most important attribute between a couple, she clearly comprehended the value a solid friendship brings to a marriage that is destined to last.
Perhaps for thrice-divorced Marilyn, it was easier said than done. Unfortunately, a true and enduring friendship can be evasive and eludes many couples. So, what do you do if you sense your marriage is lacking in the friendship department? Is your marriage doomed to fail? How do you foster “a genuine liking” for one another? How do you recapture friendship if you feel it slipping away due to the pressures or monotony of daily life? How do you shield your existing friendship from the relentless, crashing waves of stress as you deal with problems or challenging situations?
We can apply some good advice from the Apostle John and at least be pointed in the right direction of preserving our friendship with our spouse.
To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name and have not grown weary.
4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. – Revelations 2:1-5a (NIV)
John writes to the early Christians in the city of Ephesus with both words of encouragement and correction. He praises their hard work, perseverance and righteousness. John commends them for not being fooled by false prophets and the fact that they have not grown fatigued
in their walk with God. However, he admonishes them for having less love currently than they had at first. Strange, isn’t it? You’d think John would be happy the Ephesians were doing all the right things. Yet time after time, God communicates to us just how much more concerned He is about the heart behind our actions. Why? Without the right heart to fuel what we do we’re susceptible to running on auto-pilot. If God had wanted a mechanical and programmed relationship with us, He would have created robots or not given us free will. The motivation behind our actions means everything to God.
Now, let’s apply this lesson to our topic of friendship. After a few years together, married couples develop some heavy responsibilities, such as: holding down full-time jobs, paying bills, raising kids, tackling chores, etc. Taking care of those responsibilities can become automatic. It’s simply what you do. Creating a stable life by being responsible is praiseworthy indeed, yet it sounds a lot like the Ephesians’ “hard work and perseverance.” A couple can become lost in their daily routine, the business of living life and dealing with pressing issues that demand attention. Those who forget the importance of friendship or allow it to be squeezed out due to the stress and strain of everyday life may find themselves wondering if there’s more to marriage than what they are experiencing.
I love the Apostle John’s warning. Let’s read it again.
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. – Revelations 2:4-5a (NIV)
Why would I love a strong correction like this? I’m no glutton for punishment! But I do love the advice he gives. If your friendship is not what it used to be, applying what John commands here would mean getting back to the basics and doing what you did at the beginning of your friendship. Now that should be appealing to all of us.
What was your friendship with your spouse like in the beginning? Did you spend lots of time together? Did you go places and do things you both enjoyed? Did the friendship seem light and care free? Did you have a genuine liking for one another?
What can diminish our liking of one another? Perhaps an unresolved disagreement. Maybe a lack of consideration for each other. Even harsh words or severe treatment that need to be forgiven can greatly reduce our liking of one another. Maybe you’re at a point in your
relationship where it’s difficult to even imagine being friends again. Remember John’s advice. Do the things you did at first. “But how?” you might ask. “I don’t have free time to sit on a park bench or see a movie in the middle of the day or stay up late talking into the wee hours of the night. How are we going to do the things we did at first?”
Doing the things you did at first may look different than it did when you were younger or had fewer responsibilities. Remember, we’re looking for the heart behind the action. Maybe your time together will be shorter (Ex.: until the baby cries or one of you falls asleep from exhaustion!), but
at least there’s a conscious effort. Perhaps your outings need to meet a budget or certain time constraints, but the heart of friendship can still shine through. Possibly, your first attempts might feel awkward or contrived. Just keep in mind your goal of getting back to what you did at first. That’s the miracle of repentance. God can refresh and revive us when we seek wholehearted transformation. We serve an amazing God who loves to perform miracles through His ever changing and evolving creation…us!
Here are some practical points all of us can apply immediately:
- Make an effort to be easy to please.
- Decide to be fun.
- Decide to be funny, playful, and lighthearted!
- Give each other your full attention.
- Be determined to not let a bad day spoil your time together.
- Remind yourself what you like about your spouse.
- Remind your husband what you like in him.
- Make time for each other.
- Have genuine enthusiasm and excitement about being together.
- Pray for discernment to know when and how to bring up difficult topics to discuss. Your date may not be the time nor place for heavy subjects.
- Prepare the children. Explain the need for mom and dad to spend time together. Plan to have them either in bed before your time starts or have a babysitter on hand to watch them. The effort this requires is well worth it.
Some seven years ago, my husband and I were at yet another marriage retreat when we heard one of the most memorable classes ever. The lesson was geared toward soon-to-be empty nesters. Alcides and I were just a few short years away from that reality and were eager to glean
good tips. One of the main points in the class that Dana and Gingerla Perkins presented was the need couples have to set aside time for their friendship, especially when they think they don’t have that time readily available. Why? Because all too many couples reach the milestone mark in their relationship where the kids leave home and begin living their own independent lives. Suddenly, a husband and wife no longer have that central and all-consuming focus of their relationship (the kids) holding them together. Many times, a couple may discover the friendship that initially brought them together is nowhere to be found. What now? Unfortunately, some married couples have sorely neglected their friendship. When finally alerted to the dilapidated state of their relationship, there is nothing left to salvage, and divorce ensues.
For Alcides and me, this was like the Apostle John’s call to repentance to the Ephesians. We had become experts at taking care of the business side of marriage and friendship was scarce. Luckily, we both wanted that to change. Immediately, we began making plans about how, when and where we would spend time together fortifying our friendship. The months to follow that marriage retreat were some of the most memorable for us. We formulated a plan. We discussed activities, preferences and budget. And then we made it happen.
We took turns planning our dates. Some were dressed up dates with dinners out on the town. Some were simple walks on a beach, at a lake or in a park. Some were the stay at home kind with a favorite meal and a movie picnic style in the living room in front of the fireplace. We had
options for every budget, taste and even any kind of weather. Our time together became sacred and highly protected. We were really enjoying ourselves, to the point that we started sending selfies of our dates to the kids, and writing “Look where Mom and Dad are!” My then 17-year-old daughter Stephanie commented, “Hey! Why don’t you take Lucas and me on your dates to all these cool places?” I slyly replied, “Sure, why not! And I’m certain you’ll be happy to let us tag along on your dates!” Needless to say, she immediately understood our necessity to have reserved time just for the two of us.
Thank you, Dana and Gingerla. We are grateful for your expert (and fun) advice! Our friendship is all the better because of it!
A Friend Always Has Your Back
If there is one person in this world who should have your back, it’s the person you married.
One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. – Proverbs 18:24 (NIV)
In my opinion, that “friend who sticks closer than a brother” should be you and your spouse.
The byproducts of a strong friendship are trust, confidence, and ultimately, love. Friendship generates the power to believe in someone even when the odds are stacked against them. Even if they falter or fail. Just knowing you have one person on this earth who truly believes and trusts in you or who you believe in, makes all the difference.
Let’s consider what the Bible says regarding Abraham and his relationship with God. Look at the following point conceptually not literally.
And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. – James 2:23 (NIV)
When Abraham’s faith was put to the test, he passed the test because of his intimate knowledge and friendship with God. Abraham was called to sacrifice his only and long-awaited son. He reasoned that God had the ability to raise his son from the dead and would not leave the answer to his many prayers (Isaac) laying cold and lifeless on the altar (Hebrews 11:17-18). In Genesis 22, his actions prove how much Abraham believed God had his back.
- When asked to sacrifice his son, he woke up early in the morning, rather than procrastinate in his obedience. He brought with him the necessary provisions to carry out God’s commands (wood). (Gen. 22: 3)
- Although it took a three-day journey to reach the spot God indicated, Abraham did not waver or change his mind about obeying God. (Gen. 22:4)
- In his heart, he believed God would make good on His promise that through Isaac Abraham’s descendants would be as numerous as the stars. Therefore, he said, “We will worship, and we will come back.” (Gen. 22:5)
- On their way to perform the sacrifice Isaac asks about the lamb they need for the offering and Abraham replies that God will provide it. (Gen. 22:8)
- During the time it took to build an altar and pile the wood up on it, perhaps Abraham was tempted to doubt whether God would keep his promise. And when he laid his son on the altar, maybe then he resigned himself to the fact that Isaac would die but God would raise him from the dead. (Gen. 22:9)
- And finally, with the knife in hand, Abraham’s obedience to God was confirmed. (Gen. 22:10)
Then, like in any good action-adventure story, at the very last-minute God saves the day by preventing the sacrifice! (Gen. 22:12)
We can easily see why Abraham was called God’s friend. What trust! What confidence! What obedience Abraham showed during the most difficult test a parent could endure!
But there’s another side to this story that you may have possibly never considered. Abraham could depend on God, and that seems obvious because God never fails, but have you considered how much God could depend on Abraham? Perhaps the whole son-sacrifice ruse wasn’t only to test Abraham’s faith. Maybe God was thinking a few steps ahead. Maybe He was thinking a few centuries or millenniums ahead. God needed to depend on Abraham just as much as Abraham needed to depend on God. Fast forward time and God is thinking about how He can encourage you to be faithful to His word. He needs Abraham to pass the test so that he will serve as a good example to you…and to me and everyone else. God’s friendship with Abraham allowed Him to trust that Abraham would follow the plan, even if he didn’t fully understand it or see how things would work out in the end. Abraham had God’s back, too.
What about you as a wife? Do you only follow a plan that makes crystal clear sense to you? A plan you can 100% agree with? Or, are you a friend to your husband who trusts and has your husband’s back? I realize your husband is not God and sometimes his plans may not work as intended. However, true friends have each other’s backs, always.
A Friend Brings Out the Best in You
Henry Ford (July 30, 1863 – April 7, 1947) was an American captain of industry and a business magnate, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, and the sponsor of the development of the assembly line technique of mass production.
Although Ford did not invent the automobile or the assembly line, he developed and manufactured the first automobile that many middle-class Americans could afford. In doing so, Ford converted the automobile from an expensive curiosity into a practical conveyance that
would profoundly impact the landscape of the 20th century. His introduction of the Model T automobile revolutionized transportation and American industry. As the owner of the Ford Motor Company, he became one of the richest and best-known people in the world. He is credited with “Fordism”: mass production of inexpensive goods coupled with high wages for workers. Ford had a global vision, with consumerism as the key to peace. His intense commitment to systematically lowering costs resulted in many technical and business innovations, including a franchise system that put dealerships throughout most of North America and in major cities on six continents. Ford left most of his vast wealth to the Ford Foundation and arranged for his family to control the company permanently.2
”My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.”3 – Henry Ford
Considering all that Henry Ford accomplished in his lifetime, his quote makes me curious about the friendships he forged. Who were these amazing people who brought out the best in Henry Ford and where can I find some friends like those! The fact is, we are surrounded by people who can have that role in our lives if we’d only let them.
The Bible has a similar saying, found in the book of Proverbs.
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. – Proverbs 27:17
It is said that we are the average of the five or six people with whom we spend most of our time. Think about your inner circle of friends. Are you inspired by their lives? Are they worthy of imitation? Do you want to be like them? Now, while you’re ruthlessly sizing up your unsuspecting friends, imagine what their conclusions might be if they did the same with you! Are you a friend who brings out the best in others? That takes work. That takes courage. That requires living a life on the cutting edge. It involves being someone who is always learning and growing and sharing that experience and knowledge.
Bringing out the best in others also demands being a person who is not afraid of sparks. What do I mean by that? When iron sharpens iron, sparks fly! There’s friction, there’s heat. An active and growing friendship may give off some sparks from time to time. That’s fine if the intent is to spur one another on toward growth, and for Christians, that’s growth in Christ.
Consider your marriage.
Are you able and willing to allow your husband to bring out the best in you? Are you eager to “be spurred on” or “sharpened” by your spouse? Or does he have to tip toe around certain subjects because you’re too sensitive or prideful. Spouses know each other best. Who better than your spouse to see the areas in your character in need of change? Oh, but how hard it is to hear correction from our husbands! Sadly, if you do not have a relationship with your husband where he can openly bring out the best in you with words of encouragement or correction, your friendship may need review and/or repair.
Test your friendship
- Do you look forward to spending time together?
- On a scale of 1 – 10, what’s your level of fun? Smiles? Laughs?
- When you are together, are the activities shared interests or one sided?
- Does your together time depend on an event or activity to sustain it?
- Can an off comment or disagreeable situation easily shake your desire to spend time with your spouse?
- Does supporting your spouse’s efforts, projects or plans feel more like a chore than a delight?
- How do you rate your openness and communication with your husband? And his with you?
- Do you challenge one another to be your best or are some areas off limits to discussion?
- Do you both share in each other’s success? Or does competition and jealousy get in the way?
- How have you brought out the good in your spouse? And vice versa?
“The only way to have a friend is to be one.”4 – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph summed it all up quite nicely. Work on yourself and let your husband work on himself. Share this post with him and open the lines of communication between you. Your friendship will only get better.
Marriage is fantastic when your BFF is your spouse!
As with any check list, this one may show your strengths and weaknesses, what’s already present and what’s missing from your relationship. A check list reveals where you’re at and where you need to go. The good news is you can celebrate what’s going well and make a plan to fortify what’s lacking in your marriage. With reliance on God and some attention to the matter, you’ll soon be checking all the boxes!