What is friendship? And can you be friends with your spouse? In today’s podcast, I look at how to cultivate friendship within your marriage.
What is friendship? There are a number of definitions for friendship. Whether you are looking up the word in the dictionary or it’s usage in the Bible, I think we all have a basic understanding of friendship. It’s something we’ve all experienced at some level, and it basically boils down to two people saying of each other “I like that one right there, and I want to spend time doing things with you.”
Friendships come and go. We have friends in one season of life that we grow apart when we move into new seasons. My friends from childhood have moved into the realm of acquaintance. Friends I hung out with in college now live all over the country, and we rarely meet up. We pick-up friends from work, from church, from our hobbies, and everywhere in between. Most people only have a small handful of friends. And as we get older, our friends are few and far in between as the demands of life put strain on even the best of friendships.
The Difficulty Of Being Friends With Your Spouse
The topic might be difficult for some, because through marriage your spouse is now family.
And family can be difficult, as the idea of “family” implies oaths, duties, and obligations. Most friendship doesn’t come with such baggage. Friendship can definitely have a sense of commitment to help someone you consider close to you when they go through hard times.
But friendship tends to be thought of as something centered around the possibility of being in a carefree relationship and just having a good time around mutual interests. Friends that become heavy burdens usually don’t survive as friends. After all, we usually have enough family to burden us. The last thing we want are burdensome friendships.
So, for many of us, family is family and friends are friends.
Friendship With The Opposite Sex
The truth is, friendship with the opposite sex can be a tricky area to navigate.
Back in my Josh Harris “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” phase of my life, in which I had many female “friends,” I eventually came to the opinion that it’s really not possible to have strong friendships with the opposite sex, especially if there is any physical chemistry.
Over time that becomes nothing but a source of frustration, especially if what you really want is a romantic relationship but just end up in “the friend zone.” That physical chemistry always complicates things, especially as you get older, or get involved in a romantic relationship with someone else.
Maybe that sounds like something out of “When Harry Met Sally,” but as a general rule of thumb it is true. We all know it, and any exceptions to this rule of thumb is rare. And anyone who says otherwise is probably lying to themselves, or is just naive about life and the nature of their relationships. Physical chemistry between friends will eventually ruin the friendship.
Cultivating Friendship In Marriage
So, at what place does friendship enter into the picture when it comes to marriage? Should spouses even be friends? Can they be? And is marriage richer for cultivating friendship with your spouse?
It might be strange to think of your spouse as your friend. Because when I started dating my wife, I didn’t do so with the intention of making friends. I went out with her because she was physically attractive to me, had a great sense of humor, shared a lot of common values with me, and was someone I saw as possible marriage material.
But had our romantic relationship not worked out, I would not have tried being her friend. I tried that a time or two with a couple girls over the years, and it was always a disaster. To try and be friends with an ex after breaking up is folly. For the thing that brought them together as a couple was the stuff of romance, not friendship.
So, can you be friends with your spouse?
Friendship Can’t Be Your Primary Concern In Marriage
I believe you can and should be friends in your marriage. But friendship should not be your primary concern.
Rather, we need to understand that your relationship with your spouse isn’t grounded in friendship first, but rather, it is grounded in the covenant of marriage. The marriage relationship itself must be central, not the friendship.
If you base your marriage off whether or not your friendship with your spouse is thriving, your marriage will die. You’ll just have a business relationship with each other until your business ends. Friends can come and go, but your marriage is for the rest of your life.
The Marriage Relationship Is Primary
Friendship is something that grows out of a healthy marriage. But before I am friends with my wife, I must be a husband who seeks to love, honor, and cherish my wife. I must seek to love her as Christ loved the church. I must pour myself into my marriage, and do everything to cultivate a healthy marriage.
And from that, a friendship may bloom.
From that, mutual common interests can be discovered. When my wife and I first started dating and got engaged and married, besides an intense interest in each other, we didn’t have a lot in common. A friend of mine asked what hobbies we had in common, and the truth was… not much. We liked to cook. We liked going to church. And that was about it.
It is our common interest to each other that drew us together. And it is the commitment my wife and I have made in marriage that allows us to grow together, from which we have cultivated a great friendship.
Growing The Friendship In Marriage
Now there is nothing I’d rather do than be with my wife. I do things with other folks for sure. I have other friends apart from my wife. But in almost everything, when I want to do something or experience something, I seek to do it with my wife first and foremost. I try to include her in most everything that I am interested in, and most of the time, she’s more than happy to join me in whatever I am doing, and vice versa.
That’s not to say we do anything and everything together. We have things we do on our own. We have our own TV shows that we like to watch that the other does not. She has very different tastes in music. In fact, I’m not even a big fan of music. She listens to some random Miley Cyrus songs. I prefer listening to podcasts and talk radio.
So, what can you ultimately do to cultivate friendship in your marriage with your wife? Or your husband?
Focus on being a better husband. Focus on being a better wife. Practice the things that help you be a better spouse. Make time for them. Lift them up to the Lord. Encourage them. Help them. Bear one another’s burdens. Eat together and go on dates. Seek to love them in all things.
And from there, a life long friendship will grow.