Friendship in Marriage
By Debby Gullery
“A friend is someone whose face lights up when they see you…. and who doesn’t have any immediate plans for your improvement.” – Bill Coffin
Friendship is one of the biggest expectations that people have for marriage. Most people hope that their spouses will become or remain their best friend. The problem is that we often don’t treat our spouses in quite the same way that we do our friends.
Part of the difference is that we usually have more fun with friends than with spouses because we don’t live with them or have to deal with the day to day challenges of life with them.
Friendships usually make us feel relaxed, comfortable, trusted and accepted. We don’t judge them or criticize them, and we don’t try to get them to change. Our expectations are different as well, so we tend to be more forgiving and tolerant of their shortcomings. When it comes to our spouses, however, our expectations are much higher because their consequences affect us more!
Friendship in marriage can easily get lost, especially when most of our conversations tend to focus on needs, problems and conflict. We can spend a lot of our time together figuring out mundane things like who will do the dishes or shop for groceries, and who will take the kids to their swim meets or their doctor’s appointments.
To counteract this, couples need to make the time to have fun together and practice listening to each other like friends. It’s important to protect leisure time from conflict, and to plan for down time where you can talk about the things friends talk about. Not the kids, or the bills, or the problems.
I like to suggest that couples commit to a weekly meeting when they can focus solely on discussing their issues and problems. Think about it – if you were running a business, it would quickly fall apart if you didn’t have regular meetings to make sure things were going smoothly. Marriage is no different. It requires constant maintenance and investment.
A weekly meeting can also help those who want to avoid these more challenging conversations to come to the table, and those who tend to nag to get their partners to sit down and talk, can have confidence that they will have time to talk about important issues on a regular basis.
Most importantly, if a couple can relegate their discussions about issues to their weekly meetings, they can prevent these very issues from spilling over and interfering with their friendship time. Scheduling weekly meetings and weekly friendship time is a smart and practical way for a couple to team up and take responsibility for the health of their relationship. So don’t put it off any longer – start today!
This article is adapted from Debby’s book, Small Steps to Bigger Love, available through HSA Publications and on Amazon. It includes a study guide for small group use. Debby is available for couple coaching and workshops and can be reached at email@example.com or at debbygullery.com.