Would you like to be friends?
Not necessarily with me … but with your spouse?
Popular culture would say we should start with strong lust, but if your goal is a marriage that will last, friendship has more staying power than desire and needs to be acted on first, middle, and last.
Paul Coleman, Psy.D., author of The 30 Secrets of Happily Married Couples and a contributor to All-in-One Marriage Prep, says, “Friendship is a form of intimacy. It represents a sharing, an openness, a willingness to be vulnerable. It requires a degree of trust. Friends show caring to one another by their availability, their thoughtfulness.”
All of that translates into ensuring you have many different experiences with your partner over time before your engagement and definitely before your wedding.
When we are friends with our partner, we watch out for what’s best for one another. We support through thick and thin. We enjoy each other’s company, help each other laugh, and work and play well with each other. We don’t squabble over the toys in the sandbox; we are adult partners together. Although a water balloon fight once in awhile might be a fun idea!
A key part of being friends is offering encouragement. We help each other excel. We anticipate potential pitfalls. We make connections. We nurture creativity. We listen to the tears and complaints…for awhile…but then nudge or boot each other along into the light.
Friends pray together and play together.
Who wouldn’t want this in a spouse?
Is it everything? Not hardly, but it’s a key piece.
Dr. Coleman says, “It is the brick in the foundation–a necessary part of a marital foundation, but incomplete without other factors that hold the brick in place.” Like faithfulness, love of children, and more.
When we are friends together, then we also recognize when we have mutual friends who are in support of our relationship or marriage. These friends help remind us of what we love in our mates, encourage our commitment, and support the strength of our bond. They validate that our relationship is healthy and viable…or that we need to get some help.
Not everyone is a fan of checklists, but sometimes it really is a good idea to take a gentle, loving inventory so we can set goals to improve.
Here’s mine so you can say whether your relationship is at low, medium, or high level on each factor:
Qualities of an Excellent Friendship
- Good communication; ability to share honestly about positive and difficult matters
- Acknowledgement and affirmation of positive qualities in each other
- Enjoyment of quiet, peaceful time together
- Play, fun, and laughter
- Acceptance; allowing both partners to be themselves
- Support and appropriate sympathy, empathy, and help during difficulties
- Enthusiasm for individual and shared goals and achievements
- Loving, spiritual connection (such as through prayer, meditation, activities)
- Trust that shared information will kept confidential and not used hurtfully
- Reliability; trustworthiness
- Willingness to suspend judgment and avoid jumping to conclusions
- Common experiences and bonding memories
- Ability to work together on projects
- Agreed-upon boundaries and expectations
- Shared interests
- Willingness to learn together and from one another
- Ability to disagree peacefully and constructively
- Shared values
- Ability to reconnect easily after being apart
- Motivational feedback or nudging that constructively influences the other to grow
- Attitude of forgiveness, not holding grudges, and willing to grant another chance
- Respectfulness and equality
If you measure up well on these factors before marriage, then check them out again each anniversary and keep going. As Dr. Coleman says, “When passion has its ups and downs, friendship is the stabilizing force. It says ‘I care…you are important to me…’.”