When I think about my marriage, and marriage in general, I firmly believe our spouses must be our best friends in life. After all, this is the person you will do life with. The romantic aspects of a marriage will be built upon a base of friendship. Sadly, many marriages fall into this “auto-pilot,” stagnate status because we quite putting for the effort to be friends. In a recent newsletter from Marriage Today, Pastor Jimmy Evans shares seven tips to consider when trying to foster a solid friendship with your mate. I’ve taken some liberty to add a little here and there to what Evans shared.
- Be faithful. Being faithful in marriage is a no brainer. With a lack of faith there can be trust, and without trust a friendship will not thrive. The Bibles says in Proverbs 17:17, “a friend loves at all times, but a brother is born for adversity.” In other words, the strongest friendships are cemented during hard times. Deep friendships are forged during times of adversity in a marriage. That’s when you pay the closest attention and learn to trust. Living in the tension and not wavering develops the faithfulness needed for true friendship.
- Believe in each other. Simply speaking, you are supposed to be your spouse’s biggest fan and cheerleader. One of the reasons God created marriage is to help spouses bring each other to their full potential. He made woman to complete the man and each of them have designed functions. For instance, a husband provides a nurturing, protective environment for his wife. Similarly, a wife establishes an atmosphere of praise and respect for her husband. Men and women will flourish in these environments. Two people who believe in each other will both become the best versions of themselves.
- Embrace your differences. They say, “opposites attract” and research proves this to be true. In a normal marriage, the husband and wife are not carbon copies of each other. There are differences and these differences are probably opposites in many ways. Will you rejoice in your differences or criticize them? Will you try to change him or her to meet your needs? Instead of forcing your spouse to become more like you, celebrate the ways the two of you are compatible. Identify where one’s strengths match up to another’s weaknesses, then thank God for those differences.
- Be real and transparent. As mentioned previously, true friendship is based on faith and trust. With this faith and trust, friendship means being able to be honest and transparent without fear of retribution. Share your heart with your spouse and talk about opinions, hopes and dreams. By doing this you allow your spouse into your world and become an active member. Most importantly, allow your spouse to be real and transparent, too. When your spouse is safe to share their opinions, hopes and dreams with you, you are then able to operate in the role of encourager.
- Be a refuge. As described above, transparency is impossible if one spouse feels unsafe opening up to the other. That transparency is fostered in faith and trust, and when these ingredients are present a safe place is developed. That’s why a husband and wife must be each other’s safe place. When anything good or bad happens in their lives, they go to each other first. Crying to mommy or daddy is not an option. This requires listening, openness, and a nonjudgmental spirit.
- Be fun and creative. Having fun together in marriage dramatically improves a relationship. When you were perusing your spouse, there was effort and energy exuded in order to win them. In fact, one of the danger signs for divorce is when a husband and wife quit trying and no longer enjoy each other’s company. When was the last time you laughed together? When was the last time you pursued a hobby together? Plan dates and play games. Flirt, tease and romance each other like when you were first dating. Work hard at having fun.
- Bear each other’s burdens. In Galatians 6:2 the Bible calls for believers to “bear one another’s burdens.” This is a picture of bolstering someone up under a heavy load. If “a brother is born for adversity,” then friends step up when it’s time to serve one another, and help carry the load. That might mean physically helping or it might mean supporting a spouse emotionally. Get into the habit of checking in with your spouse and ask, “How are you?” or “What do you need?” Never shrink or step back and watch your spouse suffer without stepping in to help. You are friends, and that’s what friends do.
When a marriage struggles, it’s often because a husband and wife have lost focus. They’ve poured their energy into work or into their kids and they’ve forgotten that they are supposed to be best friends. Re-establish your friendship and a more successful marriage will follow.