(Read Driscoll’s first essay in this series here.)
How is your friendship with you spouse?
In our research, my wife Grace and I discovered that the determining factor by 70 percent for happy marriages for men and women is friendship. Yet, this aspect is rarely talked about in discussions on marriage today.
When Grace and I first started dating over 20 years ago, we were great friends. Our first dates were not extravagant, but they were fun because we liked to hang out together.
Our first date included a hamburger, a walk along the Seattle waterfront, and a long chat on the beach by a fire. We each made a friend.
Over the years, as the pressures of home and work pressed in, our friendship waned.
We began to live separate lives, putting our energies into tasks rather than into our friendship. This led to hard times in our marriage, as we worked together as partners but didn’t live together as friends.
I began to study friendship and was convicted that, in order to save our marriage, it was vitally important that my wife and I rediscovered our friendship.
In researching our new book, “Real Marriage,” we read all or part of 187 books on marriage, and not one of them focused on the importance of friendship in marriage. Part of the reason we felt compelled to write our book was to help bring to the forefront this immensely important aspect of marriage.
Here is what we believe it means to be F-R-I-E-N-D-S.
F – Fruitful
The primary purpose of marriage is to glorify God, as it is a picture of Jesus and his love for the church (Ephesians 5:22-33). This is not easy. We are often selfish and make foolish decisions.
I know for many this sounds crazy. But, your spouse cannot be your god. They will not be the perfect, ever present, always helping, never harming person in your life.
Only God is fit for a perfect friendship, and through a friendship with Jesus Christ you can learn to be a better friend to your spouse and vice versa.
R – Reciprocal
It only takes one spouse to be friendly, but it takes both spouses to be friends. When spouses are unfriendly, there is conflict and coldness. When one spouse is friendly and the other is not, there is selfishness and sadness. When both spouses strive continually be a better friend, there is increasing love and laughter. The key to having a good friendship with your spouse is to first be a good friend to your spouse.
I – Intimate
Intimacy is ultimately about conversing. As an old proverb says, “The road to the heart is the ear.” When a relationship becomes most intimate, we begin to share our feelings.
We become vulnerable with someone, telling them not just what we do, what we believe, but who we are. Practically, this means looking at your spouse face-to-face rather than staring at the screen on your TV, computer, or phone.
E – Enjoyable
A friendship with an enjoyable spouse can make a world of difference-someone who knows how to have a good time, relax, go on an adventure, or just toss it all to the side. Any couple who hope to exit this life together still holding hands must be friends who have fun along the way and laugh a lot.
N – Needed
We need human friendships in addition to friendship with God. And God’s first answer is a spouse. God said it best, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him” (Genesis 2:18). Anyone who tells a spouse, “I don’t need you,” calls God a liar. Rather, God created marriage to be a great friendship and meet our deepest need for companionship.
D – Devoted
Grace’s Uncle John modeled devotion for us. He was an elderly man whose wife, Gladys, was in a home due to Alzheimer’s. John rented an apartment close to her care facility to faithfully visit her multiple times every day until the day he died. Although Gladys did not remember John or their many decades together, he faithfully sat with her for hours every day because she was his best friend and he loved her. John could have moved on with his life. Instead, he loved her faithfully as a devoted friend, every day staring into her eyes, though she couldn’t remember who he was or even his name.
That is a true friend.
S – Sanctifying
In his book “Sacred Marriage,” author Gary Thomas ask a vital question, “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?” We truly do not
know how selfish and sinful we are until we live with someone in marriage. Most of our dating time is spent pretending to be people we are not, and after a few years of marriage, our spouses start to discover who we truly are. Regarding our selfishness and sin, our spouses do not change us as much as they reveal us. As sanctifying friends, a married couple need to lovingly, humbly, graciously, and kindly speak the truth in love so that they may grow to be more like Jesus.
If you don’t have a great friendship with you spouse, today is a great time to start building that friendship. I encourage you to think over the list above and begin thinking how you can start to be a better friend in order to build a better marriage.