Cultivating Friendship In Marriage
- Dr. David B. Hawkins The Marriage Recovery Center
- 2012 10 Oct
“He’s more like a brother to me than anything,” Katie said during a recent counseling session, referring to her husband, Sam. She appeared sad and detached.
“Why is that?” I asked, as she tugged at her sweater buttons nervously.
Only thirty years old, Katie and Sam had been married for five years, and already the luster of new married life had worn off. They sat apart from each other, barely even looking at one another as they spoke.
“What has happened, folks?” I asked incredulously. “You were madly in love not long ago. What has taken place to cause such distance?
Now they finally looked at each other, yet still appeared perplexed.
“His work,” Katie said. “My work. Our two kids. Keeping the home up. We’ve just drifted apart and now I can’t honestly say that I love him anymore. But, I’d like it to work.”
“How about for you, Sam?” I asked.
“I guess I’d say the same thing,” he began slowly. “I’ve invested a lot of time in my work. Graduate school. We’re both busy in the church. When we do find time for each other, it seems that we’re both kind of on edge.”
As I listened to Sam and Katie talk about their life, it wasn’t hard to notice that they didn’t talk much about each other. They didn’t talk about their connection or any friendship with each other. I needed to explore what they were doing, if anything, to cultivate their friendship.
“So, what do you do with each other?” I asked.
“We go to church as a family,” Katie offered. “Not much else besides that. That’s why we’re here. We know we have to change things, but we’re not sure how.”
I pondered their situation. Their complaint—lacking any friendship or real connection with each other—is a growing complaint in my clinical practice. Couples often find themselves wrapped up in the lives of their children, the demands of work and even church obligations. Family and home pressures seem to absorb remaining energies. Friendship with mates takes a back seat to these responsibilities.
I listened to Katie and Sam talk about their sadness and irritation with one another. When friendship fades, irritability often steps into the gap. We find ourselves acting impatiently, feeling frustration and a sense of sadness about the love that is covered with obligation and responsibility. All of us long, however, for connection, and that was certainly true for Katie and Sam. Together we mapped out a plan to bring back the vitality of friendship both were desperately missing.
One, friendship doesn’t just happen. While it may come easily during the early stages of a relationship, after time other responsibilities crowd in and friendship requires greater time and attention. You cannot passively sit back and expect friendship to appear, any more than you would with other relationships.
Two, friendship requires time. We may say that friendship is important to us, but if we don’t give it the time it deserves, it simply won’t happen. Friendship is, after all, a relationship. Friendship is a dynamic, ever-changing relationship. It never stays the same.
Scripture has much to say about friendship, and in fact is filled with stories of friendships. None are perhaps more poignant that Ruth 1:1 who cared for one another in a deep way. What is so touching to me about this caring relationship is the time and energy both invested in each other. They made sacrifices to be with each other and meet emotional and physical needs. We must model our friendship after their patterns of interacting.
Three, friendship can always be cultivated. It is never too late to cultivate, or re-cultivate your marital friendship. Do this by taking an active interest in your mate. Ask questions about their day, anticipating the issues concerning them and the excitements that they carry in their hearts. Care enough to know what your mate is passionate about. Seek to understand them.
Four, friendship requires fun. Break out of your routines and do something spontaneous with your mate. Boredom is the product of doing the same things, in the same ways at the same times. Dare to shake things up a bit. Get away for the weekend, without the kids, to a new location. See some new sights, eat some new foods, and take in some new activities. Have some fun.
Finally, friendship requires that YOU be friendly. As important as the weekends away are to light that spark again, friendship is built upon the small things of everyday life. Don’t forget to smile at your mate, encouraging them at key moments, laughing about the craziness of life. Be a friendly and interesting person and your mate will likely be one back.
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Publication date: October 2, 2012