It seems like a simple enough concept, but it’s one aspect of a marriage that gets stamped out first. Whether this is due to neglect or it’s done purposely, it probably depends on the individual couples.
But how it happens ultimately doesn’t matter. The fact that it does happen is the truly sad thing.
What am I talking about? Friendship. Research on marital relations indicates that for the vast majority of couples, the most important goal is to ensure that their spouse is their friend — and that he or she in return, is a friend to the mate.
This makes sense. Moms since the beginning of time have been telling their daughters this. “All else, good looks… sexual attraction… matter little if you and your husbands aren’t friends first.”
Not surprisingly, then, when marriages are young and relationships are healthy, most spouses acknowledge this friendship factor. In fact, it may surprise some women to learn that men actually describe their wives as their best friend more often than women do.
If you can nourish — or rekindle — that friendship, then there’s little doubt your marriage can, indeed, still be saved.
What’s This Friendship Stuff All About Anyway?
In order to be a friend, though, you really need to know what a friend is. If you were to ask a dozen random individuals exactly what a friend is, you’d receive a dozen different answers.
But generally speaking, a friend is a person with whom you can relax, talk to about your feelings and dreams, and a person who’s there when times get tough.
Friends are important for you — not only emotionally but physically as well. Research reveals that your friends can actually provide you with that much needed buffer during some of life’s roughest moments. Those individuals who have at least one good friend do better in almost every conceivable way — including their mental and physical health.
The most powerful aspect of friendship, studies reveal, is the feeling of intimacy and connection with the other person. Men and women approach this aspect differently.
And this approach can sometimes lead to misunderstanding. Women share with friends during face-to-face communications. They put all activity aside while they discuss issues.
Men, on the other hand, tend to talk about and share their feelings as they do something else.
In a marriage, friendship is hearing your partner’s heart in the ways he or she is most able to share it. And that can take any number of forms. That means creating those bonds of friendship is unique to your marriage.
Your job is to learn to listen carefully for what is in your partner’s heart and soul. Then you can share what’s in yours. Sounds easy enough, now doesn’t it? So what could possibly go wrong? Plenty in today’s high speed world.
First, let’s take the issue of time. Far too often the maintenance of your friendship with your spouse takes a backseat to such events as work, the needs of your children, meetings and a host of any other number of things.
Sometimes the friendship slips because of a skewed view of it. Listen to this shift in attitude. Eighty percent of engaged and newlywed couples say that their partner is their best friend. Theoretically, you’d expect those bonds to tighten as the years pass.
However, those couples that have been married for a while view themselves as “just married.” They no longer identify themselves as friends first — or friends at all, for that matter!
Those marriages, though, in which the spouses recognize and nurture the initial friendship, are among the strongest and longest lasting.
When The Talking Stops
One reason this view ensues is that as time passes, marriage partners simply stop talking to each other as friends. They seem to put their “friendship talk” on hold and only discuss the problems or issues of their marriage. You’re cheating yourselves of the intimacy you used to so readily share.
Let’s go one step further with this idea. Many individuals in a marriage eventually build a wall around them. And you can easily understand it — even if it’s a damaging action.
It’s difficult, after all, to share your hopes and dreams with a personal you’re currently mad at or experiencing a major disagreement with. We’ve talked earlier about the habit some partners have of interpreting everything you say in a negative light. Who’s going to bare their soul just to have someone stick a knife in it in an argument they experience next week? Why give your spouse any more ammunition?
If the two of you have a continuing argument ensuing over an issue, chances of sitting down for a heart-to-heart on other topics is extremely low.
Consider, for example, this potential situation. You’re involved in a great friendship talk with your spouse when the topic somehow turns to a household problem, ending in an argument.
Chances of starting another round of friendly conversation have probably declined. You’re now fearful that the conversation can turn sour at any time with little to no advance warning. And I can’t say your fear is baseless in this instance.
Now, How Do I Preserve My Friendship?
Great friends question each other. Great friends get together to talk to each other. Great friends stay in touch.
Some parts of this answer may appear hopelessly simplistic. Some of these suggestions are easy enough to offer them quickly. But realize they may be far more difficult to implement.
If time to talk is an issue for you — then make the time. I know one couple who talk early in the morning, first cups of coffee in their hands. And they sit there chattering away about just about anything that pops into their heads.
This habit started simply enough for them. For a period of time, the husband needed to get up at 4:30 a.m. to leave for work at 5:30 a.m. The wife obviously didn’t need to rise that early. But she did because it was the only time they could find without the interference of children to talk to each other.
This marriage at this point easily could have begun to fall apart. Instead, it grew stronger as they enjoyed their special time together.
Without even knowing it, this couple was protecting and preserving their friendship. Research now indicates the importance of this action. Creating time for the nurturing of your friendship is one of the key investments you can make in your marriage.
It’s that important. Search for time. Create special times to do just this. Whether you rise earlier, stay up later talking, or create a date night for that type of conversation, it’s well worth the effort.
You need to take one more step though. And in some marriages this may be a giant leap. Some couples find friendship talks always ending up as “conflict disagreements” over household issues. Don’t let that happen.
If you have to set up “game rules” so to speak to avoid this, then by all means do so.
Friendship Talks Deepen and Strengthen Your Marriage
By doing this, you’ll realize your friendship talks are deepening and strengthening your marriage. This way you’re providing the necessary infrastructure to survive the conflict talks that are bound to emerge.
If you wake up early in the morning to renew your friendship, don’t mar this time by bringing up potential conflict issues.
Don’t consider this avoidance; think of it as prudent planning. Your relationship will be all the more stronger for this.
Sadly, some couples are so removed from this idea that they have no clue where to begin this “friendship talk” stuff. If this describes your marriage, don’t abandon the idea. It may take a little work, but it can definitely happen.