Wouldn’t it be great to marry your best friend? In a world that’s mired with divorce, affairs and couples choosing to stay together ‘for the kids’ sake’, is it possible to turn things around? Can we — starting with you and your spouse — create a revolution of not just well-intended relationship, but thriving, joy-filled, friend-based marriage for a lifetime?
I believe the answer is yes.
But what does it take to both build and maintain a marital friendship, for a lifetime?
First, the relationship has to be based upon friendship — a mutual admiration, companionship, desire to serve each other, spend time with one another, learn and grow together (through trials and success), authentic vulnerability, transparency, and trust.
Secondly, both spouses MUST be committed to safeguarding each other’s heart and mind, as well as the relationship. All too often, ‘life’ gets in the way and comes between spouses, and the friendship that is the glue-bond between the two erodes, dries and falls away. Often this schism happens covertly — it’s not really noticed until something seriously alerts the couple; such as an affair, increased negative conflict, a dried emotional and/or sexual bond, and more. You must ruthlessly protect and tend to your marriage to keep it thriving! Consider the marital relationship and bond as sacrament and paramount, and selfishly focus upon, guard and nurture it...even before ministry, family, kids, friends, work, etc.
Next, remember to PLAY with each other!! Laughter, humor and playfulness are the nectar of a relationship. Laugh together. Play together. Remember to touch. Often! Join in each other’s hobbies and/or sports. Even if you don’t particularly care for or about your spouse's hobbies, likes or interests, consider and devote yourself to taking delight in that which s/he delights! If your spouse is your best friend, it ought to come natural for you to appreciate and find joy in your spouse's joy and delight!!
Incorporate the small things daily. Most couples who thrive and report a higher than average level of satisfaction in their relationship have daily routines that indicate thoughtfulness, consideration, care and intention into the relationship. Such routine can be quite simple — going to sleep together (at the same time, no electronics, etc), waking up together, exercising, praying, eating, cleaning, etc.
Connect with each other in as many ways as possible: Sexually/Physically, Spiritually, Socially, Intellectually, Emotionally and Recreationally. Be creative, continue to explore and come up with new ways to connect on each of these levels and also interweave and combine as many as possibl. For example, Spiritual, Social and Recreational connection can all be combined through being a part of a small group that gets together regularly for recreational fun. Connecting as a couple Spiritually may lead to a greater sense of endearment and care, which leads to Emotional connection, and may lead to Sexual/Physical connection as an outflow of friendship, companionship, closeness.
It’s no secret: those who laugh and play together, usually stay together. Don’t let daily life and/or obligations separate you from the one with whom you have chosen and committed to live life. Laugh, touch, play, maintain and ruthlessly value and protect your marital friendship. And enjoy!
Christopher Dean Coble is a Licensed and Marriage Family Therapist with Community Presbyterian Counseling Center. He specializes in working with couples and groups.