If someone were to ask you what you considered to be qualities of a healthy marriage, more than likely ‘friendship’ would be on that list. Depending upon your season of life it may be higher or lower on your priority list.
Seasons In Marriage
Marriage is the most important human relationship a man and a woman voluntarily commit to in love. It was designed to survive raising kids to adulthood and all of the stresses and strains involved in family life. Obviously, the marriage friendship doesn’t just automatically out-last all of these things. It must be lovingly nourished if it’s to handle the demands placed upon it.
With February being filled with love and romance and all the ooey-gooey parts of being in love, I started thinking more about other seasons in marriage. We go through many different seasons, and although we have many super passionate in-love, can’t-get-enough-of-each-other times, there are times when we are very content just being together. That’s the passionate Spring and content Summer Seasons. There are also Winter and Autumn seasons in your marriage, when things are tough. Friendship is basically out the door, and it’s hard being nice on a daily basis. It’s cold. It’s brutal. The roommate season is the Autumn season. You know, the one where you’re just living together, and only going through the motions of daily life. You’re not fighting. But you’re not really happy either. And it’s hard to get out of it. But it’s very possible.
Today I’m writing to the couples who are in a Friendship Season. The content Summer Season. But also to the Autumn season couples. Because friendship and connection can bring you back to Spring and Summer.
Tending Your Marriage Garden
Marital friendship thrives with the companionship, shelter, and support we give our spouse. Like a garden, it must be wisely tended, watered, weeded, and harvested. If it’s done properly, it will most likely require a generous investment of time, effort, and energy. Jesus affirmed, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21). Husbands know when their wives treasure them. They see it in our eyes, hear it in our voices, feel it in our touch. When we honor our husbands with our time, attention, and presence, we give them the opportunity to understand why their feelings, passions, life experiences, and well-being matter to us. Above all, we invite them to trust that our love for them is non-negotiable.
In Real Life
Last week my husband and I had a disagreement, and in the middle of it, he said, “Nothing I say is important you to anymore. You don’t even ask me about my day, so I feel you have no interest in my life.” It was such a shock to me, and initially I defended and justified myself by saying how busy I am with the kids and the house and my work. And even came up with a few examples of how I asked him about his work!
We were going around in circles, when, in a sudden moment of godly wisdom, I realized it’s not about my words or all the examples I am giving about where I asked him questions. He is not FEELING that I am genuinely interested in him as a person. We are not connecting on one-on-one friendship level where I’m speaking his love language. We discovered that, although my words were asking about him and his day, my body language was showing everything else – from cooking, cleaning, kids, my phone, etc – was more important than him.
Friendships in Every Day Life
Thinking about friendship, I tried to identify what makes my relationship with my closest girlfriends special. Why I am close to them? Think back to a time when a friend gave you the gift of her time, attention, and comfort. How did you feel? What did she do or say that was especially meaningful to you? Can you explain the qualities you most appreciated about her? What do you do with your friend that makes you feel like you’re connecting?
The friends I really connect with, take time to be with me. They say yes to coffee. I feel I matter and they want to prioritise time with me. They listen and really empathise when something is on my heart. And when we’re together, phones are away. They message me on a regular basis. I get funny (and sometimes slightly inappropriate!) photos sent to me.
We accept and forgive easily. And often. If my friend can’t meet up, she doesn’t make excuses about it. I always know where I stand. They take the time, and make the effort, to get to know my likes and dislikes. They support my dreams. Buy into my ideas. And will be over in a heartbeat if I need help. And if I say I’m having a bad day, they will drop everything to listen to my heart.
Are you doing that for your spouse right now?
Let’s Rekindle The Friendship
All the articles I’ve read about marriage in a friendship season, tells you to find something in common or try a new hobby together. But when you’re in a bit of a funk in your relationship, trying to find one thing in a pond of a million things to do together that might connect you, is really harder than it seems. So let me simplify it a little – Take a walk together. Just around the block. And hold hands. No kids. No dogs. Nothing that can distract you from your partner. And try not to fill the silence. (That’s the hardest for me!!)
1. Be Alone. Together.
Have you had a night or weekend away alone together in the past year? What about setting up regularly scheduled dates? (Go check out my budget ideas, if needed) If your husband seems less energized about this idea than you are, keep asking God how your marriage friendship can best be strengthened and renewed. Spending time together is what counts. Getting out alone, away from the dishes, the laundry, the bills, and the kids – even for a brief time – can do your relationship a world of good. As your bond is renewed by your commitment to regularly schedule time alone together, your entire relationship will likely be refreshed.
2. Ask Again
Ask the cheesy get to you know questions…even if you think you know the answer. We are not the same people that we were when we first started dating or the first few years of marriage. Our preferences, likes, dislikes can change and evolve over time. It’s important for us to keep up with those changes with our partner…and one way to do that is by asking open ended questions. Questions like “who would you consider your closest friend to be now?,” “what is your favourite place to go have dinner,?” “what is something you are worried or fearful about now.”
Turn towards your partner more. When your wife is sitting beside you and tells you about a hilarious meme she saw on Facebook, how do you respond? When your husband comes home from work, tosses his keys and phone on the table and says “You won’t believe the day I just had!” , how do you respond? Do you dismissively say “Ag shame man…” OR do you ENGAGE and say “Wow, sounds like it was pretty tough. Anything you want to talk about now?” Whether it’s intentional or not, sometimes we don’t always reciprocate or tune into what our spouse is saying. Or if we do, we respond very passively communicating to our partner that we’re essentially not interested, like I did. Without even really meaning to.
While these may sound like really small moments and not that terrible, these small negative things done often and frequent enough can start to water the seeds of disconnection between partners.
4. Be Nice
Some of the most romantic ideas are often the simplest. If you want to deepen your friendship with your spouse, be nice. People often feel they can be more comfortable with their partners and therefore, do not use manners and niceties as much as they would when out in public or with someone new. But, why should you give your spouse less of your kindness than you would to the barista at your morning coffee shop? Don’t be overly critical of your spouse, cheer them on in their goals, compliment them, express appreciation, say “Please” and “Thank you”, and go out of your way to look for ways to be helpful, romantic, or loving to them.
If you need some more ideas, write some of your thoughts down. This usually helps point me in the direction I should go. And helps me put words to what I am feeling.
I think we are currently in a (fill in the blank) season.
I feel connected to my best friend/s because…
From my husband’s point of view, a close companion would be…
Something we haven’t done together for a long time that we once enjoyed is…
When my husband and I are close, I feel…
I feel most connected to my spouse when…
My husband’s love language is …
Something I can change or do today is…
I hope this encourages your heart, and your marriage in whatever season you are in. In my own marriage, we are constantly trying to out-love each other. And when we forget, these type of reminders help us re-shift our focus.
All my love,