If you could change one thing about the first 10 years of your marriage, what would it be?
“This is my beloved and this is my friend.” —A wise wife in Song of Songs 5:16
March 12, 1988, was one of the most important days of my life, right after the day of my birth and the day of my new birth as a Christian. It was on that day that I had my first date with Grace.
We were both 17 and could not have fathomed where we are today, with five kids and a ministry trying to help others with honest, practical, biblical teaching. My relationship with Grace involves numerous roles, but one that we both cherish is our friendship.
Our relationship started as a friendship, but somewhere along the way got stuck. We talk about some of this in honest detail in Real Marriage, but the big idea is that we did not pull the weeds in our friendship, and pretty soon it began to wither.
In more recent years, by God’s grace, we have been hard at work to pull those weeds, and our friendship has flourished as a result. We dedicate an entire chapter in Real Marriage to friendship, and it’s the favorite chapter for us both.
Reflecting on friendship in marriage more recently, I can think of seven reasons why friendship is essential to a healthy and happy marriage.
1. Friendship makes a marriage more resilient.
Many relationships come and go. When we are in school, for example, some relationships feel incredibly close and important, but then we graduate and never again speak with the people who filled up our yearbook with declarations of lifelong friendship.
When we are in the workplace, we can spend so many hours together with co-workers that it seems like they are near and dear friends. But once we get another job, we never return to our old place of employment and quickly lose touch with nearly everyone we used to eat lunch with on a regular basis.
If we look back on our lives, the relationships that are most likely to endure transition through such things as life stages, employment and geography are friendships. When we have true friendships, we endure a lot more to keep those relationships, and as a result they are more resilient.
Subsequently, when a husband and wife have a genuine friendship that they have invested in and are committed to, their marriage will be more resilient. It will endure the ups and downs, trials and temptations, and celebrations and frustrations that life brings, because that is what friends do: They hang in there.
2. Friendship makes a marriage more natural.
When someone is your friend, they do not have to push themselves into your life or pull you into theirs. With friends, the door to your life is just open.
Friends call, drop by, check in and ask favors pretty much whenever they need to. When you are going to do something fun, you reach for your friend. When you’ve had a rough day, you reach for your friend. When you are facing a big decision, you reach for your friend. When something wonderful happens and you have to share it, you reach for your friend.
When we have true friendships, we endure a lot more to keep those relationships, and as a result they are more resilient.
When a husband and wife are friends, life together is simply more natural. They just communicate more, hang out more, share more and do more together. This is not because they have to, but because they want to. This is not because it is a duty, but because it is a delight.