Cultivating Friendship in Marriage

“You understand, there’s only one way off this ship—and divorce is not an option.”  That was the conversation my girlfriend (at the time) and I had in her Dodge Shadow as we approached graduation and were considering marriage. You see, I don’t know what it’s like to do things halfway. I am more of an “all in” or “all out” kind of a guy. So, if I was going to consider marriage to one girl for the rest of my life, I knew I better really like her (in addition to loving her and being attracted and all the other non-negotiables). I knew from TV, movies, family, and friends that marriage was probably not going to be a constant ride on the Love Boat, so the best way to ensure the least amount of misery in our lives would be to marry my best friend.
In the movie When Harry Met Sally, Harry said it best: “A boy and a girl can not be just friends.”
You start to meet for coffee and dinner and whatever and pretty soon you start thinking “not just friends” thoughts. It’s the way it is. So, I figured I’d find a girl who I’d want to spend the rest of my life with. Who I knew would take care of me and I would want to take care of her—and not just right now but a few decades from now. Someone who would laugh at most of my stupid jokes (and there were plenty of those). Someone who would make me smile. Someone with similar interests, likes and dislikes. That’s who I wanted to marry. And if she was hot, well, that’d be a bonus . . . I had seen and heard plenty of stories about people marrying for money or fame. I wasn’t worried about that since I had neither. For me, I cared about loyalty. I knew how hard I loved, and I wanted that same degree in return.
Well, I met her the first day of grad school. Cute, friendly, popular . . . I knew I didn’t have a chance, so we became friends. And eventually pretty good friends. In fact, sometimes it felt like best friends. We laughed a lot, we studied together . . . we really liked each other. Not fifth grade kind of “like each other” either— I mean, I liked her as a person. I appreciated her character and saw the way she treated others with kindness, even strangers. Right at the halfway mark of school, I saw all I needed to see and heard all I needed to hear. Cute became beautiful, friendly became caring, and her popularity became blessed. I knew I was going to marry my best friend.
After 22 years of marriage, friendship has sure come in handy. Our hunch was right. Things weren’t always perfect. But one thing was certain: we never worried about anyone jumping off the ship. It was not an option. We may have thought about it a time or two, but our friendship prevailed.
I never understood those couples that are all lovey dovey . . . you know, the ones that constantly call each other “honey or cookie or sweetie.” That’s just not us. I call her “cook” (in pure rebellion to cookie). Of course I LOVE my wife, but God has shown me that it is really important for me to LIKE my wife. I prefer her. I confidently and gladly and constantly would choose her over and over again because I know that God created her for me.
In the Book of Ephesians, we see Paul outline a cool command for husbands and wives. To the women he says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22 NKJV). Great, right? Most guys I know have that verse highlighted in every color. But one of the next verses is for the dudes and it says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Ephesians 5:25 NJV). Last time I read the story of Jesus, He was treated unfairly, He suffered, and eventually died for her. That is the example God gives me . . . gives us. If He wanted us to be equal, He would have made us equal and instructed us equally. But He didn’t. She submits, and men . . . Be the man. Jesus shows us to love her as He loved the Church—the Church that He willingly gave himself up for. I know for some of us this might be difficult—and all complaints should be directed to the Author. There is no room for whining in the life of a Christian man. It isn’t always easy or fair . . . but neither was the cross. Improve your odds by marrying a friend.
If you’re already married and aren’t friends . . . then become friends. Maybe it’s time for you to PLAY. Consider this:
P – Pray. With and for each other. Pray in the mornings and in the evenings. Text each other during the day, when you are praying for one another. Few things can spice up a marriage more than knowing your spouse hasn’t just been thinking about you, but also praying for you throughout the day.

L – Laugh. The Bible tells us that laughter is like medicine for our souls. Life can be tough. See funny movies together. Go to a comedy show (an appropriate one). Listen to music or look at photographs that would remind you of a less stressful time. At one point, you totally were into each other; smile as you recall that sweet time.
A – Acknowledge. Hopefully, you are both doing the best you can. Remember to acknowledge each other. Guys, do your own version of, “Babe, you look beautiful . . . Dinner is especially delicious . . . I sure appreciate you washing my stinky socks.” Ladies, how about a little, “Thank you for working so hard to support our family and care for the kids . . . I think that little grey coming in makes you look sexy and wise . . . After all these years, I still feel so safe when I’m around you.”
Y – Yearn. For each other. Long to be together. Nothing cultivates a relationship more than time. Spend time together. Not just intimately, but spend quality time together. Do stuff together. Guys, go to the grocery store or the mall together. Ladies, take in a loud action movie with explosions every so often. I suggest you do a little give and take. Whatever it is, spend alone time together outside the bedroom so when you’re there, it will be all the better.
In conclusion, be winsome. The Bible says that whoever wants friends must himself be friendly. Win each other over. Become great friends and then stay friends! You’re gonna need it.