Hope you had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend. We had some great weather here in Indianapolis. I pray you did as well. You may recall that in a previous blog, I discussed the importance of choosing the right friends and how if you choose the wrong ones, it could undermine your marriage if you are not careful. I got some interesting feedback, which made me wonder if it made sense to spend a little more time on the topic. So in the month of June, I am going to accentuate the positive, as the old song goes, and do a series of articles on how healthy relationships can improve our lives. This week, the focus is on how the right type of friendships can actually enhance your marriage.
The tricky thing about being friends with another couple is that it’s hard not to compare our marriage to theirs. Maybe you’re happy in your job, but you keep fielding suggestions that you need to get something better. Perhaps you and your spouse don’t plan to have children, but your friends keep asking when you’re going to start a family. Maybe your friends go to a certain church or have certain extracurricular activities that don’t interest you but you feel a certain level of pressure to do what they do or go where they go and this has become an emotional drain. If this is you, you should strongly consider seeking out new friends — people who don’t expect your marriage to look just like their own. Acceptance is a necessary and wonderful quality in our friends.
Most of us are aware of a gap between the spouse we are, and the one we’d like to be. I am nearly twenty-three years into my marriage and I still have room to improve. Let’s face it, no one is perfect. But there are times when we watch another couple deal with a situation and think, “Wow, it never occurred to me to handle a problem that way.” There are people who are so affectionate and comfortable with each other that we’re happy to be in their company. If we’re lucky, they’re also a couple we can talk to, and they’re comfortable sharing stories about the hurdles they’ve encountered. This can be fantastic for our own marriage! We get a front row seat for what a great marriage looks like, and we can see how it’s attainable! Even chatting with our spouse about how much we enjoy the other couple’s company affirms our goals.
This, by the way, is a good reason not to limit ourselves to friends our own age. Couples who are a bit older than us have already been through some of the life stages we’re struggling with, and they can provide some perspective on our situation. So don’t overlook what could be a fantastic friendship because of a generation gap.
Let’s face it; marriage is hard work, as is raising kids. Many couples we interact with will be friendly and fun, but when we have an illness, loss of a job, car trouble, or some other major life event, we need couples who will show up with casseroles, carpool help, and a listening ear. We should all strive to be that kind of friend, and we should prioritize relationships with couples we can count on to reciprocate. If you have friends who are only around when they need something, then I hate to tell you this but they are not friends, they are takers.
You’re probably thinking, “Isn’t this the same as reliable?” But I’m not talking about that kind of faith. I’m talking about the kind of faith that serves as both a foundation and a path. For many of us, this is such an important part of our lives that we genuinely need friends who “speak our language,” and share similar values. In fact, friends of other faiths may have an easier time “getting it” than friends who are not religious. If you have a church home or someone has referred you to one, start there. Find a couple’s group to join, and then look for the kinds of friends who “speak your same language.” I can tell you this; my marriage would have ended a long time ago if I didn’t have a group of friends who “spoke my same language.” Their encouragement and outlook on life made all the difference. It can for you as well. So see what happens.
Both you and your spouse will have individual friendships, but great comfort and value can be found in relationships with other couples. So prioritize and nurture those relationships. It really can be the difference between success and failure for your marriage. You’ll be glad you did!