Did you love your spouse when you married them? You’re probably thinking, “Well, of course, I did!” You’re not alone; most couples would say they did. But what about the couples who, after a few years of being married, say they no longer do? Did they ever really love each other, or is it really possible to fall “out of love?”
I love marrying couples. It is much like being the doctor who delivers babies; weddings are usually a happy occasion. When I speak directly to the couple, I remind them that love is a verb. It doesn’t just happen; you have to be doing something to demonstrate your love for the other person. And love is unconditional. For most couples, the foundation of their relationship is built on mutual attraction. Now don’t get me wrong, this is not necessarily a bad thing. You want to have mutual attraction. But those early “butterflies in the stomach” won’t get you through hardships and losses, and if we’re being truly honest, we know they’re not enough to sustain a marriage on a day-to-day basis. What I want you to hear in this week’s blog is that the real key to a happy and enduring marriage, one built on a love that will last, is FRIENDSHIP. Here are few practical ways you can be a good friend to your spouse.
Real deep, I know, but despite this sounding incredibly obvious, even silly, this is so often neglected in a marriage. Isn’t it easy to let days or weeks go by without talking about anything meaningful but logistics, like who’s going to the store or picking up the kids from practice? That’s why you hear me talking so much about “date nights” on this blog. You have to be intentional about scheduling opportunities for you and your spouse to spend time together and really chat. It could be taking a 10-15 minute walk around your neighborhood after you get home from work. I was able to have a dinner out with my wife this week. We visited a new restaurant. Nothing fancy, just nice to be together. Talking with your spouse in meaningful ways builds understanding, trust, and closeness. All three are fundamental to a happy marriage.
Explore Your Spouse’s Interests
Taking an interest in the things your spouse enjoys is an important way to demonstrate that you care. If everything you do or talk about revolves around one person’s interests, this is clearly a selfish relationship and one that will not do well in the long run. Learning more about your spouse’s interests helps you understand and appreciate them in a different way, as you realize how their interests fit together with what you already know about them. Who knows, you may find yourself actually enjoying what at first you thought you wouldn’t.
There’s another bonus to all of this. It helps show that you accept your spouse for who they are. Knowing we’re accepted by our spouse helps us feel safe, not just in our marriage, but in our lives, because we know we have someone we can be real with and lean on no matter what life brings. This is what we all want, right? So, make it a point to spend some time doing something your spouse enjoys as a way to signal you care and accept them.
Build Shared Interests
Do you and your spouse tend to end up in different rooms on evenings and weekends, doing your own thing? Beyond exploring your spouse’s interests, why not try finding a common interest that both of you can embrace? For me and my wife, we found that we both like exercising, going to the theater, and attending sporting events. We do our best to find windows in our schedules (which is not always easy) where we can do something we both enjoy. If you follow my advice about date nights and talking, you can use some of that time to come up with something you already know you like, write the ideas down and try it. Keep trying until you find the perfect fit! Don’t feel like you have to stick with one thing forever. As the seasons or your interests change, keep things fresh by switching to something new. The point here is to get out there regularly and do something together– something we do with our friends, but often forget to do with our spouses.
Keep Up On the Little Things
Friends check in, so make sure you’re doing the same for your spouse. Send a quick message asking how lunch was, or how their morning meeting went. Send a quick “I love you,” or a joke, or at least a GIF! If you can, plan to meet for lunch or coffee just as you would with other friends. Make yourself a positive presence in your spouse’s life even during the day when you’re apart.
It’s funny, isn’t it, how we have certain habits that keep friendships going strong, but forget they could be helpful for our marriage, too? So shift your thinking. Remind yourself that your spouse is your friend. I guarantee it will strengthen your marriage.