I heard it said once that good friendship can be compared to standing in wet cement. The longer one stays in it, the more difficult it is to leave. And, even when the friend is not around, their footprint will always be left behind. When Lynne and I were first dating, we spent hours and hours simply hanging out with each other. There was certainly a physical attraction between us, but frankly we just enjoyed each other’s company and getting to know each other better. Within a few short months of constantly being in the presence of one another, it was obvious that we had become each other’s best friend. Now, looking back over 35 years later, Lynne and I can confidently say it was our commitment to God and our close friendship that helped us stick together during the difficult times in our marriage. But, isn’t sticking together what good friends are supposed to do? Apparently, God thinks so.
In Proverbs 18:24, Solomon writes, “A man who has many friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." Interestingly, the word “sticks” that Solomon uses here is the same word found in Genesis 2:24 for “cleave." If so, God places incredibly high value on friendship in marriage, knowing friendship is the glue that enables a husband and wife to cleave to each other throughout the course of their relationship. Some of you might be saying to yourself, “We were friends like that once, but somehow events and unmet expectations have taken their toll on our friendship.” Or, you might be thinking, “We quickly became lovers, assuming the friendship would naturally develop in time. But somehow, that time never came." If you resonate with either of these statements, or if you and your spouse have a friendship, but can’t say you’re best friends, here are a few thoughts for you to consider.
First, good friendships require time and intentionality. Our friendship grew rapidly because we spent hours together - and enjoyed it! It may be difficult for you and your spouse to currently enjoy spending a lot of time together, so start slowly. Simply be intentional to spend more time together than you do now. Go on a date once a week. Take time to go for a walk, grab a soda or a cup of coffee. Even though Lynne and I are together literally every day in our ministry, we still have to be intentional at maintaining and growing our friendship. Spending time with other couples who demonstrate being “best friends” is another great way to learn how to become best friends over time.
Second, many friendships slowly grow apart mainly because of the lack of communication and the unmet expectations that breeds. When you’re together, try focusing your attention on your spouse. For example, try learning or discussing the events in their day or possibly even their dreams and aspirations, as opposed to thinking about how he or she doesn’t ask you about your day or inquire about your dreams or aspirations. Chances are you know how to engage your spouse in positive communication as well as what tends to shut them down. Try your best to keep your communication positive (Proverbs 15:23).
Lastly, a great way to grow a friendship is by following Solomon’s advice mentioned earlier. Be a friend yourself. Consider taking time to make a list of a few attributes you believe describe being a good friend. Then, once you have completed your list, beside each attribute, write down one way you can demonstrate that same characteristic to your spouse. I have discovered that one of the most effective ways for me to stop the “pity party” of the ways Lynne doesn’t meet my needs is to serve her based on what I know about her needs and wants. Like me, you'll probably discover that most of them are similar to the things you enjoy. While not easy at first, the more I made the effort, the easier it became.
Many things have changed in our marriage over the last three decades, both environmentally and physically—some of them in ways I would not prefer. Even so, the two things that continue getting stronger today are the same two things that became foundational in our relationship 35 years ago: our commitment to the Lord and our desire to grow our friendship. Our prayer for you and your marriage is for you to experience the same in yours.