Friendship is the foundation of a good marriage. That seems obvious, but research has shown that people who are great friends are also more likely to be highly satisfied in their marriage. So, if you want a happy marriage, cultivate a deep friendship with your partner.
The trouble is, life gets in the way. You’re both busy. You have issues that require immediate attention, and these keep cropping up while you put your relationship on hold. The friendship you had when you first got married begins to fray around the edges through lack of attention. If this continues, you face slogging through a marriage without the intimacy of friendship.
The good news is, you can strengthen your friendship, and therefore strengthen your emotional connection. Which is important, because without it, you feel like you go through the tough stuff with your partner, and you are left with no rewards of good moments. That means all work and no fun.
How can you strengthen your friendship?
Share. When you get married, you share a commitment with your partner. You commit to one another. You support each other during hard times, and you celebrate during good times. You commit to being a team, and all that that entails. Sometimes you need to be the strong one and lead the team, and sometimes you have to compromise and sublimate your wishes for the good of the team.
In the beginning of your relationship, you find out about one another and discover shared interests and differences. He may be a sports person. You may be an indoor person. It’s fine not to be glued together in all activities all the time. It may even be good. But you probably have shared values and some shared interests, which is how you got together in the first place. When you find yourself feeling adrift in your relationship, it’s time to maximize the things you enjoy together.
Give and Take
If each of you focuses on your own needs without much thought to your partner’s, you’re both taking. Eventually, this constant taking can degenerate into resentment and score-keeping, especially if the “taking” is lopsided. The person who gives more is going to feel it.
Instead of taking, it makes sense to give to the relationship, to nurture the well-being of your partner and to help him thrive. It’s in your best interest because you’ll be more likely to have a happy, successful person as a spouse. When you invest time and effort in each other, you both thrive. This can be a common touchstone for a good friendship and a positive emotional connection.
Concrete Things to Do to Foster Friendship
Remember what you used to do together and try to resurrect activities you used to find fun. Make fun a priority.
Schedule a date night on a regular basis and put your partner first. No cell phones at the dinner table. No doing that work e-mail. Pay attention to each other.
Talk about the future and things you’d like to do. How does he feel about getting a dog? How does she feel about going to New Zealand?
Listen before you speak. Don’t be formulating what you’re going to say while she’s speaking. Just listen. Ask questions. Absorb.
Be open to trying new things. If your spouse wants to go bungie jumping, and this would cause you to scream, running from the room at the mere suggestion, at least consider how you might support him before you say no.
Tend to issues quickly, before they fester. If there’s a problem in your relationship, talk about it, even if you don’t have a solution. Just acknowledging it might be enough.
Reassure your spouse you’ve got his back. Emphasize your support for one another. Be encouraging. In other words, behave like a good friend.
When you keep nurturing your friendship, you are building a marriage with the best chances of longevity. Because you’ll both be having fun and enjoying each other.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: https://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact