Most couples want friendship to be at the very core of their marriage. They want their spouse to be their best friend, someone who supports them, and a loyal companion for life.
Nothing is more important to the long term health of your marriage than to stay very good friends with your spouse. If you have been together for a while and have lost your friendship then it is time to work hard to get it back.
When Glen and Maggie first came to see me, they no longer felt like friends. Slowly their life together had crowded out the strong friendship they had earlier. Cultivating friendship with each other had taken the back seat to competing interests: their jobs, the needs of their children, paying the bills and in-laws.
They didn't even behave like friends any more – they were arguing, treating each other rudely, and letting conflicts erode their friendship.
When couples aren't good at keeping conflict from entering their fun times together, it becomes impossible to keep friendship alive in the marriage. That is exactly what had happened to Glen and Maggie, but they were ready to work hard to get their friendship back.
The following are steps a couple can take to bring back and nurture friendship in their marriage.
1. Make time for each other. Carve out time for friendship and make it a priority. You might need to get rid of some activities or change your lifestyle to allow more time for each other.
2. Cultivate mutual interests. It has been said “When we are doing things together friendship springs up”. Glen and Maggie decided to go backpacking in the summer, and started researching hiking trails and camp sites together. This became an activity where they enjoyed each other as friends.
3. Explore each other's interests. Maggie joined Glen to watch his favourite sports team and found she really enjoyed it. Glen took up gardening so he could spend more time with Maggie doing what she loved.
4. Protect your friendship from conflict. Handle conflict well and use it to sharpen your marriage – not destroy it. Glen and Maggie both needed to learn how to stop bickering and arguing.
5. Separate the time when you deal with problems from the times when you are together as friends. Don't mix the two. Glen scheduled Tuesdays for “Couples Meetings” and Fridays for “Date Nights”.
6. Learn to talk openly and honestly with each other. The stronger the communication, the stronger the marriage. Through videos and role plays, Glen and Maggie improved their communication skills.
Glen and Maggie regained the friendship in their marriage by learning how to resolve their differences and spend quality time together. After a few months of marital therapy they were back on track and felt that they were both looking in the same direction again.
Helen Rudinsky is a Marriage and Family Therapist serving couples, individuals and children in Vienna's expat community.