You know, it never ceases to amaze me that, whenever I do research on the top reasons why married couples decide to get a divorce, rarely—if ever—do I see that they stopped being friends with each other; if they were ever friends in the first place. And that is exactly why I wanted to write this article. While things like poor communication, financial challenges and intimacy issues are popular causes for marital discord and break-ups, if there is one thing that helps some couples stick it out, it's the fact that, above all else, they share a bona fide friendship.
And when you're truly friends with someone, that makes it easier to deal with the tough times as opposed to when you're not.
I promise you that, I've sat with plenty of couples who never even considered if 1) they made building a friendship a priority while they were dating/courting and 2) they didn't make sure to either establish or nurture their friendship so that they could stay out of divorce court. That's why, whether you are in a new dating situation, engaged or, most importantly, already married, I hope you'll take out a few moments of your time to read this and then ask yourself, "Am I actually friends with my boo?" or…not. Believe you me, the answer can reveal a lot about your relationship—and its future.
You Genuinely Like Each Other
I'm not big on boyfriend/girlfriend relationships (you can read more about that by checking out "Why I'll Never Call Someone A 'Boyfriend' Again"). To me, it's way too much like acting married when you're actually not. When you do that too often, believe it or not, it can teach you how to get divorced rather than remain committed to the spouse you actually do end up with (think about it—you fall for someone, break-up, move on…then rinse and repeat a billion times till you're relationally desensitized). Whenever someone asks me how I plan on getting married, I simply say, "I plan on marrying a friend." And yes, it really is that simple (to me).
I can't tell you how many marriage sessions I have sat in where it's completely obvious that the two people I'm talking to don't like each other very much. Not only that but it's hard to tell if they ever did. Unfortunately, while they were dating, so much focus was put on if they love each other and where the relationship is ultimately headed, that they weren't able to chill out and build a solid and genuine friendship in the process. It's like since marriage was the goal, friendship never became the foundation. That's why, whenever a couple in trouble come to me, I don't ask, "Do you still love each other?" I wanna know if the like is still there. Do they enjoy hanging out? Do they make each other feel good about themselves? Do they have a variety of things in common with one another? If they could hang out with just about anyone, would their spouse always top the list? Do they feel safe and relaxed in each other's their presence?
The best—and by "best", I mean healthiest—marriages I know consist of a husband and wife who are the very best of homies. Out of all of their friends, their spouse is pretty much their closest one. And because of that, it makes the good days better and the hard ones easier. Mutually liking is a marital superpower. Do you and yours have it?
You Can Tell Your Partner Anything
Recently, I checked out Mrs. KevOnStage's Love Hour podcast on YouTube. This particular episode was "What I wish my wife knew, with Spiceadams and Andy Mineo". Not only was it funny (I'm not sure I've ever heard "run them cheeks" before), but it's always refreshing to hear men talk about how they feel about relationships and, more importantly, what they need in them (check out "10 Things Husbands Wish Their Wives Truly Understood"). At around the 48:00 mark, Andy got into how, right before marrying his wife, her shared with her that he had watched porn, even while they dated, along with how she considered that to be cheating and how it ultimately almost resulted in their wedding getting called off.
I used to work with a ministry that dealt with porn addiction (which yes, is a very real thing), so I get why his wife took the stance that she did. At the same time, though, her initial reaction is also why a lot of people choose not to share all of who they are with their partner. When they know that the consequences have the tendency to be very severe, oftentimes, they choose to keep so much of who they are to themselves (or they share it with someone else which can sometimes set the stage for emotional affairs).
Oftentimes, when engaged couples come to me for advice, one thing that I'll refer them to is "276 Questions to Ask Before You Marry". I always get the same response—"C'mon, Shellie. Almost 300 questions?!". In response, I say the same thing, "Yep." You have no idea how many people don't really know each other before they jump the broom. Or worse, one or both are withholding information out of fear of being penalized or punished if they revealed their very core.
In order for someone to vow "for better or for worse", they've got to know what the worse is. That's what engaged couples need to know. If you're married, once you said those words, a part of what truly loving someone is all about is letting them show their good, bad and ugly sides, knowing that you've totally got their back regardless. I mean, that's how you treat your (other) friends…isn't it?
You Have Fun Together
One time, while working with a married couple who were trying to heal from past infidelities (on both sides), when I asked the husband why he cheated, his answer caught his wife way off guard. "My wife is no fun anymore." The fact that she immediately jumped down his throat about how "ridiculous" she thought that reply was actually helped me to understand just where he was coming from. An indie movie that I think is super cute is He's Mine Not Yours (starring Jason Weaver, Gabrielle Dennis and Caryn Ward Ross). When Brooke (played by Dennis) feels like she might be losing her man, Kent (played by Weaver), she asks his best friend, Doug (played by Carl Payne) what she should do. One thing that he said was, "Lighten the hell up." See, one of the things that attracted Kent to the "other woman" Mandy (played by Ross) is she liked to do things like listen to music, watch basketball games and just…hang out. Everything didn't have to be deep and serious all of the time. And because of that, she was starting to win Kent over.
I don't have one friendship where there aren't times when we don't end up having sobering conversations. But most of the time, we're laughing—cracking jokes, sharing stories, having a ball together. It's a reminder that no one wants to constantly be around a person who is acting like a parent, hall monitor or buzzkill. Yeah, people who are friends with their spouses are able to effortlessly have fun with one another. Only individuals who don't get what it takes to make a marriage work thinks that this particular point is a trivial one.
The Relationship Is a DRAMA-FREE Zone
Y'all, sometimes I'll sit in a marriage session and find myself impressed that I can last an hour with one of the people I'm talking to. And you know what? That makes me respect their spouse all the more since they've actually got to live with them. If I had to categorize the type of person who drains me the most, I'd have to say that it's the drama kings and queens of the earth. Ugh. You know the kind. They make problems where they aren't any. They are masters at blowing things out of proportion. Feelings always supersede logic and good ole' common sense. Nothing every truly satisfies them. You always find yourself walking on eggshells in their presence because you never really know what "version" of them you are going to get at any given moment.
Two friends who want a healthy relationship are going to be extremely proactive in keeping the drama to a minimum. They do this by openly communicating. By not playing mind games (like gaslighting or triggering each other). They take responsibility for their own actions. They make sure that they each feel loved and respected. Peace is the bottom-line goal of their dynamic. I've had some people that I've loved but "fell out of like" with, all because they were too dramatic for my taste. Married couples who are friends with each other, repel drama instead of embrace it; especially when it comes to their own relationship.
They Are One of Your Absolute Favorite People
If it's TMI, my bad. That's kind of how I get down. Anyway, I remember once asking an ex of mine if I was the best that he had ever had (in bed). He sat for a moment and said, "You're not the best. But you're definitely my favorite." At first, I felt some type of way, but when he explained the history of him and his best (he was her first, so you can read between the lines there) and how, if he had to choose, he'd prefer me most of the time (we were very frank with each other, so yes, I could handle his candidness), I got what he meant. When someone is your favorite, they are your preference. When someone is your favorite, they get a kind of special treatment that no one else does. When someone is your favorite, you will easily and effortlessly choose them again and again, no matter what.
I've got friends like that. Friends who, out of all of the people I know, if I had to select a person to be around, it would be them…even if I just hung out with them the day before. That's how much I enjoy their presence in my life. Spouses who are friends tend to feel just like this. While their husband or wife isn't their everything (nor should they be; only God should be seen in that light), they are a favorite—someone who is above all others because that's just how dope their partner is (to them).
Favorite friends. Should I ever get to the point and place of walking down somebody's aisle, that's what I want to be able to proudly and confidently say the love of my life and I are. Not just lovers but long-lasting friends. Just like any happy and healthy married couple should be. For better or for worse. Until death parts them.
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